So I stopped by Book Daze a few days ago and was fascinated by Li’s post on reader doorways, a concept by Nancy Pearl of Book Lust fame. Pearl defines reader doorways as the appeal characteristics that make a book appealing to the reader and which (naturally) serve as the doorway to the book. She divides these into four categories:
If a reader’s doorway happens to be character, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the reader will have no interest in the language, setting, or story. Some books (I would assume only the finest) may be equally strong in each category (The Demon’s Lexicon comes to mind). Most of the time, though, one doorway will predominate either in the book or for the reader. Identifying it is the key to figuring out other books you or others (when giving a recommendation) would like. One way of doing this is noticing how you usually describe a book, either verbally or in writing. What you choose to talk about first is often your main doorway.
Some interesting points came up in the comments. Can your doorway change over time or change according to the genre? For example, scifi/fantasy relies heavily on the setting (worldbuilding) so that may be your main doorway in that genre, whereas character may be the doorway to a contemporary romance, as the story is to a mystery and language is to literary fiction, etc.
To the first question, I would say yes, your doorway can change over time, because mine sure has! When I was a teenager I always read for story. I didn’t think I was at the time but looking back I’d say I fit the description of a RR (Reluctant Reader), so I only read books that were quick to hook me and fast-paced, exciting, and interesting enough to hold my attention.
As I started to get back into reading after university I slowly morphed from a story girl to a language girl (reading a lot of Jane Austen, Bronte sisters, nineteenth-century British fiction and classic/literary fiction). During this period you could either give me striking prose, then a lush setting, and finally respectable characters and story. Seriously, the plot could drag in the middle or have characters to which I felt ambivalent and it would still be appealing.
Now as a book blogger I think I’m more drawn into a book by the setting and the characters. I’m not always sure which one is more dominant. Characters I can’t connect to fairly quickly in any genre, though. is a deal breaker in ways that a far-from-perfect setting, story, and language are not. For fantasy I think my main doorway is setting, with character a close second. Doesn’t reading a fantasy that has a world that you don’t care for defeat the purpose of reading fantasy? This is what is so appealing to me about books by Juliet Marillier and Ilona Andrews: the intricate worldbuilding. Otherwise my doorway for contemporary romance, chick lit, and contemporary YA is character.
Enough of my rambling. What about you – what is your reader doorway, has it changed over time, and does it depend on the genre?