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#1236414 - Sat Jun 29 2019 12:22 PM What do you have no patience for, in books?
agony Offline

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I was talking to someone about reading, the other day, and mentioned that I seem to have lost the ability to enjoy poor, or even mediocre, writing if the story is good enough. I used to be able to read a lot of potboilers, of the Mary Higgens Clark variety, because the stories were fun and interesting and fast-moving, and I'd just ignore the style, or lack of it.

But these days, I find bad writing really turns me off, so I have to force myself to get past it - and the story had better be amazing to be worth it.

What about you?

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#1236415 - Sat Jun 29 2019 12:35 PM Re: What do you have no patience for, in books?
agony Offline

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I'll start this off with one of my main turnoffs - character descriptions that feel like we're casting the movie.

I just started a well-recommended thriller. I'm twenty pages in, and already:

The character who I assume is the bad guy is a strikingly beautiful woman.

Our hero, an FBI agent, is tall, broad shouldered, firm jawed, blah blah blah.

Everybody on the FBI team is either highly attractive, or, if not conventionally attractive, has some adorable quirk. Everyone is fiercely intelligent, and has clearly been selected to be race, religion and gender diverse.

Authors, you don't need to do this. If a studio buys the rights, believe me, they'll cast beautiful or quirkily adorable actors, without you telling them. You don't really need to describe anyone, except maybe the bad guy, if her beauty is part of what's going on (who am I kidding, of course her beauty is part of what's going on). We know our hero is an FBI guy, so we're going to picture what movies and TV have taught us an FBI agent looks like anyway, so no need.

The only thing all this peopling of the story with beautiful people does, is make the author have to work harder, later, to humanize them and give them flaws so the reader can identify with them. Readers who don't mind this kind of thing won't miss it if you just don't do it, while some readers will be turned off by it. If you have to describe characters, make them look like real people, not like actors.

I'm going to give this book another twenty pages or so, but if the author doesn't cut this out, and if the story doesn't really start to grab me, I just can't be bothered anymore.

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#1236428 - Sat Jun 29 2019 05:08 PM Re: What do you have no patience for, in books?
zorba_scank Offline
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I agree with you on the character descriptions, agony. Anyway Hollywood will cast however it feels like. Case in point being Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher!

A turnoff for me is when it is a multi-character narrative written in the first person and the entire book sounds the same. This is something I never picked up when I was younger, but it gets to me now. If each character can't have a distinctive 'voice', the book may as well be written in the third person.

I've also started abandoning books a lot more. Earlier I used to stick with finishing a book, even if I didn't particularly like it. Now I just don't have the time to waste reading things I don't enjoy.
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#1236934 - Sat Jul 06 2019 05:39 AM Re: What do you have no patience for, in books?
agony Offline

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Yes, I know what you mean about the lack of "voice" - some writers seem to be tone deaf.

I gave up on that book - the story did have some interest, but by 100 pages in I was so irritated I just couldn't, anymore.

So now I'm reading another thriller by someone who DOES know how to write, and it also has a good-looking FBI agent. Here's how he is described, from the point of view of another character: "He was really handsome, and when Rae had first seen him she'd had to bite her lip". Tells us all we need to know about his looks, and also tells us something about Rae. This is how it's done.

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#1237626 - Sat Jul 13 2019 12:33 AM Re: What do you have no patience for, in books?
MotherGoose Offline
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Quote:
I agree with you on the character descriptions, agony. Anyway Hollywood will cast however it feels like. Case in point being Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher!


As I was reading agony's post above, my thoughts immediately turned to Jack Reacher (the books, not the movies), even before I read Zorba's comment. I read one of the Jack Reacher books and it failed to inspire me to read more because I just found the character implausible and therefore irritating. Expert marksman, expert mathematician, carries only a toothbrush and ID - totally unrealistic from a logistical point of view.

I have no patience with characters that are not credible - particularly characters who excel at everything they do. If the character is an expert on multiple levels, it just makes me think "Nobody's that good".

Besides Lee Child, another author guilty of this is Patricia Cornwell, particularly her character Lucy Farinelli, Kay Scarpetta's niece - multi-talented beyond all credibility.
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#1237658 - Sat Jul 13 2019 08:36 AM Re: What do you have no patience for, in books?
agony Offline

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Agree, MotherGoose.

I've been reading a couple of the latest of John Sandford's "Prey" thrillers. And while these are actually quite a lot of fun - well plotted, fast moving, engagingly written - I can't help wondering how a protagonist who is NOT a millionaire, with powerful political connections and close friends who have every possible skill that could be needed, would manage. At least he stumbles now and then, and makes mistakes.

I very much enjoyed the very first of Cornwell's Scarpetta books, but by about the third book I realized that I couldn't stand any of the characters, so that was that. When you find yourself cheering for the bad guy because you actually wouldn't mind something nasty happening to our hero, it's not a good sign.

