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  1. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    What makes you put a book down?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mallory, Apr 14, 2011.

    I've seen lots of threads where people ask about some controversial aspect of their WIP, asking others if the issue would cause them to put the book down were they reading it.

    I'm just curious in general - what kind of stuff actually does cause someone to put the book down? Not just get irritated at the author, but literally put the book down and never read it again (or even anything by that author again?)

    For me, there are only a few things that will make me put a book down, and they are as follows:

    1. Extremely boring plot that takes forever to get to any type of conflict; also in this category, the type of book where the first three chapters just describe the setting and the MC's house or something of that nature.

    2. Blatant sexism. Now I realize that lots of women (and men, too) in real life are passive, weak etc, so books will reflect this. I'm fine if it's just the way a character happens to be, although I'll surely get annoyed with the character often. But I've stopped reading books because they featured a strong and independent female MC, but as soon as she meets the man of her dreams, she loses all her spunk and becomes a hapless doormat. I'm okay with this if it's a flaw, but not if it's romanticized by the author. And no, I don't have anything against someone deciding to be a housewife or anything, but I am against women losing all their independent thought, assertiveness, decisiveness etc just because they're with someone when the author seems to think it's a good thing.

    3. Horror novels that are never scary, romance books with no steamy scenes, etc...where the book is too flat or dull in general.

    That's about all I can think of....I mean, nothing will make me stop reading a book in terms of shock value...nothing I can think of, anyways....I was just curious to see what the case is for others.

    And no, I'm not creating this thread to collect validation for my own book's touchy subjects. I'm just interested in sparking discussion. :)
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'll put a book down if it's boring. This not only applies to novels, but to short stories, essays, articles, etc. I like a piece of writing that is engaging and well written.
     
  3. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    If the book is boring, which is about 95% of the time for me, even for books that everybody else says are good, ranging from great classics to trashy novels. I'm easily bored by a lot of things, books included, but I guess I'm a bit more of an exaggeration than the typical person. Usually the plot and characters don't draw me in because I simply don't give a crap what happens next, because I can just be doing something else more entertaining than reading the book.
     
  4. Ophiucha
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    Ophiucha Member

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    If I put a book down, it is near invariably due to the writing. I can deal with bad characters if there's a good plot, a bad plot if there are good characters, weak of either or both if there are some interesting themes and ideas being explored, but if it is just written badly (spelling/grammar errors, awful syntax/diction, over description, boring prose) I find it really hard to push my way through it.
     
  5. katica
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    katica Senior Member

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    Three reasons I can think of and I'll give examples:

    1. I can handle authors who write their opinions into stories, but I got furious at one author, P.C. Cast, to the point where I won't read anything else she's ever written after reading her first House of Night book.

    Why?

    Because its one thing when an author has a sentence or two stating her opinion on something or having a character agree with her on something I disagree on for a few paragraphs (easily overlooked), but by the end of 100 pages, she had insulted me and a whole bunch of people I knew. And I started literally seeing red and shaking as I read the book. And it wasn't even that I disagreed with everything she said. It was more that I felt like she was lecturing me the entire time. All her thoughts were projected by the main character, but you could tell they were really coming from her.

    She made several characters who were religious individuals and shallow through out the book, which pissed me off because I come from a religious family (even though I am not religious myself.)

    She made fun of people who drink (because her jerk of a boyfriend drank) and who swear (and made the main character use childish words instead.) I both swear and drink, but not excessively and didn't appreciate being criticized for it.

    She talked about how stupid several different high school stereotypes were (including emos, goths, and preps.) The character complained about them and would say how shes SO not like that. Which sounded stuck up and like a character from the hills.

    Complained about premarital relations when the main character caught another character doing something slutty.

    The only group she didn't criticize was gays, which is fine, I support gay rights, but it seemed elitist for that to be the only acceptable group of people so far in the entire story.

    It got to the point where the shallow, mean, prissy girl was introduced and met the main character and started being mean to her and I was cheering her on. "Yea, how do you like it when people treat you like you treat everyone else?"

    I know she was trying to project the image that the main character was tolerant by supporting gays, but she was actually super judgemental against most people. She just happened to like gays, but pretty much ONLY them.

    Too much author voice and opinion when I'm trying to just relax and be entertained will drive me away.

    2. They failed to suspend my disbelief.

    I forget the name of it right now but it was for teenage girls, recent, and about a fairy.

    The beginning was fine. There were disappearances in this town, random glitter appearing everywhere, and suspicious people.

    When I lost interest was when the main characters friends said that they did internet research online and obviously the town had fairies.

