Things that make me want to vomit, scream or pitch a novel out the window…
I tend to shy away from content I know that will freak me out or cause mental anguish – I read to be entertained, to escape and sometimes to learn. It’s only on rare occasions I read to be challenged.
So some of the trigger warnings that I’ve found which send a book plummeting in my ratings include:
I know I’m a bit of a prude. That’s just how I am. And I don’t mind a bit of titillation – and there are times I pick up an erotic title for a bit of a change to my normal reading habits. But I like my erogenous encounters to mean something, to have a point to make within the plot. Pages and pages of banging bodies in different positions with no story is porn. Flashy, pointless and unsatisfying. It gets the same reaction I have with watching porn – I feel violated, objectified, and my skin feels itchy and dirty. If there is no emotional connection to the characters and plot it just feels wrong. For me. If that is something that you enjoy reading, I say wave that flag from the highest mountain… but it’s a big no-no for me. I’ll squirm, eye-roll and eventually put the book down. When did I turn into an old Nun?
– if the ‘hook’ on the back cover does not hint at some emotional connection to the main character, or at least a point of interest, I’m not going to buy it. Nine out of ten times it has proven right that a terrible blurb has meant the story was lacking in some way.
I’m no atheist or anything, but when I’m reading a book, I don’t want to feel like the author is shoving his or her spiritual beliefs down my throat. With fantasy books, we get magic systems, mythology and never do those aspects of the narrative feel like they are imposing on me as a reader. But for some reason when it comes to religion, many of the novels I read are so heavy with worship and forced opinion, I can feel the vomit gurgling in the back of my throat. It’s a sensitive topic to talk about, but I feel a fictional story should be balanced and not overshadowed by the authors personal beliefs. I feel a great author will not isolate their audience.
Sometimes they work if the author is great, but on the most part, I’ll skim over, or simply refuse to finish if it is littered with unoriginal content. The main reason for reading about characters is to walk in their shoes, experience something new… so it needs to be inspired and not a regurgitation of many books that have already been published. A number of books deal with stereotypes and tropes in a tongue-in-cheek way, completely aware of these devices, and that can be fun. Others submerge themselves into the genre but include a twist or great dialogue, which usually fit into the guilty pleasure category. But cookie-cutter writing is about as palatable as eating a brown paper bag.
This one is hard to judge until you’ve already made it a ways into your novel, but having protagonists constantly making silly decisions – just to fit into the plot are a sure fire way to have me throwing the book across the room. Nothing worse than being aware of the authors guiding hand – or having a delusional main character that can’t think for themselves. Some may find it endearing or even cute, I feel like I want to push them in front of a bus.
You can usually gauge this from the blurb, or by reading a few pages and a light skim. I’ve read some books that have great writing, but the whole novel ended up being a number of scenes attached together through a flimsy line of narrative. I need a discernible beginning, middle and end. I need to know what the protagonist is risking for the pay-off at the end of the novel – and a well written climax! There is a fine line between a great concept and fitting it into a story format…
– they are a selling point! If you don’t go to the trouble of designing an attractive cover I’m going to think you don’t value your writing, and therefore, skip your title in favour of another. Also covers with models in a half-naked display are a big turn off, I’m going to think your book is one big naked sex romp… see first point above. Plus who wants to be on the tram flashing about sexy body parts on the cover – people will think you’re a sex fiend! Some other book covers look like they’ve been put together by a fifth grader with ‘Paint.’ With so many easy to use tools available, PhotoShop, and a bit of imagination there is no excuse not to have an attractive cover that fits to your genre and target audience. You spent a lot of time writing a book, so take some time to get the cover right. There are so many cover artists for hire out there too. When I see stock photos and crappy covers now, I take it as a personal insult. Boo to you!
If a character is living in their head all the time in ponderance, it often comes across as boring or whiny. It’s also a bit of a case of telling instead of showing. I like characters who act on their convictions and interpret them through the scene. Long lamentations also bog down the pacing of the novel – and continual navel gazing is not an attractive quality. I come across this from time to time, protagonists getting on their soapbox, all hidden in the stream of consciousness of their mind. All I can say is they probably look like those first person video game characters when they glitch and continually run into a wall. No fun for anyone.
If you are going to go to the point of describing facts, objects, or scenarios in your story, make sure you’ve researched them thoroughly – I’ve read too many novels where the scene is so unrealistic that it has pulled me from the narrative…. Ultimately leaving me with the thought that the author couldn’t be bothered taking the time to present a realistic story. Insulting. Sheesh, Google it, crack a reference book, it’s not that hard.
There are many more, but these have been the generally issues over the past year of reading. And I think I’ve ranted on long enough. But it is all in fun, and my personal preferences. It is still a great accomplishment to actually publish a novel so I commend anyone who has spilled out half their brain to create a world on paper…
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