No matter what the genre, there are always those tropes, those things that tick us off as readers — elements like pacing, love triangles, the plain jane main character that everyone loves or the villain that isn’t villainous enough — enough to make us stop reading. You know those lists — odds are, you’ve probably made a list of exactly those things that tick you off at some point.
For #LoveOzLit this month, I asked authors what ticked them off enough to make them stop reading a book. And here, Annah Faulkner brings some great points and one very basic one — accuracy. If you’re going to write about something you don’t know, research. And then research some more.
Top of the list is failure to adequately research. Some writers seem to think fiction lets them off the hook when it comes to fact. It doesn’t. I was recently given a book (fiction) set entirely in New Guinea. New Guinea was integral to the story and the people in it. Yet, within the first three or four pages the writer (in beautiful writing) referred to sloths hanging in the jungle trees. Whaaat? Sloths belong exclusively to Central South America. There are no sloths in New Guinea, never have been. For me, such casual disregard for accuracy cost both writer and book all credibility. Worse, I would not trust anything else authored by that person. In these days of easy internet access, careless disrespect for the reader’s acuity is inexcusable.
And, right there in the end, I think is what a lack of research comes down — an author disrespecting a reader and their intelligence and knowledge. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever noticed something in a book that could not possibly be true?
This one is a more subjective turn-off: Writing which draws attention to the author: “Look at me – aren’t I clever? Look at my brilliant sentences, my stunning metaphors, my keen observations of human affairs.”
Yeah. Thanks. If I love the book, I’ll be interested in the author, but not until I’ve read it.
I have to know: who’s read an author like THIS?
While the following are probably less actual dislike than distancing:
Inability to engage with the characters. I’m not talking about disliking a character – that’s fine – but having no emotional connection. Using Omnipotent POV, being in many heads rather than cosying up to one or two, will sometimes have this effect. OPOV is easier for the writer, but can distance the reader. It may not stop me reading the book, but I will be aware of reading a story, rather than becoming involved with the people in it.
Poor quality writing. Lack of craft. I realise that a great storyteller is not necessarily a great writer and I don’t want to be elitist. But cliches and clunks, poor grammar and sloppy editing are avoidable distractions that will usually have me rejecting the book in favour of a garden more carefully tended.
Hands up anyone else who’s been distracted by incessant POV jumps? That’s the theme of an upcoming review, which would have gone 4 stars had the author not wanted to cover every POV of her story, with everyone that was part of it. As a whole, the story was well written, but I wish they would have chosen a theme, and only a few POVs to tell that story. It was so frustrating because just as I felt that I was getting to know the characters, the POV would switch.
And poor quality writing — that’s a huge no-no for me too.
What are your biggest pet peeves? The ones that will definitely make you put a book down, whatever the genre? Or is not reading a book something you would never do? Why?