Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rule Number One: Don't Bore Your Reader

I picked up a book that I'd heard good reviews about. The cover was cute, the voice engaging. I was totally into the book for about fifty pages...until I figured out the plot.

HEAs are my thing. That's why I read romance. But there are still ways to surprise me and hook me into the characters' lives.

With this book, the author set up a plot that could've been really good with lots of tension and snappy writing but somehow I realized that the whole crux of the plot is a misunderstanding. I didn't buy that the husband was cheating because I didn't see the evidence (could be other craft problems or could just be me).

There was a scene where the heroine is riding with her boss's son (who the husband doesn't know about) in a car and sees her husband drive past with his beautiful co-worker beside him. That's where I stopped reading.

The heroine is worrying about her husband cheating but she just did the same thing he did! Why is she allowed to ride in the car with a hot co-worker but if he doesn it's automatic suspicion of adultery?

Which leads me to...

RULE NUMBER TWO: Don't Annoy Your Reader.

Shortly after that scene I began skipping narrative, looking for a reason to believe that the conflict and tension in the story was real. I hadn't found it a chapter later so I flipped to the end and sure enough, my suspicions had been correct. The husband had always loved the wife and everything she'd been misreading had a valid explanation. Everything was hunky dory.

Was this the writer's fault? I don't know but I'm passing the book on to family members who may like it.

What do you think RULE NUMBER THREE should be?

34 comments:

Tabitha Bird said...

Oh I agree. Don't bore me. Don't annoy me. And I am yours baby :)

I haaate it when I can figure out a plot at the beginning and then the writer does nothing to freak me out, or set me on another path. The ending is predictable and cliche. I wonder how those books get into print really :)

I am with you Jessica :)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Yeah, that's a great point about the heroine being in a car with another man and how she gets mad he's in a car with someone else. That totally doesn't make sense and sounds like a very forced conflict.
Nothing annoys me more than a misunderstanding at the end. I always feel as if I've been had by the author. :(

Terri Tiffany said...

Good points. Don't be predictable. Sounds like you figured this one out fast. I don't waste time anymore on a book if it really is done badly.

Jessica Nelson said...

Tabitha, I love being freaked out or having a twist right in the middle of the story!

That's such a good way to put it, Jennifer.

Me either, Terri. And you know, I'm not sure it was done badly or not. It could've just been me. But I don't have time anymore to wade through boring books hoping for something good at the end. It makes me sad to say that though.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Trust your reader. Don't dump in so much backstory your reader feels like they've lived your character's life for them.

Save it and/or find creative ways to splice it in.
~ Wendy

Lisa Jordan said...

Life is too short to read books that don't capture your attention and hold it.

Trust your reader to get it--don't write out every little detail.

Also, don't rely on dialogue tags to show your character's emotions. Show through action how your character is feeling in a particular situation.

kathy taylor said...

You've given me quite a chuckle, Jessica. I just read a book, a significant and recent work about another tribe of Native Americans. It bored me so badly I could barely get through it. I'm finding this more and more: acclaimed books that help the reader over insomnia.

Sarah Forgrave said...

So true!

Instead of another "don't", I'm going to say a "do": Do make your readers feel the characters' emotions so much that they read instead of sleep.

Rita Gerlach said...

I like Terri's comment. Do not be predictable. However, don't shock the reader so much that they want to throw your book across the room.

D. U. Okonkwo said...

i think the best way to not to bore your reader is to have tension / conflict on every page and have likable characters. Not always an easy thing to do though! :o)

Linda Kage said...

Lots of reviews for my books said how some of the scenes surprised them and I think that's what most readers like, they don't want to guess every detail, they want a little shock.

But annoying a reader is really bad, I agree. I do tend to stop reading stories where characters are being too stupid.

Georgiana said...

I totally agree!!! A misunderstanding is not a true conflict. If a situation can be resolved with a conversation, then it's not enough to carry a whole book.

Erica Vetsch said...

I think you can have your character accusing her husband of something she's done herself, but at least have her conflicted about it. :) As humans, we can hold tightly to two opposite ideas at the same time, but if we don't realize we're doing it and if it doesn't cause us some consternation, then we become a frustration to others (readers.)

Rule #3...I like what was stated above about trusting the reader and not doing a backstory dump.

Jessica Nelson said...

Wendy and Lisa, yes, Rule Number 3, Trust your Reader. :-) Good craft tips also, Lisa! Thanks.

