Merin’s Musings #5: Are You A Peek-er?

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I want to take a moment to talk about something that makes me rather uncomfortable when I stumble upon it in books: secondhand embarrassment. I have a massive secondhand embarrassment squick; it makes me uneasy and unnecessarily nervous, considering the people causing it aren’t even real. But, when those moments happen in books – and they happen in pretty much every single book ever – it can actually be bad enough to make me set the book aside for a while because I just feel so BAD for the character dealing with whatever caused said embarrassment. My reaction towards their embarrassment is actually a physical response, and it’s hard for me to turn that off.

Which ties directly into today’s musing topic: I am a peek-er. As in, I will actually go ahead to the next chapter (and yes, sometimes even the end of the book!) to make sure things are going to ease up before I can bring myself to continue reading. It’s like I just HAVE to know that things for this (nonexistent, imaginary) character are going to get better before I can bring myself to continue reading their story. I actually did it in the book I just finished (Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff, if you’re curious), although it was mild and just necessitated me going ahead a few paragraphs and not, you know, an entire section of the book.

Am I the only one who does this?

I mean, I know I’m not. I’ve seen others talk about this. I’m just kind of curious as to WHY I do this, and maybe see why you all might (or might not) have this habit as well.

Personally speaking, I think it’s because reading is such a visceral, gripping thing, and I get so caught up in the story (which is a testament to the author’s writing, let’s be real) that, when something happens to upset or embarrass the character I’ve become emotionally invested in, I can’t help but to feel what they’re “feeling”. And sometimes, if the feelings are strong enough, it just makes me such a nervous, anxious wreck that I just can’t help myself. I have to know, right then, that things will sort themselves out, and the only way I can do that is to skip ahead a bit. Usually I don’t skip ahead that much – just to the next chapter or so, but sometimes – particularly if we’re in the climax of the book and it’s almost over – I’ll skip to the last page. Sometimes this habit has come back to bite me in the butt and I’ve been spoiled for some big plot twist or whatever, but I’ve actually never minded that because the peace of mind of knowing that whatever it was that embarrassed them or whatever was gone was such a relief that I didn’t even care that something else may have been revealed before it was time. Knowing how a book ends has never actually impacted my enjoyment of the story, which might also be strange, I guess, but that’s how I roll. For me, the pros just far outweigh the cons.

So now I want to ask you: Are you a peek-er? If you’re not, how do you get through those moments when the secondhand embarrassment – because that’s generally what triggers me – is just ratcheted up so high that it’s physically uncomfortable? Or am I just weird to have such a physical response? Inquiring minds would like to know, so feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

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11 Responses to Merin’s Musings #5: Are You A Peek-er?

  1. You’re not alone, I’m a peeker too! I have to physically restrain myself from it sometimes. I just want to know the characters are ok! You’re totally right though, it is a great testament to the author that a reader can worry enough to do that!

  2. Rachel says:

    I used to peek a little when I was younger but I really don’t anymore. Sometimes I want to, if it’s building to a climax and I’m filled with anticipation, but I don’t because I’ve found it makes the reveal that much more enjoyable. Sometimes this means I speed read to get to it though, then I go back and read that part more slowly!

    R x

  3. You are SOOO not alone. I am a total peek-er. You know, I heard about this psychological term called “highly sensitive person” which doesn’t relate to books specifically, but I think that I am an HSP, which is why I can’t handle certain things in books. HSP are affected a lot by emotions, often other people’s emotions, and it affects them. Often HSPs can’t watch very violent movies, too. And I also think certain books can affect HSPs strongly. And that’s why, when I get stressed for a character, then I need to peek further head to make sure things work out okay, I think.

    And then I can go back and read the read of the book being more relaxed. And enjoy the story more. And like you, knowing what happens never affects my overall enjoyment of a book.

    • Merin says:

      Huh! I’d never heard of HSPs, but I definitely think I might be one! I just cannot handle secondhand embarrassment – like at ALL. It makes me so uncomfortable! Loads of angst are the same way; it just kills me that this fictional person is experiencing so much pain!

  4. Katerina says:

    I know how you feel I get it all the time every time I read a book or watch a movie/tv show. I also must admit that I am a peeker, I just can’t help it on some occasions .
    The Realm of Books

    • Merin says:

      TV shows/movies are the WORST. It’s why I DVR pretty much everything; that way I can fast-forward through the parts that are making me uncomfortable!

  5. Alisa Selene says:

    Yep I have done it before! LOL You are not alone!

  6. Livvy @The Absent Historian says:

    I definitely have to say I have mixed responses, sometimes I have to peek and others I have to stop myself because sometimes when I peek I end up slowing down in how fast I read and occasionally being a tad disinterested so it makes me less inclined to peek. Although I do get anxious quite easy, so peeking is sometimes necessary for the nerves. Great post!

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