Let Me Entertain You!

Some blog post titles make me want to break out in song. This one happens to be one of them.

Let me entertain you
let me see you smile
I will do some kicks
I will do some tricks

I’ll tell you a story
I’ll dance when she’s done
by the time we’re through entertaining you
you’ll have a barrel of fun

I’ll a tell you a story
I’ll dance when she’s done
by the time we’re through entertaining you
you’ll have a barrel of fun
you’ll have a barrel of fun
you’ll have a barrel of fun

So, I’m no Ethel Merman. I’m not going to dance or even do tricks or high-stepping kicks, but sometimes the writer in me feels a bit like the singer of this song.

Like any entertainer, a writer is in the business of entertaining. When a reader picks up a book isn’t that exactly what they are expecting? And when the writer says to the reader, “Come on in and see what I’ve got to show you!” it darn well better be entertaining or else there will be no standing ovation at the end, no one crying out for an encore.

While a writer’s words might not dazzle the same way a chorus put to music might, the whole purpose of writing a book is to entertain the reader.

Last evening we went to a dinner theatre in a neighbouring town. The local church members preformed the play and entertained us with some upbeat musical performances. Whenever someone on stage broke into song the entire room filled with energy. Right away the audience was clapping along, allowing themselves to become thoroughly enthralled in the moment. Even if it wasn’t your “kind of music” you couldn’t helped but be carried away by the beat. Now, while the performance wasn’t of professional calibre, because obviously the performers were not professional, no one could have cared less. Everyone had an enjoyable evening.

And as always this got me thinking:

I’ve read very few books that have totally captivated me to the point where I couldn’t/ didn’t want to put the book down. I’ve got to admit it takes quite a bit to razzle-dazzle me in that way. I’m sure there are plenty more out there that would fall into this category for me, but hey, I’m only one person. I can only read so much!

All of this, however, makes me wonder if the written word is a tougher sell. As readers, are we more critical of the books we read, than a performance we might see on stage? Does the added attraction of music turn us into a fickle audience member much easier to please or is there something spellbinding about a live performance? I mean, what’s the deal?

I’ll turn this question over to my blog readers…

Do you think that, as readers, we are much harder to entertain than we are as an audience member at a show filled with razzle-dazzle? If so, why do you think that is?

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31 Comments

  1. fivecats

     /  April 10, 2011

    In both instances, we tend to be selective in the books we read and how we’re entertained. I think we may go out on a limb when choosing a book to read. If it turns out to be not a good read, I can easily lay aside that book. Like you, I’ve rarely come across a “page turner” where I have to finish the book – including those that I’ve enjoyed quite a bit.

    With a show, I’m quite selective. I know what I like, and hardly deviate from the comfort zone. A critically-acclaimed show may pique some interest, but I usually need to ask someone who has seen it for their opinion.

    Reply
    • Welcome to my blog, fivecats! So nice of you to drop in. Maybe I’m just a push-over when it comes to a show. I do love music. It’s right up there on my list.

      Reply
  2. I have become much more of a critical reader since I have started to write seriously. This is good and bad. It certainly helps me see flaws that I should avoid but I also miss the thrill of the story itself sometimes. I agree, we do want to be entertained as we spend our precious time reading a novel. Having said that, live entertainment is almost always fun. We can appreciate the effort amateur theatre or struggling musicians put in and the energy in the audience is contagious. There is a difference between a solitary activity (like reading) and a group or sociial activity (like live entertainment).

    Reply
    • Maybe you hit the nail right on the head, Darlene. Maybe, as writers, we miss out on the “thrill” of the story sometimes. Lately, I’ve been reading with a bit of a critical eye myself and I don’t much like it. It makes me feel nitpicky and petty when what I really want to be is a reader who enters into the world an author has created knowing just what an accomplishment it is. You’re right though, a writer does learn this way, but it can make the story less enjoyable if we dwell on those flaw instead of allowing the story to carry us away.

      Maybe with live theatre we enter in for the sole purpose of being entertained and the stakes don’t seem so high.