Hahaha, Kathy! What a way to turn it to positive. :-)

LOL Sarah. After I read this post I realized I should probably have a "Do" post since this one's in the negative. You're absolutely right. If we don't feel the MC's emotions, then we don't care what happens.

Jessica Nelson said...

LOL Rita! I think that would fall beneath #2, no annoying the reader! heeheee! Of course, if the reader throws the book but then has to see what happens next so he/she picks it up again...that might not be a bad thing. *grin*

D.U. Very true. No conflict, no story, imo.

Linda, I always think surprise is an effective hook. :-)

Patti said...

I like that "Trust your reader" and "Don't spell everything out for them" I like being surprised.

I would have put that book down as well.

Karen Lange said...

I'm with you. I don't want to be bored or annoyed. It's frustrating to try and work through a book that does that. But I have to wonder if some of this perception is in the eye of the beholder. Like maybe it just doesn't suit my tastes or something. Okay, but then I have read some that were just plain lousy and you wonder how they ever got published...

As for Rule Three, can I get back to you? :o)

Blessings,
Karen

Jessica Nelson said...

Georgiana, yep, I've heard that advice before! Good stuff. :-)

Erica, well said. I think I would've been fine if the character saw the irony in the situation. And maybe she did later...I don't know though. I feel so guilty for not reading more! :-(

Yes, I like that as a rule #3 too. :-)

Jessica Nelson said...

Patti, thanks for chiming in!

Karen, absolutely get back to me. :-) Also, I totally think you're right about subjectivity. In fact, I'm not convinced that the writer did anything wrong, craft-wise. I half to wonder if it's just me, you know? Because I'd heard good reviews, so I know other people liked the story alot.

Katie Ganshert said...

I'm so with Wendy on rule #3.

Sandra Rose Hughes said...

Oh man, that old misunderstanding plot line. I hate it! When a simple conversation will clear up the entire conflict...it's not much of a plot. I always think, "if your relationship is so bad that you can't even talk about things...maybe it's not worth reading this book."

Tana Adams said...

I think you hit the nail on the head, believability!! It's hard and I think something we need to practice at. Great post Jessica. I really think everyone should know this!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

I've partially read several annoying/boring books over the last year. It's rare I don't finish a book, but I bailed out of these.

A major annoyance: When there are too many twists, and I'm ready to say, "the end already!"

Blessings,
Susan :)

Linda Glaz said...

Be honest when you write. Don't cheat your reader like when the "dead" character somehow comes back and saves the day, kills someone, or has all the answers. Booo!

anita said...

Rule #3: Don't mislead your reader.

There's nothing more frustrating than reading a scene at the beginning of a book, getting invested in a character and starting to like them, only to have them die the next page. FRUSTRATING. Or, better yet, following them through an action packed amazing experience in the first few pages, only to realize it was a dream. HEH.

So yeah...that's where I stop reading.

Great post as always, BQE! ;-)

Jill Kemerer said...

I've read books like this too. Frustrating!

Rule #3: Assume your reader is intelligent.

Enough said!

Cheryl Linn Martin said...

Great post, Jessica!

I don't have a rule number three--just a ditto on the ones people already submitted.

Glad I'm not the only one who gets annoyed with some of the stuff that's being published out there!

Stephanie Faris said...

Did your blog layout change? I love it, either way!

Mine would be: "Don't confuse your reader." I just had to take a book back to the library mostly unread because there were just too many characters, too much going on, and I didn't care to try to unravel it all.

Jessica Nelson said...

Eek, Stephanie, I hate when there's too many characters. It really makes it hard to get into the story.

Everyone, I love, love reading your comments! Thank you for chiming in!

Nancy said...

If your plot involves the hero or heroine not reading the other person's letters/messages for whatever reason, get a new plot. That one is old and unrealistic.

Lynn said...

Predictable plots are annoying. I agree with everyone's number 3's here. I'd say make sure, especially if self-publishing, you hire a good editor! Repetitive words, dialogue that all sounds the same, and too much information (love Jill's point on this) make skimmers out of readers.

MaryC said...

Rule # 3 for me would be make me feel something.
I don't care if you make me angry or make my cry, but make me care.

Jessica Nelson said...

Ooooh, good point, Mary!

Lynn, skimming is a very bad sign. LOL

Hahaa, Nancy, I have a plot with that in it, though it's not the crux of the story. Point well taken! :-)

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Yup. I've put down many books because I get annoyed or see how it's going to end by page 50.

Good choice to pass it along. Life is too short to read a book you're not enjoying.