Today I stumbled upon this post and found the insights into why one reader would put a book down really interesting. Recently, I’ve read some books I couldn’t put down and lamented turning the last page. There have also been a few where I couldn’t make it past the first page. This got me thinking, why do some books grab me and others don’t? So here’s my list of reasons I’ll stop reading.
1) Bad Writing – I’m not referring to writing that isn’t in a style that suits my taste, I mean bad writing as in a lack of basic grammar, the use of inappropriate words (like using ‘accept’ when the author means ‘except’), more typos than not per page, all tell and not even a hint of show, and repeated words line after line – anything that shows me the author couldn’t be bothered to edit or proofread their work and yet expects readers to pay for it.
My suggestion? Get your ms edited by a professional, especially if you’re self-publishing. Proofread and then proofread again before hitting that ‘publish’ button.
2) Lack of Voice – this is particularly true of books featuring multiple POVs, especially first person POV. If all the characters sound the same and I can’t tell from the narrative alone who’s narrating then I usually stop reading.
My suggestion? Think about real people. I’ll bet no two friends or family members use exactly the same diction or have exactly the same way of thinking about the world and expressing their thoughts. Observe the idiosyncrasies of real people and incorporate that into your fiction.
3) Idiotic Romance – I don’t read a lot of straight-up romance because it’s not my thing, but when characters in books repeatedly make bad choices when it comes to their love-lives I can’t handle it. I also intensely dislike books that glorify abusive relationships or make excuses for the abusers, trying to convince the readers that really the desperate damsel did choose the right man even if he ‘accidentally’ hurts her. Gah! Drives me crazy! And this happens in gay romance too. There is nothing good or romantic or sexy about being in a verbally, emotionally or physically abusive relationship!
My suggestion? Think! Do you really want young men and women believing they should stick with an abusive partner just because that partner has a rocking bod and great hair?
4) Apathy – I need to care about what’s happening in the story. If the character doesn’t care, why should the reader? Apathy as a character trait can be used effectively as part of character development or as a symptom of trauma (such as when characters emotionally shut down because they can’t afford to care) and I can relate to that, to that sort of numbness. But a character that couldn’t care less about the world, themselves, their supposed loved ones or what happens in the story isn’t going to make me care either.
My suggestion? A character should be apathetic for a reason. If it’s a good enough reason and one I can relate to, then that’s perfect, especially if the character is going to grow (which they should, because character development is essential).
5) Boring – with so many books on my to-be-read shelf, I don’t have time to be bored. I usually give a book the length of its Amazon sample to hook me and if it doesn’t, I delete the sample and move on. Writing can bore me for a number of reasons: lack of characterisation, lack of conflict, lack of description (I need to feel immersed in the world) and lack of plot.
My suggestion? Make those first few pages sparkle and shine and make a reader need to keep turning the pages. Easier said than done, but that’s what I need.
Those are the main reasons I’ll put a book down. Sometimes a book is awesome in every way but not for me, and I just don’t enjoy the story despite good writing, great characters, lots of conflict and good decision making. I can’t explain what it is that turns me off in those cases, it might be something as vague as my mood or the fact that a character is named after the bully in primary school who gave me a black eye. Regardless of whether I put a certain book down or not, I know that there will be some people who love those books and would just as soon as dump the books I love to read. To each their own.
What are some of the things that make you stop reading a book?