There are many methods for reading fiction. The best method for a reader depends on why they are reading the book or short story in the first place. Motives can be divided into two categories: to enjoy the story or to analyze the work. Fiction analysis can be further divided into studying the structure, the content and the linguistics.
The term fiction covers a broad spectrum of written work. A work of fiction is a made-up or imagined story concerning individuals who tend to be creations of the writer. These can be set in the real world, in an altered version of the real world or in a totally created world such as Middle Earth or Narnia. Anglo-American fiction is usually divided into literary and genre fiction. Asian and French literature rarely distinguishes between the two.
Immersing reading is where the reader does not look to analyze the book, but to enjoy the story. In this sense, the reader cares only about what happens. The best method for this is to read the book in one sitting, in a comfortable place and with a good light source. This is not always possible, so many books are divided into chapters or manageable chunks that can be devoured when time allows.
If time is precious, then readers can employ skim reading or speed reading techniques. This includes the Evelyn Wood reading dynamics program, which teaches individuals to read works very quickly. This is usually employed for non-fiction and has found great favor with US presidents such as John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.
Semiotics involves studying the use of language when reading fiction. This form of analysis looks purely at the language and is unconcerned with the details of the content. Grammar and syntax are not nearly as interesting to the student here as archaisms as those found in Shakespeare and Chaucer, or the regionalisms and slang found in other novels.
Reading fiction to examine a novel’s structure aims to see how the writer pieced together the story. This may include detailed examinations of plots. The crime novel and the thriller are two genres well-placed for structural examinations.
Sociological studies when reading fiction aim to look at how the writer presents the society in which the story is set. To such students, the milieu of the novel is more important than the story itself. This includes how societies and cultures are represented and whether historical information is accurate.
When reading fiction, some students and analysts look towards the psychology of the book and of its writer. This includes a psycho-analysis of the characters and their motives. It might also look at characters as archetypes, an idea expressed by psychologist Carl Jung. Many critics also look to find elements of the writer’s psyche left behind in the novel.