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9 Reasons Why Readers Stop Reading

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I rarely stop reading a book once I’ve started. Once I’ve committed, I hate to think I’ve wasted the time already spent and, anyway, the story surely will improve or it wouldn’t have been published.

There are nine reasons why I do stop, though.

  • Characters aren’t likable.
  • Plot develops too slowly
  • Plot is too complicated. I don’t understand what’s going on. There are too many pieces that don’t seem to be connected well enough. I can’t keep up.
  • Plot is unrealistic (and it isn’t a science fiction story. Even those should inspire me to willingly suspend my disbelief)
  • No hook. You’ve created a dazzling plot, great believable characters, set in a perfectly-described scene, but forgot the hook. Why does the reader care? Will he learn something? Is this a common problem that a lot of readers can relate to? Whatever the hook, it has to be there and be good.
  • Author is preachy. I don’t want the author’s opinions on a subject for more than a paragraph. If I wanted preaching, I’d attend a sermon. Same goes for politics. For many, reading is an escape from politics. Let them escape (unless of course, it’s a political novel like Alan Drury. Then by all means, go get ‘em)
  • I can’t see what’s going on. The author hasn’t sufficiently fleshed out the scenery, nor filled my senses with the world inhabited by the story’s characters
  • Author didn’t do his/her research. I’ve caught too many errors and no longer trust what the author is telling me. This is especially important in historic fiction–critical, even. A writer can make one mistake, but two is a trend. Three is an end.
  • Author made mistakes. A character has red hair one scene and black the next. It was a drizzly day when the chapter opened and the characters dress for summer–for no reason.

One I used to consider deadly was POV switches. I hated when the author jumped in and out of characters heads with abandon. Unfortunately, I see that all too often even in good writers’ books, so I must be more tolerant. That’s a trait that doesn’t come easily to me.

What are your reasons?

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4 thoughts on “9 Reasons Why Readers Stop Reading

  1. I’m checking my POV at the moment and finding a bit of headhopping happening – only in so far as peeks at thoughts after a bit of dialogue. I actually find it flows just fine and it’s clear who’s thinking, but, but, but, I know it really bugs some people, so I’m getting rid of it.

    Still having a few short changes into my secondary POV for character dev, like a page in one POV before going back to the main one.

    What do you think of that?

    • I’m a stickler about POV, but I’ve seen so many published authors who jump around, it makes me think the rules have changed. Probably just for the proven folk, but boy, every book I read I find it. For me, I like my prose better when I’m true to my character’s POVs. They seem more real if I can’t jump around.

  2. I like your list, Jacqui. My list would probably include gratuitous action (sexual or otherwise) that’s been written in for commercial purposes only and that is not critical to the story. If any sort of action can be removed without affecting the story in any way, then the action shouldn’t be there. And if there’s too much of that, I’ll put the book down, mostly because that makes me angry as a writer.

    Regarding POV, I’ve sort of evolved with this one. The omniscient perspective used to appeal to me, but now I prefer things pared down. As a writer, I’m not inclined to develop a story from only a single character’s POV because, for me, that feels very limiting. I do, however, take issue with numerous character perspectives mixed into scenes or chapters. Each scene/chapter needs to stick with a singular POV. And I no longer like omniscient. A small number of key characters should have POV power.

    Lately I’ve been reading a lot of current bestsellers with massive POV switches. There’s also a mix of tense and pronoun as well, back and forth between present and past tense, first and third person. That combination, I’m discovering, is very unnerving and causes me to books down.

    And you’re right–the rules do seem to have changed (almost as if there aren’t any rules anymore).

    • I did one book in second person. It’s a motivational, career-planning book and it felt right to put the reader in the position of accomplishing the goals. I’d like to try first person for a book I’m writing on ancient man. It would be exciting to put the reader in the head of an early iteration of man as s/he struggles to survive against nature. I’m looking forward to that. But, I have to finish my current mss first.

      I love writing!

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