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How to get me to put down a book

November 24, 2008

I am a Book Girl.  It is very easy for me to say, “Sure, I’ll read it.”  Why?  Because it’s a book.  If it’s fiction, I’ll attempt it, if I can get around to it.

However, there are a few simple ways to get me to put down a book without finishing it.  One is to be a crappy writer.  It is surprisingly easy to spot these right away.  They are generally from the “tell, don’t show” school of writing.  You know, like:

“I’m hungry,” Sasha said.

rather than

Sasha’s stomach grumbled.

They also feel like they have to give you every piece of information right up front, filling your head with details that’d be better told over time or bits and pieces that don’t need to be told up front at all.  It’s really off-putting.  My other favorite thing they do, especially the romance writers, is write babies and children as if they are magically disappearing plot machines.  In the world of romance, single mothers can always find a sitter when it’s time to get some–or, better, the baby wakes up just in time to stop the two from getting it on.  Several times.  Man, that kid is talented.

Although, sad but true, I often tend to keep going through the crap if the book doesn’t trip up on my other two no-nos.

So, secondly, the book can’t be sexist.  And it’s not only “The book can’t treat women like objects,” because that’s pretty much a given.  I also will give up on a book if the characters act in ways that perpetuate negative gender stereotypes.

For example, if guys sit around talking about their girlfriends and say things like “They’re both women.  What’s the difference?”  “Apparently none.”–forget it.  If all women like shopping and weddings and babies and let the Big Strong Men do everything for them, blah blah blah–I don’t want to read that either.  Need a man?  I’m probably not interested in you.  WANT a man?  That’s something else entirely.

Which brings me to the last thing that makes me want to put the book down: I don’t care about the characters.  This is sometimes the result of the first two things, and sometimes just that the character is completely unsympathetic.  Whiny, bratty, stupid, shoe- and/or fashion-obsessed, mean, whatever.  Obviously, there are books where that sort of character works–see, for example, Emily Barr’s Backpack, which has one of the most unsympathetic leads I’ve ever read in my life.  But Barr plays with that.  She knows we hate Tansy.  She probably hates Tansy too.  But, generally?  The author loves that character.  He or she thinks you’ll love that character too.  And…yeah, no.  Generally, if I want to read about bad people, I’ll put on the news, or go for something with a nice lead and a deliciously evil villain.  SOMETIMES, but rarely, I’ll read something with a crappy lead for fantastic secondary characters but usually in those cases I’m slogging through.

Oh, there are other things I hate, so many of them, but these are the Big Ones.  And, let me tell you internet, as God as my witness, I’ll not be finishing crap again–not when there’s so much else out there.  Er, or if it’ll make for a funny post.

(This rant has been brought to you by Lynn Michaels’s Mother of the Bride, which bugs me with infodump and an irritating main character.  I made it to the middle of the second chapter before I thought, I could be reading something else. Like the Anita Blake graphic novel.  HA!)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. drtombibey permalink
    November 24, 2008 11:13 am

    You sound like my agent – tough as hell but honest.

  2. bookslide permalink*
    November 24, 2008 5:44 pm

    You’re not wrong. 😀

    I started out this way, but being a Lit major pretty much hammered “tough as hell but honest” in there as “basic personality trait.”

  3. drtombibey permalink
    November 25, 2008 1:08 pm

    I done three professional things is my life. Being a Doc was tough, but bluegrass mandolin was harder.

    Writing a novel goes to another level of difficult.

    Dr. B

  4. bookslide permalink*
    November 25, 2008 2:31 pm

    I’m taking a writing class right now, and I am so far from the kid who wrote all the time–when she wasn’t reading. I never finished anything, though. I still don’t, but I’m hoping the writing class will aid me in changing that.

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