I know. This is a loaded question, right?
This came to mind because it’s Cyber Monday here in the U.S. and lots of online book buying is going on (not to mention Kindle and Nook sales), and I’ve been thinking about all the books I’ve read and intend to read and about recent conversations I’ve had with other readers. Here’s the thing, though. There are lots of readers who are just readers. And then there are readers who are writers, like me. And trust me when I say that writers read differently than the average reader. A writer, because of their very nature of what they do, sees more on the page than the everyday reader. Many writers look for how a story is structured or will dissect a scene or a chapter to see what makes it work (or not). They’ll look for mistakes (and find them) and they’ll search for inconsistencies and errors in writing or details.
That’s not to say that writers don’t enjoy reading because they do. They just have a more critical eye. But in the end, there are things about a book that will drive readers of any kind to stop reading the story before they’ve finished, or even throw it across the room. So, with that visual in mind, I’ve put together a few of the things that will absolutely, positively make me stop reading a story and maybe even toss the book away.
- Head hopping. OMG, this is my biggest nitpick about reading anything. I expect to read a scene from one point of view and one point of view only. The minute the writer head hops and switches to another character’s point of view in the very same scene, I’ll stop reading and never pick up the book again. Yep. I’m that fanatical about it. I know other readers don’t feel this way, but for me this is a writing violation in its purest form. And I hate it.
- Half-hearted writing. I don’t know if it’s a time pressure issue or not, but some stories feel rushed or are written in a way that feels meh to me. I love a writer that cares about every word that goes onto the page. I love to be pulled into a story with such force – because the author worked that hard at their craft – that I can’t put the book down no matter how hard I try. I’m a true believer in the old writing adage: do not publish any story until it’s ready.
- Characters that do something out of character. It’s one thing to have a character arc in a story – which is another way of saying that a character learns something by the end of the book that makes them grow – like an introvert who, because of a series of situations, becomes a strong and confident extrovert. But it’s another thing to have a character do something they’d never ever do, even when pushed to the limits. This often happens when a writer manipulates a story to get it to where they want it to be, rather than letting it happen naturally.
- Lack of suspension of disbelief. When you read a book, there’s an implied promise that you, the reader, will be whisked away to another world. It could be a fantasy world, or a science fiction one, or one filled with threats and gunfire, or even love and lust. But no matter what it is, you have to believe that you’re there with the characters and that the things that are happening really are happening. Of course we know that so much of what’s in fiction could never happen in real life, but that’s what suspension of disbelief is all about. Making the unreal so realistic that you are happily sucked right into the story to the point that you forget there’s a real world outside of it.
- End of book infodump. I see this often. It’s where we get, in a few simple paragraphs or, if we’re lucky, an entire chapter, dedicated to solving all the suspense, mystery or romantic elements of a story. This makes me nuts. The idea of a story is to tell it! Not to string us along and then resolve everything at the end of the book. I get no satisfaction out of that, thankyouverymuch, and trying to resolve everything in a few paragraphs will ensure I never read anything by that author again.
So what about you? What makes you stop reading a book or, worse, throw it across the room? I’d love to know!
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