Teacher-Authors: What’s Happening on my Writer’s Blog

In this monthly column, I share a popular post from the past month on my writing blog, WordDreams

Reasons Why Readers Quit a Book

It used to be I almost always finished any book I started. I’d think about all the work the author put into writing it, figure it was my personal lens not their skill, and continue in the hope I’d learn a different way of thinking. Over the years, I’ve changed. With Kindle Unlimited, I can borrow a book, read a few chapters, and then return it with no muss or fuss. Now, I quit about 10% of the books I start even after spending the time to preview, read the blurbs, and explore reader comments.

Why? There are good reasons to not invest the time required to finish a book:

  • Characters aren’t likable. If I don’t find a character to root for in the first few chapters, I’m probably not going to keep reading. It doesn’t have to be the MC, just someone who I’d like to travel 300 pages or so with.
  • Plot develops too slowly. This is a personal choice because I love thrillers. I like fast-paced plots with dramatic consequences. I’m not into those that explore every tangential character, their lives and motivations. I’ll whisper this next: I’m not a fan of literary fiction for those same reasons.
  • Plot is too complicated. This happens to me in political thrillers often. They usually have so many moving parts, my head spins. I used to track all those subplots well but not anymore. Once I no longer connect actions and consequences, I start skipping things. Honestly, I think it has more to do with age than organic reasoning.
  • Plot is unrealistic (and it isn’t science fiction or fantasy). I want to willingly suspend my disbelief, root for a superhero who can save the world without backup. If an author can make me believe that, I’ll read the entire series. Case in point: The Jess Williams Westerns. Jess can shoot his gun faster than is humanly possible but the author (Robert Thompson) made me believe it so completely that I’ve read 115 books in the series. And am waiting for the next to reach KU.
  • No hook. The book has a dazzling plot, believable characters, set in a perfectly-described scene, but the author forgot the hook. Why do I care? Well, another word for ‘hook’ is ‘theme’. It ties all the characters and subplots together into a sensible package. Without it, maybe I don’t care that Julio lost his job or Amanda broke her fingernail.
  • 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 go to church. Same goes for politics. For many–including me–reading is an escape from politics. Let them escape. The exception of course are novels that deal with politics like Alan Drury’s Advise and Consent.
  • I can’t see what’s going on. The author hasn’t sufficiently fleshed out the scenery or filled my senses with the world inhabited by the characters. It’s common for new authors to forget about the senses but it’s a fatal flaw. Our lives are lived in full color. The stories we read must be also.
  • 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 my genre, historic fiction, where readers expect to be wrapped in the atmosphere of the time. 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. We all do that but fix it before publication. If you find you’re missing these, hire an editor.
  • A dog is killed for no reason (or a horse). Or abused. This is personal. I can’t stand seeing a dog murdered when their entire life’s goal is to make us happy. I relate to John Wicke’s homicidal tirade after someone killed his dog. Remember the dog-death scene in I Am Legend? Why did they have to include that?

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 often now, even from good writers, so I am more tolerant.

What are your reasons for giving up on a book?

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Man vs. Nature saga, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the acclaimed Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Endangered Species, Winter 2024

Author: Jacqui
Welcome to my virtual classroom. I've been a tech teacher for 15 years, but modern technology offers more to get my ideas across to students than at any time in my career. Drop in to my class wikis, classroom blog, our internet start pages. I'll answer your questions about how to teach tech, what to teach when, where the best virtual sites are. Need more--let's chat about issues of importance in tech ed. Want to see what I'm doing today? Click the gravatar and select the grade.

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