I’ve been looking at a list of over one hundred and fifty comments in answer to the question, ‘what makes you stop reading a book’. As a reader I was interested, but as a writer I am more interested – what might I inadvertently be doing which really turns readers off, causes them to close the book, chuck it across the room or even out of the window. The main complaint was about poor writing and I organised the different comments into categories:
- poor editing
- sentence structure
- descriptive language
- dialogue and conversation
- language and vocabulary
- writing style
- lack of pace – i.e. it’s boring
The next – and it seems more unforgivable was what a writer does with their characters. Readers want to care about characters, love them or loathe them, but to engage with them. I’ve soldiered on reading a book, not liking the plot just because I love a character… on the other hand, a character who is unbelievable, inconsistent and doesn’t engage cane equally cause me to struggle with reading and may even make me close the book without resolution.
I’ve organised the comments about characters into different points:
- unlikable characters
- characters it’s difficult or impossible to relate to
- voice/dialogue – the way a character speaks
- boring characters
- losing faith in the protagonist or other characters
- characters who are really the author
- the way the author treats or indulges the character
- the use of characters
- killing off favourite characters
I know it’s difficult to get into the mind of any reader, let alone many readers, but I think it is possible for the writer to stand back and take an objective view. I think this is another useful list to have beside me when i write. One thing which wasn’t mentioned but i think is important, is indifference or not caring about characters, which might be for any of the reasons above!
Here’s a link to the full piece I shared about what readers hate about authors’ writing:
…and here is a link to my books… please let me know what you think of my characters, love them or hate them!