Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What Readers Don't Want

Paula looks at reasons given by readers for not liking a book.

We often read or hear about what readers want in a romance novel – strong characters, good plot etc. Equally important, it seems, are the things they don’t want. Some time ago, I compile a list (from various sources) of ‘not wanted’ features in novels. Here is my ‘top ten’ of dislikes (with some of my original list combined at times) – in no particular order:

1. Too many characters introduced too quickly in the story (especially at the beginning

2. Too much backstory at the beginning

3. Too much description of places and/or narrative and/or researched details

4. Slow pacing, with nothing much happening for several pages

5. Too much description of characters doing ‘ordinary’ things like cooking or gardening i.e. scenes which don’t advance the plot or give an insight into the character(s)

6. Unnatural dialogue/characters who talk like they’re in a 1940s slushy movie/characters who use each other’s names all the time in dialogue

7. No emotion and/or feelings stated rather than shown

8. Plot holes or loose ends not tied up at the end of the story

9. Hero/heroine not very likeable – selfish, petty, ‘too stupid to live’

10. Author intrusion – telling us things the characters don’t know or see.

What would you add to this list?


  1. Hmn?

    What about contrived conflicts or too many coincidences...

  2. The first three are the ones that I hate the most as a reader.

    1. I agree, Chrys! Read a story recently where 8 characters were introduced on the first page i.e. 4 couples, also 3 of them had names that could have been male or female - Sam, Pat, and Bernie. Very confusing!

  3. I was once told there was too much mention of food in my book. I personally don't have an issue with that, but okay! Good list.

    1. I don't mention food a lot in mine, apart from brief references, but I think the main 'complaint' was about too much detail about cooking. I once read a novel where about 4 pages could have been sub-titled 'How to Cook your Thanksgiving Meal'!

  4. You made good points, Debra made a good point...Jennifer, too much food? I need to read your stories!
    Too much jargon for whatever job the main characters have drives me nuts, as does foreign phrases...even if they are common, they are pretentious.
    If it is sci-fi or fantasy, too-odd names of people and places is distracting and makes it hard to remember to whom and where the writer is making reference.
    I better quit now!

  5. Tonette, very good points about jargon, and also weirdo names that you don't know how to pronounce!.