Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Keeping readers' attention

Unlike my husband, who reads every night, I tend to read in spurts. I’ll read like crazy and then go months without a book. (In my defense, I find it hard to read when I’m elbows deep in my own writing project.) I have a good-sized “To Read” pile. And last a couple of weeks ago, I picked up the next paperback in line. 
I tried. Really, I did. But I’m about half way through and have decided to stop reading. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve given up on a book midway. I like to finish what I start but the older I get, the less patience I have for books that aren’t keeping my attention. 
Here are some of the reasons I’ll stop reading a book:
Not relating to the MC (This was the reason this time around.)
Too challenging (I like to be challenged but I hate needing a dictionary to get through a book!)
I don’t really care about the MC’s problem (It seems lame or too far-fetched.)
Plot is plodding along (I find myself skimming to “get to the good parts.”) 
The writing is showing - if I’m thinking “Man, that needed some more editing” then I’m not caught up in the actual story. 
I think all of this is useful information as I settle down to write my own stories. I don’t always get it right, but if I’m writing to please the READER inside myself then I can’t go wrong. 
What about you? What makes you give up on a book? 


  1. Another one for me is too many characters. I usually read before bed, when I'm already tired. I don't want to work that hard when I read, because I read for enjoyment.

  2. Wow, Car, I probably give up on 25% of the books I start, if not more. I have little patience for a book I don't love. There are too many great books to be read.

    What will mostly make me put down a book is an unlikeable main character. Nothing overcomes that hurdle for me. Also, I ditch if I suspect I'm getting an "idiot plot": one that depends on the characters making bad decisions for no clear reason, but just as a device to move the plot along. Repetitiveness will make me close the book too. If the author's told me something three times, I assume he or she isn't going to stop telling me until I'm ready to scream, "Yes, I know that already!!!"

  3. Good points! I suppose if a character annoys me. Afterall, I plan on hanging out with that character for a long time. And maybe also the fact that I need a reason to spend my valuable time with this character.


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