Tuesday, September 22, 2009

10 Things I Hate About You(r book)

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.


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Good points. I've read a few books like this--hoping I'm avoiding same.


nerinedorman said...

Oh, I know EXACTLY who number seven is. I can't believe I read all four books. Thing is, I had to and I'm glad I did so that I can prevent some of the authors I work with from making the same mistakes.

My pet peeve: omniscient third-person POVs. Peeps like Terry Pratchett get it right and then some but I've just started struggling through Dune and I'd like to slap Frank Herbert silly.

The reasoning behind this is the multitude of noob authors who then proceed to head-hop to the point of distraction. Drives me dilly.

I guess I'm the kind of writer who likes to keep my readers in the dark. They don't know the whole story while the pages turn.

s.w. vaughn said...

Thanks, Marilyn!

Nerine, I'm SO with you on the omni 3rd. So few get it right, and the story is just blech when it's wrong. I adore Terry Pratchett, though.

My DH will hold Frank Herbert down while you slap him. :-)

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

LOL!! This is a superb post, S.W.!!!

I recently agreed to review a mystery whose premise sounded divine. An exotic locale, links to cool historical happenings, a bit of the paranormal wound into it - the book blurb had all the right elements.

But I started reading the thing and had to stop. The characters were too damned cutesy pie and thin as cardboard. Their dialog was forced. And I just couldn't look past it. I had to tell the pub that I couldn't get through it. Awkward, but true. I hated doing that, I usually don't accept anything that I haven't read at least a page from, but in the past this pub gave me superb books to review. Oh well, I still feel a little bad about it... Maybe I was too hard on the guy? On second thought... No!

s.w. vaughn said...

Thanks, Aaron! :-) And no, you weren't too hard on the guy! I say if you intend to review a book, honesty is always best. It's never a good idea to give a glowing review to a crap book, because it's your name on the review, and readers won't trust your opinions (and therefore your own work).

Rebecca Rose said...

Uuhhh! The Snow White characters get to me every time. No one is that good and pure. It's boring! Shake it up; make the character human. Show us how special they really are when they're thrown clear out of their element and need to navigate the labyrinth! That's when the fun and excitement of writing and reading begins!


s.w. vaughn said...

Hey Becc! :-)

Absolutely - give me flawed, f*ed up characters, and I am one happy reader!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

SW - absolutely about truth in reviewing. I know some reviewers will try to find *something* good about a book and emphasize that, but when I just couldn't read any more, I had to give it up. Just a good reminder to continue to use a screening process before accepting books - gotta read those first few pages to know if it's even in the running. ;o)

Weena said...

What drives me insane, are incredibly long descriptions of one person, place or thing. Get to the point already! I hate long chapters with no breaks, too.

s.w. vaughn said...

Gina - heck yes! I know of a certain book with 5 or 6 pages (no joke, I counted) describing the trees in New Orleans... I skipped that part. :-)