I read about seven books a week. Reading feeds my mind the raw materials I need to write. Without the words, phrases, ideas, and images evoked by other works I would never be able to create my own worlds. My reading list this week included a mystery, an inspirational romance, a historic horror-fantasy, and a young adult fantasy.
At least two of the books took flight across the room as I expressed, in the most grown up manner possible at the time, my displeasure. A third book didn’t exactly fly, but for the last eighty pages, I found myself checking to see how much longer it would go on, and wondering if I could skip a chapter or two and still figure things out.
What made me so angry?
- An unhappy ending for a character I loved. I understand that characters grow old and die, but I’d prefer not to see a character, the hero even, end up in a forced labor camp in Siberia or barely eeking out a living as a peasant farmer. You may think this example is extreme, it’s not. I read it just a few days ago.
- A giant plot hole. The heroine witnesses a murder but blocks it out if her memory to protect the man she loves. She knows revealing his father did the killing will crush him. Later, she meets his family for the first time and – Wait! Hold on. If she meets them for the first time after the murder, how did she know his father was the murderer?
- Ignoring medical facts. The worst is a common mistake: if you are knocked unconscious by a blow to the head, you will permanently lose your memory for a period of time. After dinner, if you get hit on the head and are unconscious for several hours, you won’t remember what hit you. You may not remember dinner. If the blow was bad enough you’ll probably forget the entire day.
There are others, of course, like historical characters who have present day values or super-powerful villains that can’t be defeated, but this week those three seem to be the worst.
Soon I’ll start judging entries in the Daphne contest for mysteries, put on by Kiss of Death chapter of RWA. When I judge a book I try to put aside my own pet peeves and think about a general audience. So I’m curious to know what annoys other readers. Anyone care to share?
March 29, 2011 @ 7:56 PM
I can remember three Did Not Finish books. One was a sequel to a book I enjoyed. In book 1, the MC was married and it was a major part of the plot. In book 2, no wife, no mention of ever being married, etc. It was like the author completely threw all the character development out the window between books. (My guess is that the *author* got divorced during that time and saw himself in his character a little bit too much and just wanted his MC to be free to do wild hook-ups with whoever. 🙂 )
The second book was filled with “as you know, Bob”s. And by a best-selling author too. It was just plain lazy. The third book had no coherent plot. It was a man’s diary of his hook-ups, and yet it claimed to be a romance. Uh-huh. I think that one was written by a man using a female pen name. 🙂
March 29, 2011 @ 8:20 PM
Ohh, starting characters over from scratch is a good one. I loathe the idea that we can’t have the hero/heroine triumph if we don’t send them back to square one first. If you end the first book a hero you shouldn’t start the second, third, and fourth books as a loser. Thanks for the comment!
March 29, 2011 @ 10:36 PM
Seven book a week?! I wish.
Things I don’t like are authors who’ve used technical sounding words because they’re popular or because they think it’ll make them sound cool. Characters who do things that are completely for the authors benefit are another thing that bug me. I mean, you know what’s going to happen when someone says, “Let’s stick together.” And first person sometimes switches me off.
I don’t throw books though. Not unless there’s a fly on the wall!
March 30, 2011 @ 8:29 AM
Seven a week, in a good week. I think it helps that I spend my five hour a week commute with a book in my hands. Nothing like enforced reading time to help you get through a list.
I can’t stand contrived actions that are clearly inserted for the author’s benefit either! If no logical person would make the same choice your character does, there’s a problem. Characters shouldn’t behave like puppets on a string, regardless of how easy it makes things for the author. Writing isn’t about the author’s ego.
Thanks for stopping by!
March 30, 2011 @ 11:09 AM
I currently only have two Did Not Finish books that went flying across the room. Book 1 was supposed to be a new unique Urban Fantasy that dove into every cliche that I could think of at the moment. It was growing tired but the minute the antagonist and the protagonist hooked up for no reason what-so-ever. The book took flight and I refused to even move it for a week.
Book 2 was a very intriguing mystery with supernatural undertones. The story was fairly engrossing but the phrasing was just dense. Nothing wrong until the mid-point of the book. The minute the book took a sharp turn from the world it spent the first half of the book creating into a whole Fae/Fairie-thing the book hit a wall.
I’m all about plot twists and creative worlds but pointless hook-ups and changing story half-way through the book drive me nuts.
March 30, 2011 @ 1:07 PM
Good one! Dramatically changing the story half-way through should be a crime. There’s a running joke around here about a book that was supposed to be about werewolves, but halfway through a Greek goddess showed up and the action moved to an astral plane. I’ve never bothered to finish it. I don’t think authors realize how important the title and cover copy are to a reader. If you’ve promised us a book on a topic, don’t abandon it or fail to address it for pages at a time. Thanks for the comment. 🙂