Monday, April 5, 2010

What Turns me Off in a Novel

In my last post, I talked about what I was looking for in a novel.  There are also negative points that would cause me to stop reading or to have a negative opinion of a book.  Here are my top five turnoffs.

1.  Story written in present tense
The only exception is if the book is written in first person POV and that's the way the narrator's usual way of talking.  A story written in third person POV in present tense irritates me tremendously, for some reason.  Stories have been told in past time for hundreds of years, so why change now?  I once read a children's book written in present tense and my kids commented on it.  It bothered them as well.

2.  Too many flashbacks / back story
I like to read scenes as they happen, not be told what has already happened that I should know about.  One exception is if the flashback is absolutely necessary to the story and is written as an actual scene. I like to learn the back story little by little, through scenes, rather than in big chunks of information.  Show me the present and let me figure out the past.

3.  Added sex/violence scene to sell more
Swear words and foul language also fall in this category.  If it's necessary to the plot or one character is particularly low grade, that's okay.  Other than that, it irritates me.  But that's just me.  Some other people love it, and that's why some authors specifically add these scenes to sell more.

4.  Complicated plot or too many characters
I don't like having to go back to earlier chapters, trying to remember who a character is or to remind myself of what happened.  I don't want to work that hard when I read.  Simple is better.  Give me a few well-developed characters and a straight forward plot and I'll be happy.

5.  Poor writing
Certain things didn't bother me before like they do now, especially since I joined a review forum.  I notice things my reviewers tell me not to do in my own stories and they jump at me when I see them in a novel I'm reading.  Some of these things are:  too many adverbs, run-on sentences, POV shifts, unnecessary dialogue tags, repeated words, fragments.  I can no longer just relax and enjoy a good book without having my internal editor say a few words.  I try to silence him, but it's not always easy.  He loves to show off.


Unknown said...

I hope my story doesn't put you off (it's in present tense, but 1st person)... I just found it easier to write that way. Most of these things are on my list of irritations.

Annie McMahon said...

Thanks for your comment, Cheree. I'd have to read your story and see. Sometimes it doesn't bother me too much if it's written in 1st person POV. I still like past tense better, though.

Ralene said...

Yeah, one of the biggest downfalls of being a novelist is that its often tough to sit down and just enjoy a book. *nods* I understand.

My list looks a lot like yours. Too many characters/complicated plot doesn't bother me as long as it's done well. Characters with distinct personalities and stories, plot that is well thought out and executed properly. But I've seen it done poorly several times.

Annie McMahon said...

When I say complicated plot, I'm talking about something like The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner, where I had to print out a summary from Spark Notes just to follow the story. LOL Some characters had the same name, one the MC's big brother, the other a baby girl. O_o Very confusing. After reading the first two chapters, I still didn't know where I was.

Jody Hedlund said...

Oh, my internal editor has gotten very loud and obnoxious when I read these days! I wish there were a way to keep her a bit more quiet so I could actually enjoy a book!

Annie McMahon said...

Duct tape usually does the trick. Haha!

Jim Dillingham said...

I don't know that much about what I don't like in a book. I am either interested or I am not. Long paragraphs tend to make me lose interest. A predictable plot makes me lose interest. Conveniences or coincidences that are needed to help the story along feel like cheating.

As for grammar...I wouldn't know if every other word was misspelled or not.


Just Wendy said...

Great post! My sentiments entirely.

Annie McMahon said...

Jim, these are all good points. As for grammar, I remember reviewing some of your chapters, and your remark made me laugh. LOL Hey! Everyone has strong and weak points.

Wendy, thanks for visiting!

Melissa Cunningham said...

Great post! Thanks for coming by to visit my blog! I'm going to keep in touch here. I like what you have to say!

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