My parents brought me up to finish what I start. If I have too many unfinished projects, my anxiety level goes up and my emergency chocolate stash gets depleted. So I’ve always been kind of compulsive about reading a book to the end. Maybe it’s the eternal optimist in me that thinks surely it will get better, even when after 100 pages I have no reason to think that.
Lately I’ve given myself permission to not finish a book I’m not enjoying. For me to close the book for the last time without reading to the end, it has to be really bad. Here are seven factors that cause me to lose interest. One or two might not be enough for me to stop. Three or more, and I’m done.
1. Stereotyped characters
I’ve read too many books with a spunky heroine whose headstrong nature gets her and everyone else into big trouble, or sometimes even dead. Or the religious person who is stupid, rigid, or annoying. Add to this a drop-dead gorgeous heroine and stunningly handsome hero, ugly villain, nerdy scientist, nurturing grandmother, evil businessman and I’ve lost interest in the story.
2. Badly drawn characters or character arcs
This includes characters that are all good or all bad, don’t develop, or are inconsistent. If the spunky heroine loses her nerve and becomes passive, or the religious person suddenly becomes a drug addict without the author showing us how these developments are happening, it doesn’t feel real.
3. Stupidity in general on the part of the characters
Too many times I’ve read novels in which the spunky heroine does stupid stuff because she knows best or won’t allow anyone to tell her anything. Sometimes the stupidity is so extreme the characters have embarrassed themselves, but strangely, they don’t seem to realize they should be embarrassed. Add no self-awareness to stupidity.
4. Manipulation by the author
Obviously, the author is manipulating the whole story. But how the characters find out information or learn should flow from their actions, not through some trick device.
5. Predictable characters or events
If from the introduction of a character (i.e. the religious one) I know how he’ll be painted (stupid), the author has lost me. The same holds true with events. If I know what’s going to happen next, it’s not worth my time reading the book.
6. Bad writing and melodrama
As in excessive use of effusive, extraneous adjectives and exaggerated adverbs that conjure up nonsensical fleeting images of emotion squeezed out of flat characters like juice from a desiccated lemon. Or metaphors that make no sense, like a person living in the 1600s comparing his wife to a Hostess Twinkie.
7. Typos, punctuation and grammar mistakes
I can overlook a few, especially if the writing and story are good. After awhile, if an error is repeated, I’ll start to notice it. Then I’ll be looking for it. The characters, plot, story will all be lost as I wonder when the next mistake will come.
So those are the reason’s I’ll quit reading a book and put that author on my do not recommend list. What about you? What makes you decide to give up on a novel?