Who Really Reads EVERY last word in a Fantasy Novel?

Note the subject. I’m serious. Fantasy, much as I love the genre, is plagued with exposition. I don’t care the author, I invariably skip passages. *Gasp* “The hell you say?” you ask.¬† No, it’s true. George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, J.R.R. Tolkien, Piers Anthony, Terry Goodkind, Terry Brooks..

Granted, there are a few who I can’t “afford” to skim passages, if only because the author “penalizes” you for skimming. Which is to say, you’ll get lost if you skip exposition. The two who come to mind (and happen to be two of my favorite authors) are Steven Brust and Roger Zelazny.

Now, I get it. I understand why fantasy tends to encourage exposition. There’s a whole lot out there that an author needs to explain so that the reader can get a gist of what’s different about the fantasy world from our own. Newbie authors, I’ve found, have a tendency to just drop it out there, and by and large they’ve lost their audience before they’ve even begun. A reader generally wants to know that there’s going to be something interesting going on (you know.. like a plot, he says parenthetically…with ellipsis…) before they get heavily invested in a story. Some helpful writer advice givers mention dropping people in the middle of a story, not at the beginning – or worse yet, before the story starts – otherwise known as a prologue.

But I digress, per usual. Can anyone truly say they’ve never skipped a paragraph that happened to follow fourteen <insert other number here> other paragraphs of straight out exposition, that you finally just give up and say, “Get on with the story already!!!”?

I know I have. And to the newbie author – woe betide you if that happens in the first few pages. Or chapters. Some might say, “or books.”

  • http://twitter.com/geekyshopaholic Paula

    If I am reading a fantasy book for the first time, I read every word. If I read it again, I often skim passages that I didn’t enjoy the first time trough. :) I do admit that the first time I read Lord of the Rings I skipped the poems and songs. But in later readings I made myself read them and found that I actually enjoyed them. :)

    • Anonymous

      That’s some dedication! :) I did read some of the poems in LotR as well. Course, I’ve read the series many, many times. I can only attribute my impatience with exposition in the fact that so much of it in fantasy writing is superfluous. Or Repetitive. Or both.

      When we compare fantasy to thrillers, for example, since thrillers don’t need to waste time in describing the world around them, those authors have the advantage of crisp writing.

  • Allu

    There are no hard and fast rules for me. :) I do skim when some authors if I find their description and imagery to be overpowering and excessive. But, there are authors I love to languish in and Tolkien is one of them. But, I read Tolkien more for the mythology than I really do the story itself. Maybe that’s why.

    But, I think you can definitely experience a book in a meaningful, intense way w/o reading every single word, especially if you get to know an author and learn their styles (i.e. tagging dialogue and how they set up a scene, etc).