Anyone who reads a lot develops a set of unspoken rules about what they do and do not enjoy in a story. As a reader, you may not even be aware of some of the things that turn you off to a book and make you decide to put it down halfway through, never to pick it up again (or hurl it across the room and fight the desire to pick it up again, just so you can rip the pages out and burn them).
Here are some of my literary turn-offs. Perhaps you share some of these with me.
1. Lazy characterization: "This character is a man who wears pink and talks about shopping all the time. He is gay! See?"
2. Plot "twists" that are supposed to be the big payoff for reading the entire novel, but that are so transparent I've already picked them out on page 3.
3. Authorial soapbox intrusion, i.e. a character who is so "green" that every page of the book contains a reference to recycling, composting, feng shui, or other ways in which that character is the most environmentally conscious paragon since Captain Planet.
4. Arriving at the end of a decent story, only to find out that "it was all a dream." The Wizard of Oz excepted.
5. TSTL (too stupid to live) characters, whose innocence and/or lack of attention to detail drive the entire plot, when the story could have been 300 pages shorter if only the character were not so stupid.
6. Stories in the middle of a series which consist almost entirely of a flashback / alternate history / story told by another character, and which move the actual series story along approximately fifty feet down the road (I'm looking at you here, Mr. King).
7. Debut novels that came to the author in a dream, that took a grueling six months to write, for which the author suffered through three whole rejections before finding a publisher (and a multi-million dollar series deal, and films, and merchandise, and fame and fortune 4-ever) ... all for a poorly written, thinly veiled fanfiction.**
8. Beautiful characters who are beautiful just for the sake of being beautiful. Booo-ring.
9. Long-running series in which the author takes a drastic turn and drives as far and as fast as possible from the expectations and desires of readers, rapidly degenerating into drivel, all in the name of "authorial vision" (and then posts long rants on Amazon and/or his/her personal blog that manage to insult every single reader s/he has ever had).
10. Anthropomorphized animals as characters in adult fiction. Ugh.
What drives you nuts about stories? What makes you want to beat someone with a book, because you actually paid money to read it? Share! Next week, we'll talk about the things we love in books.
**This particular point is also tied to one of my pet peeves about being a writer - the automatic assumption that any criticism of a successful author is "sour grapes", rather than an actual, warranted dislike, as a reader, for an author's work.