Reading is like a Trance State

Why Do We Read?

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We read speculative fiction for several reasons. Mostly for entertainment, fun, and escapism. We want to forget our problems and daily issues. We want to relax with a good book and forget the world around us.

Indeed, we want to live vicariously through a novel’s characters. Nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, it can do wonders for our mental health.

Reading is a mostly passive and solitary activity. When we hold a book and lose ourselves in its pages, we don’t like to be interrupted or bothered. Unless the book is boring, in which case we will put it down.

In an earlier post, I argued reading is like a trance state. Writers should be wise not to break it. I would want to explore more how can reading induce a trance state in the reader as well as how can writers strive to achieve it.

Besides, no one reads to be stressed or distracted, right?

What is a Trance State?

image: Istock

A trance state is a state of mind in which the person is not fully awake, yet not fully asleep.

There are multiple definitions of trance. The majority of them are variations of either zoning-out or being so relaxed as hypnotized.

For our purposes, a reading trance is a state in which the reader is so engrossed in the activity, they cannot put the book down. Moreover, there is an ebb and flow between the words on the page and the reader’s emotions.

The storytelling captures and enthralls the reader. The prose brings pleasure to the ear and eyes. We block out distractions when reading because the writing pulls us in. Sounds like nirvana, no?

Hence, as a writer, how can you achieve this state? Can it be achieved?

Reading as in a Trance

photo: José Carlos Fernández Rozas

There are no proven methods to achieve this state in your writing except practicing and revising constantly. For example, if you are a reader, you want to read in a quiet place with few distractions and low noise.

If you are a writer, here are a few tips:
  1. Focus on rhythm– Reading should have a rhythm to it. Yes, we write prose, not poetry. However, it would not hurt to play with cadence, tempo, patterns, and time to create an effect on the reader.
  2. Use all five senses– Do you want to pull the reader in? Engage the smell, tactile, hearing, and taste of the character’s surroundings, not just the visual. Use strong action verbs.
  3. Play with paragraph and sentence lengths– Short and long sentences can create rhythm while reading and cut the monotony.
  4. Play with punctuation – See above. Use periods, commas, and parentheses to break up long sentences. Again, variety goes a long way.
  5. Read your work aloud– Does it flow? Is it understandable? If it does not make sense to you, it would not make sense to the reader.
  6. Be consistent – Nothing would break the reader’s experience more than contradicting yourself. For example, if you state on page 1 character A is from planet X which orbits a red dwarf don’t state on page 125 character A is from planet Y which orbits a blue giant. Your readers are paying attention. You should too.

Follow the above tips to create a trance state in the reader. A reading induced trance can make the longest book feel like a breeze while reading rather than a chore.

And a happy reader is a returning one.

In conclusion, we read to escape the real world. But the worlds we create and the words we use are important. No, we do not need to create a trance state on the reader. However, when we do, the experience is unforgettable and engrossing.

Trance-like indeed!

Reader, have you ever fell into a trance while reading a good book? Which book it was?


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February 2023