June 18, 2019, 04:12:55 AM

Author Topic: Pet Peeves: What makes you put a book down/never pick it up in the first place?  (Read 12505 times)

Offline Takoren

The other day while browsing my local book store, I realized I was brushing right past some titles without even reading about them, and I started wondering why I do that. Then I started thinking about other things that have caused me to quit reading a novel or never pick it up to begin with, and I compiled a top six list of my least favorite things to see in fantasy.

This list is purely subjective, and many of my favorite authors are guilty of some of the stuff I'm about to list. I guess this is mainly a way of getting this off my chest, but I would like to know if you have a similar list.

6: Titles like "The Something of Something." This is the lowest ranked because, like I forewarned, several of my favorite authors do this. But then, many don't. I'm always secretly (or not so secretly) thankful when authors in the fantasy genre manage to come up with something other than a "Something of Something" title. This isn't necessarily because titles like that are automatically bad. It's just that there are so many within our genre. I would say that our favorite genre accounts for probably 80% of the "Something of Something" titles in any book store, despite being less than half the size of other sections. Think of your favorite writer or favorite series; I almost guarantee most of them have at least one "Something of Something" title.

5: Nonsense words in the title. Again, this is just me, but when I see a book with a word in the title that it's clear the author made up, I tend to want to skip it. My take is, hook me with a snappy title that communicates your story's purpose and/or tone, then tell me about the person/place/thing your story focuses on. I'm far more apt to pick up a book called, say, The Blade Itself than I would be to pick up the same thing if it had been called, let's say, The Redemption of Jezal. I know that many classics do this. I know that several really good books of the modern age do this. But a book will have to come pretty highly recommended if it does this before I'll be all that interested. Guy Gaveriel Kay is probably the worst offender here. If I have no idea what Tigana, Arbonne, Al-Rassan, Sarantium, et al, even is, what incentive do I have to read about them?

4. Bland titles. Worse than a nonsense word in a title is a title that sounds like you just went to your favorite fantasy title generator and picked from the list it came up with. So many titles use words like "king", "sword", "emperor", "blade", "crown", "throne", "knight", "warrior", etc. that for a book to literally just pick any two or three of those words and make a title out of it is not all that impressive. That's not a hard and fast rule; Half a King or The King's Blood is pretty evocative, but The Emperor's Blades or The Knight is not.

3. Prophecy-driven plots. I don't mean plots that have prophecy in them, or even plots in regard to a prophecy regarding our main character. There are ways to make that innovative. I'm referring to plots where the prophecy is A) what really kicks off the plot, B) assumed by all characters to be true, C) is the prime motivator for their actions and D) causes characters to do things they ordinarily would not just because the prophecy says they must. If any character ever says anything like "you have to do so; the prophecy foretold it!" then you know you're in a prophecy-driven story and it's just a really lazy way of writing motivation.

2. Portal stories. Forgive me, but one of the first things to make me not even want to buy a book is to make it about a young person, or group of young people, transported from our world to a fantasy realm. Yes, there are ways to do this creatively, or to turn the convention of what I described on its ear, and when writers can do that, they have my appreciation. But so often it's just so that we can have a character we "identify" with who's just as new to this world as we are and thus can have things explained to them so that the author can explain it to us. I would much rather you throw me into your world and have me so focused on the characters and plot that the rest of it just falls into place.

1. Padding. Enough said.
"The battle's won easy and the war's won cheap
My lords seem to trust me but I'm just 18
So I'll hang their hides from the bannisters
When I take my revenge on the Lannisters
Got engaged to a Frey so I could win a free pass
Can't get with Talisa but damn dat ass
Hey, hey, I wanna be Robb Stark..."

Offline JMack

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Wonderful books (or at least pretty good)

6. The Lord of the Rings
5. Abhorsen
4. Traitor's Blades
3. The Hero of Ages
2. Lord Foul's Bane
1. Well... yeah (though To Green Angel Tower was so damn long, you might think it was padded)

For me, it's more carbon copy covers that turn me off.
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Offline Doctor_Chill

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I read #1 as "Eddings." Yeah, still fits but whatever.

As for what turns me off to a book: Poor pacing, stupid characters, predictable plots (this one only half the time), or bad formatting for ebooks. You don't understand how much I hate reading an improperly formatted ebook, especially when it's coming from one of the Big 5.
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Offline Takoren

Fair enough, and I did admit that authors I liked are guilty of some of that (and I'm guilty of it too!). However, some authors are good enough that they can rise above my dislikes and convince me.

LOTR is, in my opinion, exempt from every rule. Why? Because without it, fantasy as a genre probably would not exist, or at least would not be taken even a quarter as seriously as it is. It was really the inspiration for pretty much all the initial writers who furthered the genre of epic fantasy. Therefore, all the "cliches" that have been "done to death" not only had not been at that point, but he created many of them!

Also, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever was one of the portal stories I was thinking of that used the format creatively. First, it's not a young person, but a middle-aged man who gets transported and second, he spends most of it refusing to believe it's real and being decidedly unheroic. I was thinking more of the myriad of young adult novels that ape CS Lewis, and for that matter The Fionavar Tapestry is very guilty of what I described.

And also, I did mention that these are subjective and that some of the classics are guilty of these pet peeves, but that does not make them bad.
"The battle's won easy and the war's won cheap
My lords seem to trust me but I'm just 18
So I'll hang their hides from the bannisters
When I take my revenge on the Lannisters
Got engaged to a Frey so I could win a free pass
Can't get with Talisa but damn dat ass
Hey, hey, I wanna be Robb Stark..."

