I love to read. I have loved to read ever since I was a little boy and begged my mom to take me to the library every week. Since I’ve been reading for so long, I’ve gotten to know my ever evolving taste in books fairly well. I can usually tell when I will like a book within a page or two. The other side of that coin is that I know exactly what makes me hate a book.
Over the years, I have noticed a pattern of things that make me want to stop reading a book. There are certain scenarios and elements in books that completely turn me off to the story and make me want to put the book down for good. Being that I recently stopped reading the third book in a row, I felt like I should write about my biggest pet peeves with books.
Basically, this post is gonna be a “How To” guide for if you ever want to make a book I’ll never read all the way through. Perhaps you, the reader, will agree with these peeves. Perhaps not. If you have other pet peeves in books, including comics, please tell me about them in the comments!
I feel like my peeves are best explained through examples, so that’s how I’ll be explaining them. Anyway, onwards with my pet peeves!
Having the characters act completely stupid for most of the book. I recently tried to read Jam by Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw (of Zero Punctuation fame). It’s about an apocalypse where flesh eating jam has covered the world. Think of the plot as ‘Adults Play “the Floor is Lava” with extreme consequences.’ Anyway, throughout the book, the main characters make decision after decision that not only risk their lives but ensure that they will die soon and quickly. They NEVER attempt to learn from their mistakes. This irks me to no end. If your characters act dumb and continue to act dumb without any hope of getting smarter, I will NEVER like your characters.
Having most of the book be narration by the character with little to no character interaction or scenes. Bloodshot by Cherie Priest is my main offender here. In the book’s first 120 pages, there are maybe 3 or 6 short scenes with other characters. And by short, I mean 2 to 3 pages maximum. The rest of the pages are taken up by the character thinking about the situations she finds herself in and her life so far. It. Was. Boring. Having a main character think all the time with no action or dialogue feels to me like nothing is getting accomplished in the story. I know that readers have to get to know your main character, but readers also need to see how they interact with the world. On the opposite end of the spectrum…
Having too much happening in the book at once. Carrie Vaughn is one of my favorite authors because of her Kitty Norville series. Knowing this, I picked up Discord’s Apple. It’s been a little while since I tried to read it, but what I remember is too many perspectives. In the first 50 pages alone, there were 5 different story lines to keep up with and remember. It got really confusing for me and I just couldn’t follow what was going on. Jim Butcher is a little guilty of this as well, especially with the later Dresden novels so far. But I can forgive him for that because his stories are usually awesome. But I digress…
Having too much history of the background of the story without moving the story along. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown is one of the most boring books that I never finished reading. In the first hundred pages, all I remember is a lot of “historical facts” and the main character stood in one exact spot for the entire time. There’s a way to give exposition correctly (ie interweaving it with the story) and there’s just spouting it from the start and never stopping.
The next few are peeves that I have regarding books that are parts of a series.
Having the main character or side characters act completely out of character. This isn’t one that I can think of an example for off the top of my head. But according to my lovely girlfriend Laura, the Bones series is very guilty of this. The main character is supposed to be a strong willed, independent woman. But, in Laura’s terms, “when it comes to relationship stuff, she turned into a fricking teenager.” This change of an important aspect of your characters is very jolting for the reader. Readers find themselves asking “why is this person acting so different?” It simply makes no sense, unless you somehow explain why they are acting that way within the story.
Changing the tone of the series in the middle of the series. The Ghostdusters Series is about a crime scene cleaner who can see ghosts. The first book is a straightforward supernatural mystery with a few twists. It got a little dark, but it was mostly a lighthearted story with a few bumps on the way. The second book opens up with a sacrifice ritual murder scene of a cult. What? This was completely shocking and turned me off to the book immediately. Shifting from a light series immediately into a dark one just feels wrong. It feels like you’re taking the trust of your fans who want to keep up with the books and throwing that trust off a cliff.
So, those are some of the pet peeves that I can think of for the moment. I know I have a few more, but I feel the post has gone on long enough. Again, if you have other pet peeves about books, comics, or even in shows or games, please let me know in the comments! Until next time, I’m going to go curl up with a good book.