Friday, October 5, 2012

Ultimate Deal Breaker

As I mentioned in my last post, this one will be about my #1 deal breaker when reading a book. If a book has this problem, I won't ever read another book by that author.

Drum roll please.

The ultimate deal breaker is not making me care about your characters. For example, if someone important dies, and I just don't give a shit, that's not ever a good thing. If I get to the end, and my first thought is that all the characters could die and I still wouldn't give a shit? That's extra bad.

This can happen in a number of ways. I've included some examples below of books that just couldn't make me care. It will contain spoilers (some mild, some not so mild), but I have a picture of each book's cover before I describe anything about the book itself. So if you haven't read that book and intend to, just skip the paragraph right after the picture.

Maybe the book is completely plot driven. It's all fine and good to have a plot-driven book, but when the only interesting thing about your book is the plot? That's just not enough for me. (Honestly, some of these types of books don't even have plots that I find very interesting). The primary example I have for this?


People went frickin' nuts about this book. If I recall correctly (it did come out long ago), it got a ton of publicity because it was written by a teenager. Included in the masses of people going nuts? My husband. Who bugged me for years until I finally read the whole thing. (He had to keep bugging for that long because I tried about 5 or 6 times to read it before I finally just forced myself to power through it.) This is a book where every single person could have met a horrible, painful, nasty end, and I wouldn't have done so much as raise an eyebrow. In fact, one of the main characters, who was basically in a mentor/replacement father figure role, did die. And I felt nothing. Nothing. I didn't know enough about these characters to care what happened to them. All I saw was what was on the surface. And that's not enough to get me emotionally involved. Needless to say, I didn't read any of the other books in the series. (My husband loves all of them. He also thinks some of my favorite books (all character driven) aren't "cool" or "exciting" enough. So there's that.)

Then there are books that don't really intend to get you emotionally involved with the characters. They are driven by a combination of plot and humor. And I don't necessarily hate these books. But I don't tend to read them, either. Example?

I do actually enjoy the random humor of this book. As far as humor goes, random and clever/smart/historical are my favorite types. And I actually quite enjoyed the movie, in spite of Zooey Deschanel, who I don't think could act if her life depended on it. But in the movie, I got to see the characters. I got to see reactions and facial expressions and feelings. This was particularly the case with Martin Freeman, who I love and adore. (By the by, have you gone to watch Sherlock yet? If you don't understand the segue, you clearly haven't. Get on that.) At any rate, I didn't get those things in the book. Instead of caring about Arthur when the world blew up, I got randomness and ridiculosity. Which were both vaguely enjoyable. But not enjoyable enough to make me read the next book. For me, humor can only carry you so far in a novel.

And, last but not least, you can have just plain shit writing. When this happens, I don't even get far enough into the book to find out if I could possibly care about the characters. Now, someone without any grasp of spelling or grammar wouldn't get a book published by the traditional routes, and I haven't read more than a handful of self-pubbed books. So that's not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about are books with absolutely no voice or personality. Stilted, boring writing. Mayhap an overabundance of pointless descriptions that make me want to tear my eyes out and fall asleep at the same time. The best example of this?

I know, I know. How can I be a fantasy writer and not like Lord of the Rings? How can I be a fantasy writer when I've never even finished Lord of the Rings? Well, sorry folks, but this book is, in my opinion, the biggest freaking snoozefest in the history of the fantasy genre. I've tried to read it at least a dozen times. I've gotten a little further each time, but no matter what, I end up asleep in the middle of the afternoon. I realize this is an exaggeration, but it seems like he'll spend 5 pages describing a freaking leaf on a tree. I suppose that's very literary and beautiful and sophisticated, etc, etc. But whatever. It's so bogged down in descriptions of things that don't matter that I have a hard time weeding out descriptions of the things that do. Like who the people in this fellowship are and why they've decided to do this insanely dangerous and brave thing. In the movies (which I absolutely adore), I get that. I can see it. I can feel it. And if there happens to be a pretty leaf on a nearby tree, fine. I can see it out of the corner of my eye as I focus on the faces and words of the characters. 

So how about you? How do you feel about the books I mentioned (if you've read them)? What are your ultimate deal breakers? And which books have been the most guilty of the things you hate?


  1. LOL I can agree on Eragon. It was okay, but it was written by a teenager and it shows. I Lurved the Hitchhiker's Guide because I love British humor and this whole series struck me as a prolonged Monty Python skit. Mmm. Monty Python. As far as LotR, I love the movies and the books for different reasons. The movies are very character driven, but those characters are exceedingly different from the characters in the books. Example: In the books, Aragorn was always trying to return to Gondor to be king. Always. There was no waffling or self-doubt, just determination and action. Now, I don't think this would necessarily have worked in the movies, and agree with Jackson's decision to change this (as well as including more Arwen, who wasn't much more than a side-note in the books, though I wish she hadn't been played by Liv Tyler, because really?). But in the books, where everything was lore and tradition and fulfillment of prophesy, it worked. I could do without the elf songs, though. I skip them in my periodic re-reads. Also, if you think Fellowship is the most boring book EVAR, you've never attempted The Silmarillion. I made it all the way through Atlas Shrugged and still couldn't make it through page five of that bologna.

    My deal breaker is somewhat the opposite. I'm all for character, but if nothing of consequence ever happens to those characters, or if I make it to page 170 and the stakes that were implied in the very beginning still have not begun to materialize? *cough*Matched*cough* I'm out. So while you tend to sit screaming, "For Pete's sake, make me care!" I tend to sit screaming, "For Pete's sake, do something!"

    1. I'm also a big fan of British humor...but it seems that I'm only a fan of it in movies/tv shows/stand up comedy. Not sure why that is. I just get bored with those kinds of books.

      I've heard that Peter Jackson made some incredible changes from the books. All the ones I've heard about, I'm glad he made. So I guess I'm grateful to J.R.R. Tolkien for writing the books that were then changed to make such incredible movies. But I think I've decided to give up on trying to read them. Enough is enough.

      Also, boo. I thought Liv did an incredible job.

      I've never even heard of Matched. Knowing what you do of my preferences, do you think I'd like it? ;)

    2. Having read the books, I never would have cast Liv Tyler as Arwen. Like, ever.

      As far as Matched...dunno. On the surface, I think so, but clearly we have different tolerances. You're welcome to my copy if you ever want to try. :)