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Top Ten Reasons I Stop Reading

A Few of My Favorite Books
A Few of My Favorite Books
My motto is "Life is too short for bad fiction." 

I no longer make myself finish a book just because I started it and I hate wasting money. When a book disappoints, not only has the author wasted my time but my cash. I only let an author burn me once.

If I peruse a book in a store or do a "Look Inside," there are red flags that keep me from purchasing it.

If I purchase a book, there are several things that land it in my discard heap.

1. I need a central question interesting enough to keep me turning pages. I can forgive a few shortcomings if the plot is intriguing enough. There are ways to make common tropes interesting. I hate boring chapters, fillers, and inserts. Too many in a row and I toss the book or skip to the end to read the finale.

2. I need someone to root for. I quit the minute I no longer care about any of the characters. That can happen in chapter 2 or chapter 12.

3. Elementary use of language is a turn off. I don't expect brilliance or word wizardry in every book, though it helps. But I need a base line of competency devoid of purple prose, an abundance of repetition, and cringe-inducing descriptions. Spelling, basic sentence structure, and some variance in vocabulary are essential ingredients.

4. I will allow the reference to  gore, torture, rape, murder, but not bringing the verbal camera in close to capture every graphic, nauseating detail. Same with endless, bloody fight scenes. I once started a Thriller and the first there chapters were the protagonist being tortured in different ways. Into the trash it went.

5. Flawed characters are fine, even the occasional anti-hero, but abusive or toxic characters as protagonists are a turn off. They may have a redeemable goal, but I don't like out of control, severely dysfunctional people in general. I have a hard time rooting for them. 

6. Finding out the story isn't as advertised. If you promise me a mystery, I don't want navel gazing and romance. I want a sleuth following clues. If you promise a thriller, it needs to be thrilling, I don't need a few fight scenes sandwiched between gratuitous sex scenes. 

7. Poor world-building is boring, especially in SciFi and Fantasy. Whatever the setting, I want you to take me there. You can't assume I've been to Seattle or Mars. Effective use of description is essential. I have read books where I never got a visual of the place or the characters. Some writers do that intentionally. I am not their target demographic.

8. Cardboard characters with weak or unrealistic motivation. This is a common sin. The story reads like a soap opera filled with clich├ęs. Characters drive any story. Make them three-dimensional.

9. Cringe-inducing dialogue is an instant "no." I tried to read a book recently where the adult characters had a limited vocabulary and the action tags were irritating, she said while twirling a strand of her hair. I think the term smirked should be banned. It is like fingernails on a chalkboard. The writer used smirked more than once in every chapter. Into the bin it went.

10. Twists where everything was a dream or a last chapter is tacked on to reveal that everything you thought you knew about the story was something entirely different. That will guarantee I never read another book by that author.

These days I long for a complete immersion experience. I want to be drawn in on page one and not look up again until I reach "The End." Those books are rare, largely due to weak writing skills. Writing is a craft. Writers don't have to be master craftsmen to be entertaining, but there is no excuse for not learning the basics.

Readers have limited time and budgets. It is crucial for an author to make their book worth the investment.

Read more on the topic:

Betraying Your Readers

A Few of My Favorite Things

A Few of My Favorite Things Too

The Magic of Voice and A R Kahler

Publishing's Dirty Little Secret

Characters with Blurred Lines

Tools for Writing Good Fiction




1 comment:

  1. I no longer finish many books, and your post is a terrific list of most of my reasons - but you put them down on paper much better than I could. Thanks for a great read. And here I thought it was because of my age (past 70)

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