People want to believe in your story.
There is a fancy name for this truth. However, I cannot think of it at the moment.
But it is true.
And this is a good thing.
People go into a story wanting to like it. Wanting it to be good.
Which means that they will excuse a certain number of mistakes in it. I’m not exactly sure how many.
But I think it is important for us, as storytellers, to be aware of this fact. When someone walks into a theater, they want the movie to be good. When someone picks up a book to read, they are actually prejudiced in its favor.
I don’t know why this is.
After so many mistakes or errors on the part of the author, the audience will start to lose interest. And after so many more, they will hate you.
Here’s the deal. At first, they will defend the story. If only subconsciously.
They will think, “Eh, it’s only a little flaw,” and they will keep reading.
And they will keep doing this until you have passed the point of no return. And there is no defending you anymore.
You are not worth defending.
Do not let your audience get to this point.
Now, I have more endurance than most people.
Some people get past the point of no return rather easily. Especially if they are experienced. These people are particularly difficult to please.
I, on the other hand, though experienced, will almost always finish a book. I do not like to quit. It goes against my personality. I like to see things through.
And that is good news for writers. I will finish it out of principle.
Even if I hate the book.
That is not-as-good news for writers.
That said, there have been a few books I have quit. And a whole lot more I would’ve liked to quit…
And since it is so hard to make me quit reading a book, I thought it would be enlightening to explore the mistakes that are so bad that even I quit reading.
1. Too Predictable
When the plot begins to mirror something I have read before, perhaps multiple times, I will quit reading. Like the “I’m-in-love-with-two-guys-and-I-don’t-know-which-to-choose…” I have read that a million and one times and have absolutely no reason to read it again.
So if you fit the mold, you are too boring.
If people know exactly what is going to happen or how the story is going to end, you are being too predictable.
Cut it out.
Or even if your characters are too predictable. Your heroine is A-Loner-Who-Is-Beautiful-But-Doesn’t-Know-It but just so happens to have One-Quirky-Friend?
Or she is Angry-And-Bitter-And-Sarcastic. Also predictable.
Your one love interest is Wild-And-Dashing-And-Slightly-Dangerous? And the alternate love interest is Protective-Tender-And-Morally-Upstanding?
Don’t do it, folks.
2. Poor Writing
There is nothing I can’t stand as much as blatantly poor writing.
I’m not talking about Suzanne Collins is weak at writing dialogue. I’m talking about “I was born without the gift of being a writer and the only reason I got published was because my uncle owns the publishing house”.
It’s easy to spot.
And it’s disgusting.
I will quit reading.
3. No Suspense
If you give me no reason to keep turning pages, I won’t.
As I see it, there are two ways to do this. Keep the audience interested, I mean.
Suspense comes in two forms.
So if your mystery isn’t mysterious, then you have a big problem on your hands, my friend. If I know Who Dunnit before the end of the book… I will either be mildly proud of myself – or disgusted with your lack of skill.
Probably the latter.
4. Too Confusing
If I can’t follow the storyline, or I get lost in a network of characters so complex that I don’t know who’s who anymore, I may quit reading.
Granted, most people are bound to be confused at the beginning. That’s okay. Normal. Expected. Everyone is confused at first. It goes with the territory of starting to read a book.
But if I’m confused at the end?
I shouldn’t be confused at the end. Unless of course you want me to be confused. In which case, I definitely should be.
In other words, I’m okay with my brain buzzing pleasantly. But if I have a headache and feel mentally exhausted and have no idea what in the world just happened… well, that is not good.
5. Too Long
Please do not make the mistake of writing one of those books that takes approximately one million pages to tell a story that could have been told in five hundred.
6. Not Invested
I get intensely emotionally invested in characters.
I almost cried when Rue died. I did cry when Prim did. (By the way, I hated Rue and Prim. Don’t ask.)
I was devastated for Rhett at the end of Gone With The Wind.
I routinely fall in love with Faramir, Aragorn, and Eomer every time I read The Lord of the Rings.
These people are real to me.
They are my friends. Or my enemies, as the case may be.
I care about them. I care about what happens to them. And you know why that is?
Because the author did a superb job in making that character real enough for me to care about. They poured their soul into that character. So that the character would come to life.
If I don’t feel anything for the characters – don’t hate them, don’t love them – then why would I want to read an entire book about them?
What do you think? Do you agree with any of the things on my list? What makes you stop quit reading?