We’ve all been there. You take a risk on a new book or author and at some point the truth sinks in and you realise: I’m just not into this book.
What do you do? Do you stop reading before you waste any more of your precious time? Or do you persist, despite the frustrating lead character you feel as though you might slap if you actually met in real life? Maybe you’re stubborn and determined to stick it out, because even though you guessed the twist a quarter of the way in, you’re hoping the book will get better if you keep reading?
Then there are those times when you just can’t quite put your finger on it. Somehow, an inexplicable combination of qualities melds together to make the book you are reading dull and uninteresting.
Deal-breakers: some reasons why readers break up with writers
Below are some of the major book fails to look out for:
- Weak lead characters: I suppose it might be unkind of me to bring up Bella, from Twilight here (yes, I read the series, please don’t hold it against me), but did anyone else find her annoying? I didn’t wholly dislike her per se, it’s just that her constant neediness and unwillingness to save herself got on my nerves. Thank goodness for the other characters like Alice and Rosalie, which gave me some hope for the female gender. Admittedly they were vampires, but still…
- Perfect lead characters: YAWN. So you finished top of your class or you’re a leader in your field? Rich? Famous? If you’re grumpy when you haven’t had your coffee or rude to the other characters in your story occasionally, then I think I might just be interested…fiction may be fantasy, but if your readers can’t relate to your characters, then they might just put your book down and look elsewhere. How do you make your characters relate? Give them some human qualities, pretty please!
- An obvious twist or whodunnit: alright, so this one is harder to predict. As a writer, you might think you’re leading your readers up the garden path and concealing your twist cleverly, but give your readers some credit. If for example, you’re writing crime or suspense, there’s probably a high likelihood your readers have read a decent smattering of titles in your genre. This means they are quite astute, so be sure to treat them as such! I’d suggest getting a good group of qualified beta readers together to critique your manuscript to ensure you’re as clever as you think you are…
- Awkward Point of View (POV): sometimes readers just want to go with the status quo. That’s why if you’re thinking of doing something unusual when it comes to POV, think long and hard before you adopt it for your manuscript. I recently read a good book by an Australian author, Nicola Moriarty, called Free-Falling. It was an enjoyable read but I noticed a few reviewers had called out the unusual POV. Basically, Moriarty had allocated sectors or chapters of the book to specific characters (it was still third person) but this was obviously unsettling to some. I’ve lost count of the number of Jodi Picoult novel’s I’ve read and she does this quite frequently, so it didn’t bother me, but clearly some readers might be pulled from their comfort zone with a departure from the norm.
- Too many characters: most of us read for enjoyment, which is why when you feel as though you need to pull out a pen and paper to take notes so you can identify and recall a book’s characters, you might want to ease up a bit. It’s not that readers are stupid, it’s just that we don’t want reading to feel like work!
- Outlandish obstacles or hurdles: we all know the key to a good book is to have your lead navigate a series of problems so they can grow during their journey. I’ve just finished reading a book where it felt like the obstacles were created purely because the writer felt they needed to be there to add suspense. The result was a situation where you felt sorry for the characters for being forced into that situation, incredulity at the ridiculousness of it all and overall, frustration. Major frustration. Please writers, don’t do this! Stay true to your characters and their story. Sometimes it pays to let go off the puppet master strings and put yourself in your character’s shoes when deciding on how best to proceed.
How about you? What book fail moments have you had lately? Were they bad enough to close the book or hurl it at the wall in frustration?