Offline Lady Ty

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One peeve I have is when proper names are hard to say in your head and full of zz'z , and I do wish writers would keep that in mind. It doesn't stop me reading the book though because probably I am not alone in making up a name for myself to cover whatever it is really meant to be.  I would never have enjoyed The Dark Elves and Drizzt Do'Úrden  aka Drizzt Daermon N'a'shezbaernon who lived in Menzoberranzan if I hadn't kept him in mind as just Driz ::)

Similarly it wasn't until I listened to some Iron Druid on Audible that I could manage Atticus's real name  Siodhachan O Suileabhain or how to pronounce  the Tuatha De Danaan who live in Tir Na Nog and all the other beautiful Celtic myth words. Once heard they stuck, although the inflections are hard,  but in my head I had mangled them terribly. :-[


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Offline Ryan Mueller

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Not picking it up in the first place:

1. If it sounds so Grimdark it might as well be a parody. (Now, if it really is a parody of Grimdark, I'd probably love to read it.)

2. If the cover features scantily clad people (this is mostly in the paranormal romance that tries to masquerade as urban fantasy).

Putting it down:

1. If I don't like any of the characters. This is a common problem in Grimdark. Maybe I'm hopelessly backward, but I actually want to read about people that I can root for without reservation.

2. If the pace is glacial. I might keep reading if I'm invested in the characters or world, but slow pacing might actually be the number one thing that makes me put down a book.

3. If the book is confusing. Once again, if I like the characters or there's lots of action, I'll overlook some confusion.

Offline Takoren

In my case, the character has to be interesting and engaging, even if I would never like this person in real life. Also, some characters you're not actually supposed to like.

Let's use the First Law trilogy, my favorite Grimdark series, for example.

I've heard people say that they quit reading because they "hated Jezal." Well, duh! You were supposed to! Later on, much later, he redeems himself somewhat but really, Jezal was not meant to be liked.

Contrarily, I really liked Logen Ninefingers and Glokta. Sure, Glokta was an asshole, but he was a fun asshole, a witty deadpan snarker who actually had a sense of right and wrong despite daily breaking it.

And Bayaz may be one of the greatest characters ever created.

So, yeah, I understand about needing someone to root for, even if I don't always need one myself, but really, if you need a hero you can truly root for, there's Logen, and the others are pretty interesting as well.
"The battle's won easy and the war's won cheap
My lords seem to trust me but I'm just 18
So I'll hang their hides from the bannisters
When I take my revenge on the Lannisters
Got engaged to a Frey so I could win a free pass
Can't get with Talisa but damn dat ass
Hey, hey, I wanna be Robb Stark..."

Offline ScarletBea

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To be honest, I can't say why I don't pick up book A or B, I've never really thought about it and can't pinpoint the reasons.

As for abandoning a book, there haven't been many in my reading life, but the ones I did were because of:
- appalling grammar and spelling
- simply not caring about anything that was happening. At all. No character, no shred of plot
- situations totally alien to me. And by this I don't mean fantasy settings (duh!), but rather stuff that I really don't get, decisions and things (sorry, words are failing me here - maybe this one falls in the previous category)
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Offline DrNefario

I like a bit of creativity in a title, but I think you've also got to have a title that fits the work. The thing about The X of Y format is that you can be pretty sure it's going to be a fantasy novel with all the usual stuff. Despite how much I love the series, I don't think the titles of The First Law trilogy work well at all, in that regard. The Blade Itself is nothing to do with a blade, and that's probably the least misleading.

And yes, Eddings broke prophecies forever.

Offline Francis Knight

Not picking it up in the first place

1 Title is generic, of is Somthing's Daughter/Wife

2 Blurb mentions destiny. Or orphans who discover they are secretly....

3 I am not a fan of hooded men on the cover. It just (and perhaps unfairly) seems like it'll be a clone book


Putting it down (and I have specific examples for each of these)

So much description I can't recall what the story line is.
Glacial pacing. If we get to page 100 and nothing happened yet....
Characters I don't care about
All the women are just set dressing and/or prizes for Our Hero to win
If you have a graphic rape, it'd better damn well be necessary (and so rarely they are tbh) and also not written in loving, glorious technicolour detail - especially when the consensual sex scenes are all coy and "OMG it's a boob! fade to black" 

My tongue has been in my cheek for so long, I've eroded a new mouth.


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Offline Yora

If the cover has a photo of a guy posing with a sword in front of a photoshopped background, I automatically have a strong aversion against it. It would take quite a bit of convincing by other people recommending the book to make me give it a chance.

Thing of Something or Thing of Place titles also don't make a book stand out to me in any way.

And yes, Eddings broke prophecies forever.

Don't get me talking about Chosen Ones. If there's a Chosen One, I am out.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2015, 01:53:58 PM by Yora »
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There is nothing to read!

Offline RandomCamel

I know they say never judge a book by a cover but if I see a cover is just a live-action male model, possibly shirtless, and/or female model looking at each other or the reader then I'm going to overlook that book.

Offline Takoren

Then there's being fooled by covers that make a bad book look amazing...
"The battle's won easy and the war's won cheap
My lords seem to trust me but I'm just 18
So I'll hang their hides from the bannisters
When I take my revenge on the Lannisters
Got engaged to a Frey so I could win a free pass
Can't get with Talisa but damn dat ass
Hey, hey, I wanna be Robb Stark..."

Offline sennydreadful

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Offline xiagan

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I hate covers with photos of real people (or which at least look like a real photo) who are photoshopped into a fantasy setting. Seems to be some kind of new trend unfortunately.

Example:

It's a good book, though.
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)