Saturday, September 24, 2011

Novel Dealbreakers

by Kerry Schafer

I like to read. Big surprise, right? My tastes are eclectic, and I read and enjoy novels of nearly all styles and genres. There are, however, a few deal breakers that will make me set the novel down very gently (I would never, ever, throw a book that infuriates me across the room. Never.) Ahem.

Awkward or Lazy Writing.

I'm a poet at heart. My favorite books have words that flow and dance and have a rhythm. When they trip and stumble and bump and clunk, I'm not reading past the first page or two.

Amoral or Purposeless Characters

I will travel nearly anywhere through any kind of plot with a character I love. But I won't venture into even a really good plot with a character I hate. And I hate completely self centered, amoral characters with a passion. They don't have to be "good" - I love a good grey character, and even a passionate villain. So long as they believe in something, care about something, have some code of values they adhere to, we're okay. Let's take an example from TV - the sitcom Sunny in Philadelphia. I cannot and will not watch this show. There is not a single character with whom I can have empathy and all I want to do is line them up and slap them. Hard. I'm forced to endure some second hand TV watching of these types of characters, but nobody can make me read a novel.

Egregious Neglect of Reality

When authors don't do their research, I get annoyed. I can let little things go, unless there are too many of them and the accumulative effect ends with me gently setting the book down. (As I said before, I would never, ever throw a book due to outrage and disgust). Psychiatric illnesses or medical problems based on some bizarre stereotype with no connection to reality have been known to set me off. As does blatant disregard of common sense. There are several such passages in a novel I once read, written by a well known and bestselling author. I did finish reading that novel, mostly out of the sort of fascinated horror that makes people gawk at accidents.

In this bestselling novel, two of the characters are lost in a desert. They are half dead from the heat and lack of water and have reached the point where they can barely stagger along and can no longer speak because their throats are so parched. They find a cave with ancient paintings on the wall, and lo and behold they wander about exploring this cave for several pages, speaking in long sentences as they gaze with wonder and awe. Later on, they find the woman they are trying to rescue. She has been working in a slave camp for several weeks. During this time she has been starved, over worked, and not been permitted a shower. However, immediately after her rescue, prior to food, showers, and medical treatment, she and our intrepid hero engage in passionate love making. Um - just no.

So, that's about it for me. What about you? What makes you stop reading?

Graphic from Free Icons


  1. I agree. Sometimes the WTF moments just kill a novel completely and you feel cheated. Or like you did when you got a toy that in the commercial did all this amazing and cool stuff but turned out to be just a crap bag.

  2. Wall-Bangers! (and for once, I'm not referring to the drink!)

    Two things that will cause me to toss a book are head-hopping and whiny bratty protags.

  3. You've pretty much covered it. Even in a fantasy, there should be a certain logic.

  4. Cautionary Tale - Exactly! The shiny new toy falls apart in your hands and a tantrum ensues, lol.

    KAK - Wall Bangers is a perfect term for these books. And I agree that head-hopping and whining are annoying. Although I think I've read through some novels with those traits that didn't become Wall Bangers.

    Linda G - Logic. I hate being bound by it when I'm writing, LOL, but it is indeed necessary.

  5. I'm not a monogamous reader. Several books compete for my attention at any given time. Usually I stop reading not because there's something wrong with a book, but because other books engage me more. As I rotate between stories, I end up shelving those that fall out of the rotation.

    Because this is my reading style, I read slowly and thoroughly. I may take months to read a single book, but I finish at least one every week. If I make it to the end of a book, it's always because I loved it.

  6. - Cheating by one of the main characters. Hate it!
    - Menages. I can't handle more than two persons in a relationship.
    - illogical/out of character actions without explanation. (Yes: Armand making a vampire ruined Anne Rice's books for me.)

  7. Damsels in distress are my deal-breaker. I enjoy a good rescue as much as the next, but if the heroine is constantly relying on other people to solve her problems...noooo...

  8. Johanna - I've had a habit for most of my life of reading multiple books at once. I almost always finish them, and if I don't it's because of one of my deal breakers. Or, very rarely, overwhelming boredom.

    Sullivan - I can handle cheating if growth happens through it. Menages - would hurt my brain

    Laura - LOL. Yeah. I know what you mean.

  9. Kerry--I've read a few books where I get to the end and realize that I've been had. Not like a surprise twist that was artfully placed. Not like a cliffhanger that makes me want more. I mean the WTF endings. Coming to mind is a book that, in the end, the heroine learned she'd died about 3/4 of the way through the story, but the author never told me/explained how/if the heroine was acting as a ghost for the last quarter, or if she was in some drugged death haze dreaming it all, or if this spirit was somehow vampiric/zombie-ish and just wandered along interacting with others and unaware that she should lay down and be dead. GRRRR.