    I'm sorry, but NO. People don't randomly decide with no citings, evidence, proof, or anything that there's magically fairies in the world. I lost all ability to picture the story as real after that.

    3. Boring, boring, boring.

    I could list a lot of books who do this. Who don't torture the reader and make them wonder constantly what's going to happen next. Who don't have any conflict, but I think we all can.

    If nothings going on then why should I care.

    4. The shifter series by Rachel Vincent . . . .

    Good plot. Good writing. Everything was great, except for one thing . . .

    The main character was the most bratty, awful, selfish, stubborn, hard to tolerate person in the world.

    I had to put the books down because they made me angry. She made me angry in particular. I was tired of her immaturity and would never be able to stand being friends with her in real life.

    She was irrational and had no redeeming qualities.

    It's one thing to be angry at what a character does occasionally, but I couldn't relate to her or anything she did. She drove me crazy.
     
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  6. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    Haven't run across themes or content that have put me off to the point of putting a book down.

    I do tend to put a book down if it hasn't engaged my interest after the first 30-100 pages. Over descriptiveness usually does this to me. Though... I somehow pushed my way through the entire Laurell K Hamilton book, Guilty Pleasures, complaining about her being way to descriptive the whole time... then I liked the ending. It makes me wonder how many books I've put down that I may have enjoyed.
     
  7. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    I think this is a very good question, especially on a writer's forum, so I will illustrate the main reasons why I have put books down (or destroyed them, in one very rare case).

    1. As others have written, when the writer has a hidden agenda, and it becomes so strongly evident through bias in the text, that it detracts completely from the story. Whether the agenda is preaching a new religion or ideology, nationalism, sexism, racism or something else does not matter. All of these are extremely annoying, unless you happen to completely agree with the author.

    2. When the author has not researched anything. If a book which heavily involves Russia has a lot of Russian male characters whose surnames end with an "a" (such as Zaitseva, instead of Zaitsev, for example), which are the female form and exclusively used by women, it breaks immersion completely. If in addition to that, the plot evolves in ways that are totally unrealistic, the book is just not worth reading any more.

    3. If the book is very badly written (technically), I will also put it down, as it just becomes impossible to continue reading without writhing about rather painfully.
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Only thing that puts me off is an inability to bond with the main character(s) - I hate not knowing name and basic look of a main character - it doesn't have to be detailed but something. Like we knew Jane Eyre was small and plain. Sometimes the personality is enough but part of me would rather deal with an info dump at the beginning with necessary detail and then get into the story than not have it at all. Give me cliched mirror scene if you have to - just give me a picture in someway of that character.

    If I am going to spend time with someone I like to know a bit about them.
     
  9. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't really pick-up books with any sort of expectation of encountering poor writing or boring stuff.

    Excessive dialogue. Too much dialogue too soon. Heavily accented dialogue. That, usually, grinds my gears.
     
  10. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I hardly ever fail to finish a book that I've started reading. Can't remember the last time that happened. I think it was 'The Kite Runner' which I just found numbingly boring, filled with cultural cliches, and badly translated (guess I was in a minority there). Previous to that, I remember wondering what all the fuss was about, but giving up on the first Harry Potter, and Twilight was too much torture within the first 2 paragraphs.

    If--when I flip through a book prior to buying or borrowing it--it seems banal, really horribly badly written, sickeningly violent, or worst of all, pretentious, I won't start reading it in the first place.

    I think being a) pretentious c) boring and b) in a genre I dislike would be the main reasons.
     
  11. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    When the author demands that my impression of their book must be the same as their own -- when the writer subliminally says "here comes the awesome part, and I like it because of this and that, now don't you?!" Wall-banger.

    When the author is trying to lecture me about my life, based on their own or even worse, their preconceptions. Know your place, author -- your written work shall now make a half-decent door stopper.

    Stories that seem to go nowhere. A lot of classic literature just puts me to sleep this way. I really wanted to read them and see their deeper qualities, and I'd have no objections to the subject, tone or voice, it's just that my eye-lids got so heavy... If the book feels dusty even when fresh from print, then I'll neither toss it against a wall or anything that dramatic, it'll simply serve as pillow for an afternoon nap. I'll sleep, and hopefully, the wisdom contained within that pillow shall in some way find me in my dreams.

    Whiny drama-queen characters. I avoid these people in real life like I'd avoid the Black Death. I don't wanna read about them, either!

    I suppose you could deduce from this that my ideal read would have a neutral narrative, deep, meaningful (but suspenseful!) drama, and characters that would rather be without the conflict they're forced into.
     
  12. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    • "Chosen one" stories.
      They tick me off.