      Reply
  3. There are differences in musical tastes, and while some kinds of music may not be the listener’s favorite, if it’s good music, it will entertain to some degree. There are also differences in books, genre, voice, subject, and other matters that either turn on or turn off a reader. If the writing is good, there may be some appreciation, but, Laura, I agree with you that readers are more selective than music fans. I think many readers find an author they like and add him or her to their list of sure-to-entertain-me writers. Blessings to you, Laura…

    Reply
    • I do definitely think that, over all, readers are more selective than musical fans because I see that in my own life. Now, I’m not saying this makes it right and I’m certain that not everyone will agree with me. It just seemed to be my own observation from the other evening.

      That said, I wonder if musicians feel this way? I wonder if they are pickier over music than they would be a novel? Interesting..

      Reply
      • fivecats

         /  April 10, 2011

        Thank you for the welcome.

        You asked if musicians are pickier about music, yes, they can be very selective. Having sung with a music group at my church for 15+ years, I have my favorite pieces and favorite composers. I think musicians (at least those I know) are willing to take a risk with music selection. In music, you don’t want to become stale.

        Reply
  4. I know you’re Canadian and I don’t know if they show American Idol there, but I watch that show and pick my favorites. I’m not a musician or singer, often I think someone did a great performance, but when I mention it to my musician son and his singer wife, they often, diplomatically, point out why I’m wrong.

    I think it’s the same way with books for me. No matter how hard I try not to, I can’t help reading as a writer. So, I know I see “problems” that non-writing readers don’t. I know it’s the same with writers who read my books. But it’s the readers we strive to please. And hopefully they’ll be “clapping along” in delight. :-)

    Reply
    • Oh yes, we do get American Idol up here in Canada as well.

      True Linda, perhaps we need only worry about the reader.This makes me wonder if all writers read with a critical eye. I don’t remember doing it in the past unless there was something so obvious that one couldn’t help but notice. However, our readers are made up of writers too. In fact, my book’s been read by quite a few writers that I know of. I guess it boils down to the fact that we won’t/can’t please everyone.

      Reply
  5. 1959duke

     /  April 10, 2011

    Actually for me I really don’t feel comfortbale in crowds. At 6’4″ and 270 ( but heading down alot) I enjoy a good book.

    Reply
    • Many people aren’t comfortable in crowds, Mike. It’s definitely not for everyone. One thing about a good book is it’s always there when you go for it. There’s nothing wrong with quiet activities.

      Reply
  6. I think so, partly because of the time involved. It might take me anywhere from 4-20 hours or more to read a book, whereas a show or movie is 2 hours. I wouldn’t say the reader-me is harder to entertain, but if I’m going to invest 20 hours of time in a book, it better be good.

    Reply
    • There’s certainly s difference in the time spent, Tracy, and that might also have something to do with our critical nature, I’m not sure. Maybe we’ve just become far too critical by nature. As fivecats (Who’s a musician) pointed out musicians are more critical when music is involved, and that makes sense. They’re trained to hear and know what the problems are.

      Reply
  7. Seriously, the most difficult thing for me to do in blogging was to come up with a title for each post, no problem writing it. I finally got with it, but every once in while I hit a snag.

    Reply
    • Every once in awhile a title will come to me before I’ve even written the post. It’s challenging to come up with titles sometimes, I definitely agree with you there, Suzicate. :) I like fun titles but I’m not always in the mood to find one.

      Reply
  8. I have come across a few page-turners over the years and there’s absolutely nothing like that feeling of being lost in someone else’s story. I do find it easy to put a book down and not finish it, or skip to the end, if it doesn’t keep my interest. I think one issue for me is similar to Tracy’s. I invest a lot of time in a book, time away from family and chores and work, so it really needs to be worth it. I don’t think that writing has made me more critical, but I think the time constraints of fitting everything into my life–including writing–make me less patient with letting something that is less than first rate (for me)use up my time.

    Reply
    • There are a few books that really stick out in my mind that I just had to finish. I enjoy most of the books I read even if I notice flaws and I don’t want to make it seem as though I don’t.But when I come across a “page turner” and I’m utterly swept away there’s no better feeling in the world.

