top of page

A Theory: The Hack Reader, and also Editing Thoughts

So, I have a theory about how terrible books become bestsellers.

There is a class of readers who read fast, with little comprehension, and simply assume everything the writer says on page is the truth.

These are the folks who accept, and indeed love, protagonist-centered morality. Does the main character do a thing? That thing must be good, period. It would require thinking about good vs bad and consequences outside of the book in order to come to any other conclusion. The hack reader completely identifies with the main character, instead, and accepts their beliefs as their own.

They can't handle an unreliable narrator, because, again, that would require contemplating the book a bit deeper.

Complicated prose and plots throw them, because that slows down their consumption. Other things that they are liable to miss: symbolism and theme.

And these folks definitely don't know the difference between 'thing that happens in book' and 'plot point.'

I have certainly speed-read through my share of books, and I suspect I have been this reader. I don't hold this against anyone. If you read for entertainment and just want to relax, well, hack reading is going to be what you want.

But it means that books with a lot of problems can become popular simply by being easy to digest and titillating at the same time. Books with characters that are actually terrible but are presented as perfect, books with nonsensical plots, and books with undeveloped themes get passed off as trashy fun.

It also explains a lot of the outrage that crops up when a book touches on controversy or deals in dark subjects. The hack reader is jerked out of their fast read when it becomes obvious their protagonist-centered morality is leading to some terrible places and thinks that the writer must back the thinking of the main character.

In fairness, you can't read a writer's mind. Whatever is on the page is the best glimpse you have into the thinking of the writer. However, there is some space between the two; books aren't always 100% autobiographical. And not all MCs are reader avatars, designed to give you a quick ride through someone else's highway.

On the editing front, I'm poking at The Adventure in Camlin and may give it one more once over, format is so it actually looks like a book, and put it up on Amazon. Why not? My other stuff is already up, and I'm sort of into the idea of the book existing now. Though I worry about everything. Does it short Alfred? How terrible is the pacing? Do I have too much 'deep' crap thrown in and not thought through? It could probably use a reader. I hate presenting a rough draft to beta readers, though. They shouldn't have to slog through nonsense. It's hard enough reading a second draft.


bottom of page