    • Info-dumps and unnecessary back-story right from, "Go!"
      If the author feels the need to write up a hefty amount of information about something that happened prior to the story's beginning right at the start of the book I'm just going to think they've started the novel in the wrong place. If they can't start a story in the right place then what else does that say about their story-telling skills? I don't mind prologues as long as they're short, sweet and give a good example of what is to come.

    • (Recurrent use of) Sob stories to make us sympathise with the character.
      It annoys me on reality TV shows and it annoys me in literature. You want me to feel sorry for your character? I don't care what happened to them in the past; show me something happening to them in the present if you want me to feel for them.

    • Explaining anything and everything (even multiple times just in case we don't understand it!).
      Too many writers underestimate their reader's intelligence. I'll admit I'm not clever but I'm capable of reading in-between the lines and can quickly piece things together without the author needing to dumb down the concept and spell it out for me. If I get the impression the author thinks I'm stupid then I'm not going to read it.
     
  13. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I usually only put down a book if it bores me so much I can't bring myself to continue reading. Especially long, unnecessary descriptions and action scenes.

    I may also put down a book if it makes me very uncomfortable, for example, excessive violence or sexual abuse.

    I don't think I've ever been so offended by a book that I've put it down. If the writer seems clueless or gratitous, I may avoid reading any more by them, though.
     
  14. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    I have a very hard time reading books where a character is in an abusive situation. The first two Harry Potter books were impossible for me to get through for this very reason. And I barely made it through Order of the Phoenix with Umbridge's "detentions".

    Fantasy books that shove the "world's" history down my throat in the opening prologe. The reason I loved the Lord of the Rings is that it jumped right into it with Bilbo Baggins' birthday party. And The Two Towers opens right up with a battle with the Orcs. Perfect, like hitting the ground running. That's how I want my fantasy.

    As someone stated before, books where it is clear that writers didn't do their research. And I'm not talking about books written before anything was officially known on a subject. I mean books like Jodi Piccoult's House Rules, where the character supposedly has Asperger's but he clearly has High Functioning Autism. Yes, they are both on the same spectrum, but they are two entirely different levels of autism. And it's annoying enough when professional teachers and clinicians can't get it right, much less writers who claim to "know" about it.
     
  15. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^ Good point. Can I add that I hate books where the writer is purporting to show life in a country but has clearly never even been to said country, and has snippets of foreign languages that are wrong?

    I'm reading a book, The Potter's House, by Rosie Thomas, which opens in Turkey and then the character goes to Greece. Obviously, the writer has been on a few holidays to Greece but never visited Turkey in her life. The names, landscapes, market scenes, everything is cringe-makingly wrong for the Turkish chapter. She makes the country seem like Morocco or something, and the character of Turkish people is nothing like she imagines. The Greek bit is better, although she makes free use of cliche, but even the Greek greetings and phrases are sometimes 'off'. All this spoils an otherwise interesting novel with an unusual plot.

    I think the writer is American, but many people have been to Greece and Turkey and can spot the b******t, so good research is really important if you want your book to come alive and carry some weight.
     
  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is why I never write a real place - should imagine even if I did Elgin or Liverpool someone would disagree with some aspect I include. Like my Mum doesn't remember the 50s in black and white like some people talk about she reads Helen Forrester and wonders what she is on about.

    I very rarely give an author a second chance if they bored me. Only exception was Kathy Reichs but I had read everything she had written up until Bare Bones (her attempt at ripping off the Da Vinci Code) - her next book was back to her usual style thank goodness.

    Thomas Hardy is the only other one because I had to for school. He is a classic example of what usually makes me put a book down I appreciate the beauty in his work, his stories are imaginative and have great depth but I don't identify with his characters on any level.

    The only two books I have really put down after reading more than a first chapter (usually by end of first chapter I know whether or not I like the character) with are Perfume by Patrick Suskind, and Catcher in the Rye again nothing wrong with the stories. To me them and Thomas Hardy are like watching the TV show Most Embarrasing Illnesses - it's car crash to see just how awful it can get.

    Oh and had I know the ending I would have put down Bart Yates' Brothers Bishop it reads like either he had a deadline and stuck in two sentences or his publisher made him change it. It is such a shame as the book itself is an amazing read - it is an example of characters that should be awful but can still be identified with.

    As long as the characters are good and identifiable with I can forgive most things - even inaccuracy and bad writing.
     
  17. Rowley
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    Rowley Member

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    I will put down a book if it's boring; if I don't feel interested by page 80, I'm not going to keep spending my time on the story. I'll check out some of the author's other books in this case, as the one I read may have been some sort of a fluke.

