Why Are We Drawn to Certain Types of Stories?
Our taste might seem superficial, but it often runs deeper than you think.
Over the years of immersing myself deeper and deeper in the literary community, especially in the academic context, I’ve had to make peace with something. There are a lot of books out there that are objectively good, well-written pieces of literature, but I don’t like them. Being able to give useful critiques to other writers means becoming aware of your biases and tastes. When you react negatively to something, you have to stop and ask yourself if it’s truly an issue with the writing or if it’s your taste getting in the way.
While books are the first thing that comes to mind for me, this is true for every time of media we consume. Movies, shows, podcasts—our taste informs everything we opt to take in.
You might not be able to enjoy a good story because the emotional pillars don’t connect with your taste.
One such issue I’ve observed in myself is that I’m not fond of stories where the protagonist has a lot of help and support from their family. I immediately can’t identify with that character because I’ve never sincerely experienced that particular type of kindness—growing up, love and acceptance were very conditional and would often be snapped away if I stepped out of line.
Doing this kind of heavy self-introspection is uncomfortable and sometimes painful to uncover. But it’s often the heavier memories we’ve experienced that end up informing our taste.
For example, I love Brandon Sanderson’s writing. Two of his series, Skyward, and The Reckoners are among my favorite works of sci-fi. However, another of his books, Misborn has proven to be a painful slog for me and I just haven’t been able to finish it. While it might be a bit slower-paced than some of his other books, I can usually work through a slow start with an author I trust. However, the mentor-mentee dynamic is so heavily in focus at the beginning of the first book. It’s a trope I’m not fond of since I’ve never experienced that kind of support.