Are you a fussy reader?

Joe’s Post #144

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve become a fussy reader. Really fussy. All those voices that I have in my head when I do my own writing come out when I read other authors.

Hey, at least I’m expanding my self-loathing out into the universe. That’s a good thing, right?

So, here is a list of things that turn me off, because, you know, everyone wants to know what turns me off.

  • A bad opening. And by ‘bad’, I mean ‘boring’. I don’t need an explosion or a car chase or someone whacking some poor girl with a belt. I need something or someone to care about. Even beautiful language can only hold my attention for a page or two. What stuns me, though, is no matter what they say at workshops or conferences or retreats, books get published that suck at the very beginning.
  • You hide too much from me. I like to be teased, sure, like anyone, but when someone writes, “they saw the guy, then something happened,’ that books gets put down. I need details. I need specifics. I don’t need to be jerked around. Hello, Baldacci, I’m talking to you. I love your books, but every so often, you almost phone it in.
  • Too much narration. Ok, this is new, but I’ve found that the books I love to read have more than one character talking to his or herself. Too much narration, even in the first person, and I become like a man on an island desperately seeking some form of conversation. Even in Cast Away, Tom Hanks talked to a ball for Christsake.
  • No voice. Ok, like this is a lot harder to define, but a great voice will propel me far into the story, while a common voice, the one with correct sentence structure, rigidly proper punctuation and a bland delivery will be like some bureaucrat going on and on and on and on and at some point I fall asleep and start to drool.
  • Too much backstory. Oh, lordy, this one is a killer for me. Sometimes I’ll get hooked into a story and then whammo, I’m forced to read about who begat who and who begat them before that and how the world was created. Ugh.
  • Too much swearing. Ok, I totally know that makes me f*ing sound like some sort of uber PG a**hole, but sh*t, sometimes it’s like an author thinks voice is all about using them cuss words. Not that I’m against swearing, not at all, but the overuse of foul language seems like a copout to me.

GRROne thing I love, both in movies and in a book is a good surprise.

I’m jaded. I’ll admit that. I’m picky.

But if you can surprise me, then you’ve got me. For 2 hours, in the case of a movie, or for a week in the case of a book. Sixth Sense surprised the hell out of me, and it’s one of my most favourite movies. GRR Martin continues to surprise me and I’ll tackle each and every one of his 1000 page tomes with ravenous glee.

But screw something up, published or not, I won’t want to read ya.

So what things turn you off a book? The cover? Book length? Spelling errors (someone more common these days, much to my horror.)

Let us know.

Oh and who’s going to Surrey International Writer’s Conference this year?

4 thoughts on “Are you a fussy reader?

  1. Joe, you pretty well nailed it here. I would add a couple of other turn-offs that usually make me put a book down:

    Just too lightweight. When a book reveals itself to be, well, trivial and predictable – I’m outta there. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of stuff like this, including bestsellers (especially those successful series writers who’ve devolved into mimicking their earlier, much better, work).

    Just too gory. Open with a chainsaw massacre and say goodbye to me as a reader.

    A protagonist I just wanna yell at. You know those types? The ones that are so dumb they always walk into an obvious trap? The self-pitying victims that you just want to leave tied to the railroad track? The ones with supposedly “interesting” flaws so unlikeable you can’t root for them? The meanies and primadonnas and misanthropes and cloying do-gooders? If a protagonist is someone I’d cross the street to avoid in real life, I’m certainly not going to read his/her story.

    FYI, SISC … TBD!

  2. Clichés. That’s what gets me. And anything you have ever heard before is a cliché. I wrote a science fiction love story in eighth grade where the main characters boyfriend mercifully kills his girlfriend and then kills himself. Corny, yes. I couldn’t type, so I asked my mom to type it up for me. She changed the last line from something like, ” To the doctor’s surprise he heard two shots instead of one” To “To the doctor’s surprise two shots rang out instead of one.” She changed the last line!! At age thirteen I knew the addition of that ‘rang out’ was fucking cliché!

  3. Writing has made it far more difficult for me to read for enjoyment. So when a book grips me enough to turn off my internal writer/editor, I’m amazed. In addition to many of the points you’ve noted, I’m also now turned off books where I can see the writer following all “the rules” they’ve been taught!

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