This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts and concerns about our profession. By the way, all writers are invited to join in!
Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG
January 6 question – Being a writer, when you’re reading someone else’s work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people’s books?
Life is short, and getting shorter every day, and there are so many books to read that no one can read all the ones they’d like to read, so we have to pick carefully, and even then, if we’re not happy we can stop reading, because we don’t have to finish every book we start. I certainly don’t.
I’ve identified seven issues which could stop me finishing a book.
1- Unmet Expectations.
There are many reasons to read the first line of a new novel. But if it hasn’t been written or recommended by a fellow author or blogger, I decide to download a sample after reading the title and the blurb, although the cover also entices me!
If the book is described as a legal thriller, that is what I expect to read, and if I discover it has a dystopian setting, or it is a romance, I may not continue. On the other hand, I may like the writing style and proceed anyway.
2- Unlikeable characters
I don’t mean villains. I love villains, especially if they’re complex and part of the main plot, such as unreliable narrators!
An unlikeable character is one I can’t relate to, find irritating, whiney, or unbelievable. If there is only one, that may be ok, but if several characters, especially the main one, fall into this category, I will probably stop reading.
3- Poor editing
Repetition of events, words, phrases, too many adverbs, swear words, clichés etc. can put me off, but not always, because the characters and story can pull me in and persuade me to continue.
4- Trigger topics
We all have topics we do not want to read about explicitly, because they upset us. These topics are often related to sex, violence, drugs, trauma, etc.
I have a few personal ones, which is why the blurb should advise readers if the novel includes any sensitive topics.
Sometimes I like the writing style and characters, but little seems to actually happen by means of a traditional plot. If I already know this might be the case because it’s what may be referred to as ‘literary fiction’ I may continue reading, anyway. But if I’m expecting a fast-paced thriller, according to the blurb, I would feel deceived and might not read on.
Contemporary readers, unlike Victorian readers who revelled in three-volume novels, are impatient and demanding, so books should respond to their audience’s needs.
6- Implausible plots
I prefer history and reality to fantasy, so I don’t read a lot of fantasy. I’m not happy when novels take a sudden and implausible supernatural twist and I might not read on, although other factors, such as writing style and characters might keep me reading.
I like plot twists and unexpected turnings, and even open endings, but loopholes in plots or ones that work out because of a sudden implausible event, or novels that drop a plot line or character in the middle are often annoying.
7- Writing style
This is a make or break one for me. I can read about any topic if I like the way it’s written, sci-fi, fantasy, vampires, erotica, westerns, warfare; it doesn’t matter if the writing draws me in.
The problem is, I have no idea how that happens.
I believe it when they say agents read the first line, paragraph or page and decide if they want to read the book, because I do exactly the same. I only carry on regardless if it’s one of my many favourite authors, or if it has been recommended by someone I trust.
So, what’s the secret to drawing the reader in?
I have this quote pinned on the wall in my study and I read it every day, hoping it will inspire me, because it’s the hardest and most important thing to do as a writer.
Not only the opening line of a novel, but I’d apply this proposal to every chapter, because you need to get the reader hooked on the first page and continue reading after the first paragraph of every chapter.
So, what makes you stop reading a novel?
By the way! Happy New Year!