Four Reasons Readers Skim A Story

From the archives: Why do readers skim?

Allison Maruska

Readers choose a story because they think it will hold their interest, so why do they sometimes skim or stop reading the story? There’s probably a variety of reasons, but I’ve noticed a few trends in comments in my critique group and from my own reading habits that may offer some insight.

secrets1. Long, elegant descriptions slow things down too much.

Maybe I’m a lazy reader, but when I see a paragraph or a few paragraphs of description that take up a whole page, I groan a little. That means the author stopped the story to describe something in such depth that it took a page to do it. That’s a page where the characters are waiting in a kind of limbo for me to finish reading whatever backstory the author decided I needed to know at that moment. Chances are, I won’t remember most of it. It’s not like…

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2 thoughts on “Four Reasons Readers Skim A Story

  1. Skim alerts – long chapters, dense text, too little dialogue, ‘look at me’ technical description, band-wagon messages, and what is it nowadays with authors writing lists dressed up as paragraphs – as if a sentence full of ‘things’ wasn’t bad enough. Oh and most books are far too long at 400 to 500 pages – Julian Barnes mostly gets it right for me at 200-250 – and Ian McEwan gets a feature length film (movie in American) from less than 200! Ah that feels better – how are things with you Allison …Eric

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