WHY I PUT A BOOK DOWN—FOR GOOD
Until now, my blogs have been from a writer’s perspective, but this one is about my experience as a reader, specifically, what makes me put a book down and never pick it up again.
It usually isn’t intentional. I put it down one night, and the next night I just don’t think to pick it up. I find something else to read, thinking that sometime I’ll give it another go, but I never do. And that goes for some of the works of very prolific and successful writers, but we all know that reading is very subjective.
I’ve always been an analytical type. If I share an opinion with someone, whether it’s important or trivial, I will almost certainly be able to answer their question, “Why do you feel that way? or “Why do you think that?”
It challenges my patience to no end when someone says something like, I hate Arkansas or I love being cold, and when you ask why, they say, “Oh, I don’t know; I just do.”
“How open minded and cerebral of you,” I want to say.
My point is that when I make an assertion, perhaps a bold assertion, I sincerely try to give some logical reason to support my statement. But that’s just me; not everyone analyzes everything to death.
There are really only two or three major reasons why I lose interest in a story, but I’ll just focus on the number one reason a book gets permanently bookmarked before page 100, and ends up collecting dust on my nightstand. Realism—or lack of it.
That’s the same reason I don’t watch soap operas. Well, it’s not like I never got drawn into one. I had to give them a chance after all. I stopped watching when I found myself screaming at the television, “SERIOUSLY!” three or four times during an episode. What was supposed to be entertaining sent me to my bottle of antacids. Yes, I get that caught-up in my time away from reality.
That sounds rather contradictory. I want to escape what’s real, and yet I want the escape to be realistic. So what I mean is that I want it to be appropriately realistic. I love a good cartoon once in a while when I really want to distance myself from my sometimes humdrum or torturous existence. You can’t get any less real than a cartoon.
A romance, crime, or mystery story must have some level of realism for me to remain engaged. The one exception I would say is comedy. Humor makes up for lack of realism, but we each have our own level of tolerance..
I once critiqued a story for a writer who was so determined to keep her readers hooked (bless her heart), she had every imaginable catastrophe plague her main character. By the third or fourth chapter, I finally said, “Wait a minute. Your female character has nearly been raped, fallen out of a tree, gotten measles, and almost been bitten by a rabid woodchuck, and we haven’t even gotten to page fifty yet. Seriously?”
Even if this character was the most accident prone woman on earth and her moon was rising in the wrong planet (or whatever), the odds of all of those things happening to her were pretty slim. This example is an exaggeration, but when there is one unlikelihood after another and too many coincidences; it simply doesn’t challenge a reader’s thinking, not mine anyway. I’m only going to ask, How can that be? or Why would that occur? a few times before I just give up (because the writer’s not there to answer).
Of course there are lots of reasons why a story may seem unrealistic. Characters may be placed in non-believable situations or their actions may be too inconsistent. I think many readers may be willing to over-look questionable realism; it just happens to be very important to me. I love to scrutinize a mystery and discover that I can’t find even one lose end in its conclusion. Brilliant.
I said I would only focus on my number one reason, but I think number two deserves a brief mention as it is very close to first place. I give up on a book if I don’t care for or about the characters.
Characters can be scaling Mount Everest or playing a boring game of tidily-winks; if I like them, want to know more about them, want to share more of their experiences, I’ll stick with them. A story doesn’t have to be one car chase after another; just make me want to spend time with the characters.
And a third, honorable mention is too much flowery description of setting or back story before I’m engaged with the characters or plot.
So what’s YOUR number one reason for giving up on a story?
Thank you for reading, and may the next story you read captivate your imagination, stimulate your thinking, and poke at your heart.
*** BACouture is an accountant living in Wisconsin but trying desperately to move back to her home state of Vermont, where she intends to live close to family, lost in a rural, pristine setting, while reading, writing, and publishing until……? She likes to travel and loves animals beyond reason.