September 9, 2009
What Makes Me Stop Reading
What makes me stop reading?
First and foremost, a stupid character. This might possibly be the worst sin of all. If a character, especially the main character, is, bluntly, too stupid to live, I check out. Case in point: I was reading a book by a fairly well known author whose work I usually enjoy. The plotline of the story involved a killer who was stalkng and killing people in a relatively small town or city. Our heroine, buckling under the pressure of the knowledge that a killer is stalking her town and has already claimed one of her friends as a victim, does what we all would do, right? Decides to clear her head late at night by taking a solo stroll through the neighborhood. No! Actions like that make me want to pull my hair out. No person in their right mind would do such a thing. If the writer wants the character to narrowly avoid being attacked by the killer, or stumble upon the killer's lair, or even be unaccountable as far as the police are concerned during another murder, please, please, please find a more plausible way. Having a character make such a boneheaded move, unless the character has a death wish, only telegraphs (to me) that the writer was too lazy to creatively manage the character's arc realistically. For what it's worth, I did finish that book but with a sour taste in my mouth and an active dislike for the main (and now stupid) character.
Somewhat in the same vein, if we're talking about mysteries and thrillers, I don't want to see people knocked off for the sake of upping the body count. If it doesn't advance the plot in some way, it shouldn't be done. And just forget about killing the family pet - - if the main character has a pet and knows there is a stalker after him/her and still lets said pet out into the very dark, very isolated backyard, while getting the feeling he/she is being watched (and let's throw in a power outage, to boot), I will be done with the book. And I will also feel that the main character is too stupid to live (see first point) and will be more concerned with the pet's survival.
The lack of bonding with a character or characters will also make me quit a book. I understand that some stories start off with a death, so it's very difficult for the reader to be vested in the deceased, but make me. A good writer can do that. Make me care about each character, especially the lead ones. I don't want boring. I can meet plenty of boring people in my real life. In my book life, I want someone that I'm going to remember. And someone that is going to make me anxiously turn each page of the book and leave me wanting more.
The same can be said for the story in general. Make it interesting. If I'm not feeling it by 50-75 pages in, it's probably hopeless. I'm sure I speak for many when I say that most of us don't have time to waste on books that don't do it for us. No matter how great the story may be 200 pages in, how many people are still going to be hanging around for that?
Last but certainly not least . . . poor writing. That is sort of ironic, really, because you always assume that any book that has been published must have good writing. Not necessarily so. Some of it is simple laziness on the part of the author, whether it be laziness with regard to weaving the plotline together or in regard to facts about the city, culture, professions, etc. mentioned in the book. If the author couldn't be bothered to research the city the book is taking place in, or research the profession of one of the characters, should I be bothered to spend time reading the book?
Wow. I'm a fairly picky reader, aren't I?
So, what things make you stop reading?