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Old 06-05-2011, 08:56 AM   #1
VydorScope
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What kills a book for you?

I was just wandering around the forums on Amazon and saw a thread there that was fairly entertaining to read where the OP asked "What makes you stop and put down a Sci-fi or Fantasy book and not finish reading?" That got me thinking, are there things that kill a book for most people? Some of the things I saw listed over and over...

1) Long descriptions of a characters physical attributes.
2) Spelling magic as magik or other "cool" spelling changes.
3) Creating a set of rules for your world, then breaking them because they became hard to follow.
4) The rescue type characters that exist only to fix a scene, or solve a problem and then are gone.
5) Authors wish fulfillment. Meaning if the story feels like the author is just writing about fulfilling his own wishes, that kills a story.
6) Sudden unexplained major shifts in character of the main characters.

There were some points that went back and forth. For example one group of people said "purely evil bad guys suck, they should be more gray, or have some redeeming value, same with purely good good guys" while others said "Villains should be pure evil, heroes should be pure good."

I was surprise NOT to see listed things like:

1) Bad spelling
2) Bad grammar
3) Incorrect word usage

What do you all think? What kills a book for you? Long drawn out sex scenes do it for me. I would prefer something like "they spent the night in each others arms" and then move on. The fact they have some physical relationship is often important to the story, but how they fulfill it in explicit detail never is. (unless your writing erotica of course) Also I do not like tremendous detail. Saying a "violently red wall" is sufficient, I do not need a atom by atom description of it. On the flip side, do not leave major scenes undescribed. C.S. Lewis did that in his Narnia series, esply "Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe" where you get to the epic battle at the end of the book and you only get like 1/2 sentence or something describing it.

So what do you think?
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Old 06-05-2011, 09:00 AM   #2
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indeed, too much sex in a book makes me sleepy. i also dislike misspellings and general grammar errors, unless they are intentionally part of a character's dialogue for the sake of his/her characterization, or something like that. beautifully formatted books give me the sense that the author really took their time in making sure that it visually appealed to the readers.

i also hate lame resolutions to conflicts.
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Old 06-05-2011, 09:09 AM   #3
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Poor formatting can kill a book for me. I really dislike a book that has a space between paragraphs with no indents. The poor formatting draws the eye away from the book and to the formatting.
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Old 06-05-2011, 09:24 AM   #4
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I can recall only once when I put down a book in disgust. Oddly, it was the second time I read it. The first time I read Jeanne Cavelos's triology The Passing of the Techno-mages, it was an interesting read which filled in a lot of information that would have been revealed in the TV series Crusade if it had not been cancelled. I began reading it through again a few years later, and realized that the cheerful alien child Fa exists only to suffer. From her disdainful treatment on her first appearance until her death while being tortured, something bad happens every time Cavelos brings her out. I became so irritated that I only made it to p. 128 of the first book; I can tell because I see the bookmark is still there years later. So apparently, what kills a book for me is sadism.
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Old 06-05-2011, 09:25 AM   #5
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weak prose.
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Old 06-05-2011, 09:26 AM   #6
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Infodumps (sometimes referred to as "world-building").
Having no ending (or only one ending for every three to four books).
Unpronounceable names with apostrophes in the middle of them.
Elves. Orcs. Dragons.
No profanity.
All profanity.
No sex.
All sex.
Enigmatic sages who say they don't have time to explain everything (while they're all traveling on horseback by day and lounging around the campfire by night).
Political subtext that's about as subtle as an ice-pick through the eye.
Social subtext that's about as subtle as an ice-pick through the eye.
Quantum mechanics applied to relationships.
Horrible attempts at diversions from the author's plan to "sixth-sense" the hell out of me.
The author trying to "sixth sense" the hell out of me.
Books that exist for no other reason than to set up events in later books.
Unicorns.

Last edited by DiapDealer; 06-05-2011 at 11:03 AM.
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Old 06-05-2011, 10:23 AM   #7
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Similes as torturous as a torturer who is having a bad hair day after a trip to an evil barber.
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Old 06-05-2011, 10:31 AM   #8
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Poor sentence structure, 'typical' characters, made up words that you can't pronounce and I agree with the 'cool' spellings.
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Old 06-05-2011, 10:51 AM   #9
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1. Poor format. Bad grammar. Terrible spelling, etc.

2. Nonsense things are described for pages, and important stuffs aren't. Detailed descriptions? No thanks, I don't feel like reading 10 pages describing a mountain. And yes, C. S. Lewis' "The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe" is one big example. Another one is Victor Hugo's "Les Misérables", which is a lengthy novel and the first book of it merely talks about a priest who never has any big impact on any other things in the book. (Alright, he does have a bit of influence on Valjean but that's all!)

3. Sex scenes, in details.

4. Flawless characters.

5. Vampires, werewolves... the fewer the magical creatures, the better.

6. Too many names appear right at the beginning. I have difficulties remembering names, so I'd like them introduced gradually... the fewer, the better, again.

7. Gays, or lesbians. I don't like reading about homosexuality.

8. Easy to guess who's the bad guy or how the story ends. Dan Brown is big at this.

9. Nonsense plots: a perfect guy falls for a mediocre girl, or something like that.

10. Battles in details: can I have a 2-page battle? please?

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Old 06-05-2011, 10:53 AM   #10
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I have a corollary to

3) Creating a set of rules for your world, then breaking them because they became hard to follow.

Introducing over time new rules and wrinkles which would have materially altered events in earlier books if they had been available. J.K. Rowling was a huge sinner in this respect.
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Old 06-05-2011, 10:56 AM   #11
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Knowing who the bad guy is on the first page.
Having one location/story which is left behind for the rest of the book and never mentioned.

Both of these are in Pyramids by Terry Pratchet, which I am trying to finish. I like his writing and the other characters in the book are good. Just not the main character or bad guy. I put the book down for week before I decided to finish it.

Something else I really don't like are overly long fiction books. Most books that come in at 700+ pages have far to much padding. I generally avoid fiction books that are that long. There are exceptions to this.

I remember reading Michael Moorcock's Elric sereis. I read these for the first time after giving up on Robert Jordan's books. My friends were begging me to give Jordan's book another chance but they were boring. Oddly they agreed and said it picked up in book 2 and 3.

Moorcock's books were a breath of fresh air. The books were short, but the stories just blew my mind. I think writing great short novels is a lost art. Seems like everything has to be a series or massive in page numbers.
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Old 06-05-2011, 11:23 AM   #12
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I know there's a phrase for this one, but can't remember it. It's where the protagonist finds themself in an impossible situation, and you are thinking "how on earth are they going to get out of this one?". And then something ridiculous and previously never alluded to happens to save the day.

One such example was a Michael Moorcock book (can't remember which one), where our hero was surrounded by various evil creatures, and he suddenly dipped his hand into a bag he was carrying and sprinkled some "majik dust" or whatever, and was instantly surrounded by an impenetrable wall, thus saving him. I gave up the novel, Michael Moorcock*, and fantasy novels on that very day.

*actually, there's another reason I really hate MM, but that's another subject.
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Old 06-05-2011, 11:33 AM   #13
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@orlock I think that's Deus ex Machina
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Old 06-05-2011, 11:38 AM   #14
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I've always wondered: can it still be considered deus ex machina if the character actually is a god?
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Old 06-05-2011, 11:40 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmacmart View Post
@orlock I think that's Deus ex Machina
Thanks . I'm not tempted to revisit, however...
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