I’ve read a lot of books. A LOT of books. When I was a kid, I’d get sets of books and be thrilled at the promise of spending countless hours sitting upside-down in my mom’s recliner with an open book. Reading and appreciation of a good story is part of who I am.
But in recent years, I’m afraid to say I’ve become a bit of a book snob. I don’t often finish books (for reasons we’ll get to). And yesterday, an exchange on Twitter happened in response to this post by Sarah E. Boucher.
I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t finish books, but yesterday’s chat got me asking myself why I personally don’t finish a book I start, because in thinking of such things we can avoid them as writers. I narrowed it down to three reasons.
1. It’s boring
Boring is a pretty subjective term, but for me it means the narrative has slowed to a crawl, usually because the characters aren’t doing anything. This could be because there’s too much description or the characters are doing little more than purposeless talking. I like action. Movement. Plot points needs to happen.
2. The narrative is cluttered
That means there’s too much extra “stuff” in there, stuff I’d have a writer cut if I were their editor. Repetition is a big one (I put down an extremely popular book for this reason). Lots of filtering (he saw, she thought, he remembered, etc) can be a deal breaker if it gets too annoying. Abundant adjectives and adverbs leave little room for reader imagination. Basically, if I get the sense the author loves their own words so much they won’t listen to the editor, I’m less inclined to finish the book.
3. The dialogue is inauthentic
This is my #1 deal breaker (despite its #3 position on the list). I can tolerate a boring story if the writing is decent, and a cluttered narrative can be forgiven for a gripping tale. But if a kid sounds like an old man or a character drones on for three long paragraphs, sounding like a philosophy textbook, I bail. In the words of those younger than I am, I just can’t even. Fiction is a reflection of reality, and the characters need to do their part by acting and sounding like actual, real, relatable people (even if they aren’t literally people. Everyone related to Frodo and Hagrid). Forcing me to believe someone communicates in an unrealistic way puts the brakes on me buying into the rest of the story.
So that’s why I don’t finish a book. What are your reasons for bailing early?