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#1237738 - Sun Jul 14 2019 06:01 PM Re: What do you have no patience for, in books?
MotherGoose Offline
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I am not familiar with John Sandford. Will have to check him out.

I agree with you about Scarpetta. I started reading the series and enjoyed the first few books but they got tiresome quickly.

Another thing that I don't care for in crime/mystery novels is a heavy dependence on highly sophisticated technology to solve the crime and/or overcome the bad guys. I guess I am old-fashioned but I prefer the sleuth to use his or her brain instead of technology.
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#1237773 - Mon Jul 15 2019 04:56 PM Re: What do you have no patience for, in books?
agony Offline

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The latest books in Sandfordís series tend to assume that you know who all these people are, and understand their relationships. Probably better to start a little ways back, though itís by no means necessary to go back to the very beginning of the series. Halfway in would be plenty.

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#1237872 - Wed Jul 17 2019 08:31 AM Re: What do you have no patience for, in books?
skunkee Offline
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I enjoy the Prey series very much. I do agree with agony and suggest that anyone starting the series begin at the beginning.
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#1238168 - Mon Jul 22 2019 08:28 PM Re: What do you have no patience for, in books?
MotherGoose Offline
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Registered: Mon Apr 22 2002
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Another thing I get impatient with is poor editing. I don't mind if the odd error or two have been missed but some books are irritating when there are considerable numbers of them.

I remember reading a book once by a well-known West Australian author, Liz Byrski. From memory, I think it was her first novel, "Gang of Four". Halfway through the book, up popped a new character who, judging from the context, was a major character but I could not figure out where she fit into the story. So I re-read the first half of the book again, trying to see where I had missed references to this character. It took ages before I figured out that the author had changed the name of the character halfway through the book and it wasn't a new character at all.

The book was published by a publishing house so, from my point of view, that was a glaring error by both author and editor. It actually put me off reading any more of her books.
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Don't say "I can't" ... say " I haven't learned how, yet." (Reg Bolton)

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#1238180 - Tue Jul 23 2019 08:23 AM Re: What do you have no patience for, in books?
skunkee Offline
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I am always stunned to see grammatical and spelling mistakes on the front cover. You get this a lot in writer's groups with self-published authors.
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#1238295 - Wed Jul 24 2019 06:06 PM Re: What do you have no patience for, in books?
MotherGoose Offline
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Originally Posted By: skunkee
I am always stunned to see grammatical and spelling mistakes on the front cover. You get this a lot in writer's groups with self-published authors.


My daughter is a self-published author. She writes fantasy and, although it is not a genre I am particularly keen on, naturally I have read her work and I think she is a very good writer (and I'm not biased at all - LOL).

With her first book, she declined my offer to proof-read and paid a considerable sum to have a professional do it. The editor did a reasonable job but I still found errors.

So she changed editors for the second book AND this time she asked me to proof-read. I found hundreds of errors, mostly involving small things like punctuation. However, there were a significant number of errors that should have been picked up by the editor - such as spaces missing between two words, homophone/homonym errors etc. I suspect she will save her money and not hire a professional editor for her third book (especially when Mum does a better job for free).
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Don't say "I can't" ... say " I haven't learned how, yet." (Reg Bolton)

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#1238573 - Sun Jul 28 2019 09:27 AM Re: What do you have no patience for, in books?
skunkee Offline
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Registered: Thu Oct 16 2003
Posts: 10702
Loc: Burlington Ontario†Canada††
Looking for a Like button.
Not at all surprised that you do a better job!
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#1256005 - Mon Jan 20 2020 08:55 AM Re: What do you have no patience for, in books?
agony Offline

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Registered: Sat Mar 29 2003
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I've been reading a lot of what I suppose you could call "women's thrillers" lately, books in the style of "Gone Girl" or "Girl on the Train". These books typically have a lot of plot twists and unreliable narrators, and can be quite fun.

If well written.

If the author doesn't really have a good grasp on the character, though, or more largely on how human beings actually behave, they can be a disaster. I'll be reading along, thinking "Hmm, she's behaving really erratically, and there doesn't seem to be any reason for some of her actions - I'm going to watch out for her, there's something going on there" only to find, by the end, that she only took those actions in order to further the plot, and there is actually nothing going on there at all.

An author who writes in a genre where readers can be expected to be paying close attention, must also pay attention. Actions must follow character - if you have established a character who would never do such and such, you can't then have her do it just because the plot needs it to be done.

I'm in the middle of a book right now where one of our main character's actions just don't make sense. There's a possibility that this will pay off, and that a twist is being set up. There's a possibility that it's all just part of her character - she has a history of mental illness, and is drinking heavily while on anti-depressants. And, there's a possibility that the author just doesn't know how to write an internally consistent character. Too early to tell, we'll see.

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