writers tips / writing

9 Reasons Why Readers Stop Reading

stop readingI 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?

Jacqui Murray is the editor of a K-6 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, creator of two technology training books for middle school and six ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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11 thoughts on “9 Reasons Why Readers Stop Reading

  1. I stop reading when there is too much lack of dialogue! It is quite boring when there is no dialogue. Plus, I will stop reading if the characters are too mysterious and are still not revealed after a long time in the book.


    • Good points, En. There’s a balance between dialogue and narrative that’s hard to reach at times. I have an internal barometer that slaps me when I go over the edge either way, but I wish there was an easier way to tell when I’ve crossed over the edge.


  2. One of the major reasons I stop reading is lack of character depth. I read to go on an adventure with a character and see them grow. So if the character has zero layers, or even just one or two layers, I won’t bother picking up the book again.


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  4. Great info! I’ve been reading through all of your writing tips but this one’s just what I need. I think “making the reader care” is the hardest part for me. I’m usually in love with whatever I’m writing so it’s hard to imagine others will feel anything but awe at my brilliance as well lol. I guess that’s what beta readers are for.


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  7. Great list. Other things that jump to mind–cliche/stale/predictable plots (yes, I realize there are common forms repeated over and over, but make them FRESH), bad dialog, and “swoopy,” “poetical,” overly-romanticized language.


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