    I will also put down a book if there is blatant sexism in the book's theme, or if a book is coming off as incredibly preachy. The "chosen one" stories also have gotten old and dull over time, so the odds of me reading another one of those is practically nill if I can help it.
     
  18. MidnightPhoenix
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    MidnightPhoenix Contributing Member

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    I put a book down when I can't seem to get into it, I don't know if how it written. Sometimes when a book just bored me.
    Now when I want to buy a book, I see if I can read the first couple of pages see if it pulls me in.
     
  19. aimi_aiko
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    aimi_aiko Contributing Member

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    Simple... being uninterested. If it does not catch my attention, I will not read it.
     
  20. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Count me in with the group that rarely puts down a book once begun. I'm usually loathe to not finish a book, but there have been some exceptions.

    If the writing is so dense I feel like I'm hacking my way through it, I'll toss it aside. The last time I felt that way was when I started Henry James' "Portrait of a Lady". After a while, I had the distinct feeling that James was practically daring me to finish it, and I decided that I had better things to do with my time.

    A few folks mentioned a writer having an agenda as a major turnoff. I don't mind a writer having an agenda, but I object to being preached at. Let the story make the point. Allan Drury wrote a very pointed novel with "Advise and Consent" that stands up as a quality novel even if you disagree with him. But his subsequent works - in that series and beyond - became increasingly poorly disguised soap boxes from which he preached his agenda, and the story line became less and less believable.
     
  21. katica
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    katica Senior Member

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    I agree with you. I think that's what I was trying to say.

    For instance, Gulliver's Travels is one of my favorite novels of all time for the way it cleverly weaves his beliefs into the story while at the same time making readable by children. And you can't help but be affected by the story.

    I think its the whole showing and not telling thing. A story can reflect a belief or an idea in the plot, but once you have a character making long speeches about stuff they are critical over either internally or out loud, that is actually coming from the mouth of the author, like in the book I put down . . . I just can't take it anymore.
     
  22. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    I like people their hopes, their dreams, their character defects. No matter how great a variation the plot may be on the 7 basic plots.If the writing is perfect and the characters are unengaging, I bounce.
    It reads to me like the British marching in a precise single file line on Bunker Hill......case in put if I was a grammar nazi i would have quit on the color purple, forest gump,the world according to garp,etc,

    Again it may be a matter of taste, I am a fan of only current mainstream fiction. I do not dig fringe fiction (war,sci-fi,fantasy,horror,werewolves,etc.)
     
  23. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agree. I read a book the took place in Rome, and the author description made clear that she had done a similar journey there as the MC, but she had all the names of the places misspelled, peoples names too, I mean those kinds of spelling errors that aren't due to individality but those who change the pronounciation of the entire name, people in italy don't tend to spell names in a fancy way just to be special, they usually use the traditional version. Even the phrases in italian was totally wrong in the way that the translation she gave was so far from the truth that it got a whole new meaning, not even roughly would it mean the same thing. That bothered me so much it ruined my impression of the entire book.

    I do, even though I haven't been there, but is there something wrong in inventing places like restaurants etc in places where such restaurants doesn't exist? Or inventing a hotel chain that doesn't exist and place it there-would that be wrong?

    I don't even give it 80 pages, if it hasn't captivated me or at least made me curious to know what will happen after 20 or 30 pages I will put it down without mercy. Boring books are the major reason for me to put it down, or too stereotyped characters, mary sues or characters that doesn't seem real to me, might be a lack of description of either physical aspect or lack of characteristical descriptions, weaknesses, personality etc. some writers I have read doesn't give any/very little description at all and in these cases I find it hard to connect with these characters. I might keep reading but those books will never reach to my heart. they just don't make me care about what happens to them. I dislike charaters that are too flat, but also characters that seem to have traits that are too contrasting to be realistic, or too "perfect" characters. Then certain settings just doesn't interest me at all, but in those cases I usually know it before even buying it.
     
  24. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I know what you mean. I remember when I read "Atlas Shrugged" back in my college days, by the time I was 2/3 of the way through it, it was clear that Ayn Rand had said everything she wanted to say. All that was left was the plot, which I thought was weak. And, at the time, I was somewhat sympathetic to Rand's ideology, so it isn't just a matter of disagreeing with her. It's just that after a while she grew rather shrill (although I did finish the book).
     
  25. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    Ed is a better man than me I never finished Atlas Shrugged when I got shrilly I bounced. Probably the better question would be what makes us put currently published books down, I am not sure if the Gulliver's Travels example is not comparing apples to oranges.It would be cool if we could use examples of debut novels in let's say the last 25 years for a litmus test
     

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