      Reply
  9. I think as writers we’re much tougher readers. We expect more from ourselves, so of course, we’d expect more from every other writer. But it also means when we read excellent prose we cry because we know talent when we see it. I’m writing “we”, but really what do I know? LOL. But when I listen to Ray Charles, Sade, or Barbara Streisand, I still choke up.

    Reply
    • I am probably looking at this from a writer’s viewpoint. Perhaps a non-writer, non-musician would see this otherwise. Maybe they do not notice imperfection in either and are just there to be entertained.. Often we look at the world through our own perceptions without considering all other sides.

      Reply
  10. I’ve found that live theatre effects me more than any other medium. I definitely have read quite a few books I couldn’t put down, but a good play–wow. It doesn’t get more powerful than that. (However, the reverse is also true. Sitting through a bad play is hell on earth.)

    Maybe there’s a certain sympathy the audience holds for the performers of a live show. It takes guts to get up on stage and sing, dance, or act (or all three!) It takes guts to be an honest writer, too, but for the most part, we’re sitting at home in our pajamas. Live theatre is a whole ‘nother kind of exposure.

    Reply
    • I haven’t been to a lot of live theatre, but when I go I do enjoy it. I have to say I’m in awe of those who can get up on a stage and perform that way. Yeah, we do write in out pajamas, don’t we. Hopefully, nothing scary about that. ;)

      Reply
  11. Melanie

     /  April 11, 2011

    I think readers are harder to entertain. With music, tv, theatre etc the audience is passively taking it in. All they have to do is sit back while the artist does their work. Theatre and movies have visuals AND music to dazzle the audience.

    Books are different. They’re words in the reader’s head. It’s time consuming; a slow process. No bright lights or catchy tunes… just words on a page. Yep. Authors definitely have their work cut out for them!

    Reply
    • Hmm. Maybe our next book trailer should be filled with bright lights and a show tune. Maybe that’s what’s needed to get everyone’s attention. Are you up for that?

      Reply
  12. I love theatre! I am a sucker for a good show. However, there have been times I’ve attended a show that left me more baffled than entertained. The same can be said for some books I’ve read! :)

    Reply
    • I haven’t been to many live threatre productions over the years, but I really enjoy it.I think I’m a push over when there are musical numbers.

      Welcome to my blog Donna. Nice of you to drop in. :) Come back any time!

      Reply
  13. A show, whether live or as a movie, seems to require less effort. Even when we’re moved to participate it’s almost an involuntary thing. Reading requires us to follow the words and digest them. I think as a society we’re getting to be lazy. The speed and instant gratification of TV programs and video games encourages us to want everything in a hurry, whereas a good novel is something to savour over a longer period of time.

    I found your comment today, but as you can imagine, I’m probably not going to have the time to reply to every individual person. Being featured on Freshly Pressed offers great new exposure, but I have to be out much of the afternoon and have barely been able to keep up with reading this morning’s blog comments and e-mail! From my usual 80-100 or so visitors, today’s stats have already reached 1500 and steadily increasing. It’s great, but…. :|

    Reply
    • Yeah, I was SO thrilled to see this Carol!!!! I think it’s what every wordpress author hopes will one day happen. Quite a few of the bloggers I know have had a turn at it and it’s wonderful. You’ll be sure to pick up more followers!! :)

      Hmmmm. Over all I’d say we are lazier as a society. Maybe we just want to sit there and be entertained and not have to work too hard at it.

      Reply
  14. I’m critical of everything. It doesn’t mean I don’t like a book or a show if I find something to be critical of, I just like to take stuff apart.

    Reply
    • That made me giggle. How refreshing to hear someone openly admit this!! I think alot of people do this too, they just wouldn’t say so…I enjoy your honesty!!

      Reply
  15. Stephanie

     /  April 15, 2011

    Hi! Glad I found your blog! I love all the green! and I love being outdoors too! We live in the country, and I have lot’s of photo opportunities!

    Reply
    • Hi Stephanie. How nice to meet you. Welcome to my blog. I’m glad you like the green and living in the country. I’m going to pop on over and check out your blog. Have a great weekend! :)

      Reply

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