Thinking what you hate as a reader, and finding out what other readers hate is really helpful as a writer. I don’t mean which genres do some people dislike, or what subject matter, because that’s just personal preference. I mean what is it which any reader might find puts them off a book (particularity fiction) which they hoped to enjoy. I know we each have our idiosyncrasies and preferences, but what spoils an otherwise acceptable and readable book? As a writer if I have an insight into this it can help me appeal to a wider audience. One of my own idiosyncrasies as a reader which other people don’t mind, or like, is stories written in the present tense; because I don’t like it, I don’t write it – but plenty of great writers prefer to use it and their readers love their work. I confess there have been a few books which so captivated me that I didn’t mind or overcame my prejudice (because it is a prejudice, there is no actual reason for it annoying me!
The question “What do you hate as a reader?” was posed on a social media site, and I was fascinated to see what really bugs people; some I completely agreed with – present tense as I mentioned, killing off main characters for no real purpose, other things were just an annoyance; some I disagreed with. Here is a random selection of people’s thoughts, boiled down:
- explanations given when things are perfectly clear
- fake female leads
- characters whose values and life priorities are completely different from mine.
- irrelevant detail, long winded and tedious descriptions every tiny detail included
- over-detailed descriptions of clothing which has no relevance to the plot
- open endings, or the story completed in another book, being left with unanswered questions.
- references to e.g. celebrities, songs, adverts etc which only certain readers would understand; “references should enlighten not obfuscate”
- unnecessary repetition of episodes and things which have happened
- typos/syntax errors, grammatical and punctuation mistakes, conversation with no speech marks
- books which start at the end of a series of events then tell how this conclusion happened, the story retracing what led to the ending (different from an event which is explored and explained but the narrative moves forward past it).
- books which follow different but connected stories; it’s like reading two books
- when characters have similar names or names beginning with the same letter.
- books written in a dialect, especially when the writer obviously doesn’t know that dialect and it’s just a caricature!
- gratuitous use of the f word.