THE TOP 6 THINGS READERS HATE IN BOOKS
The Outcast has been doing better in the book awards than I anticipated, having been shortlisted for six awards to date.
And I'm surprised.
With the drugs and the crazy behaviour, I thought perhaps Fabian was too over the top for a book award. Readers can react in funny ways, and there are some people, I discovered, for whom drugs are a complete no-no. And I understand that - don't we all have things that we hate in books? In romance, cheating is one of mine. For some of you, I know the unexpected pregnancy trope is a facepalm moment.
And so I got interested in readers' pet hates and the more I read, the more I fell in love with people's comments. The Washington Post did some excellent research into this, which you can find here.
It transpires that book lovers have been storing up their annoyances for years, just waiting for someone to ask. Here are six of the best:
Author laziness comes high on the list, in particular poor dream sequences, factual and historical inaccuracies and typographical and grammatical mistakes. I still remember reading a romance novel where the protagonist got a cab and when I checked the trip—I'm weird like that—it was a 5-hour cab ride!
Excessive length also makes readers grind their teeth. But it’s not just the books that are too long. Everything in them is too long: interminable prologues, introductions, expositions, chapters, explanations, descriptions, paragraphs, sentences, conversations, sex scenes, fistfights and italicized passages.
And what about those things that cause endless confusion? Like the disappearance of quotation marks and confusing timelines? Who hasn't started reading a book at one time or another and thought, hang on a minute, who's talking now, or what year are we in?
The characters themselves are another bone of contention:
Unrealistically clever children or talking animals are felt to be deeply irksome in novels — along with disabled characters who exist only to provide ill-thought-out inspiration.
Talking of tropes, women who need rescuing seem to generate particular ire. The old sexist tropes are still shambling along in too many novels. Even when female characters are given modern-day responsibilities and occupations, they’re still too often being rescued by men.
There's also a hatred for stupid women who start out smart, then turn into blithering idiots over men who aren’t worth their shoe leather.
Of course, the classic objections that have dogged novels since they began are still rumbling along in the background. Many readers are disgusted with explicit sex scenes (I'm definitely guilty as charged with this one) and gratuitous violence, especially against animals, children and women (not guilty here, unless some mild sexual shenanigans count).
Weird specific things that people hate also made me laugh:
A character who pinches the bridge of his nose to indicate frustration
Lip biting (just way too much of this apparently!)
Protagonists who have had a hard day, finally stagger home and take a scalding hot shower
Someone who escapes a small town and rents a large house then gets a job at a local paper or makes a living gardening
“Vomiting is the new crying,” one reader bemoaned. “I think it’s part of the whole hyper-valuation of trauma — and somehow tears seem too weak, too mundane.”
Some of these made me laugh, others made me want to scour the book I'm editing for lip-biting and nose-pinching.
Awards are interesting beasts, and each one has its own peculiarities. The Foreword Indie Awards have been running for 18 years, and are hotly competed for in the Indie community. I didn't make the finalist stage with The Refusal, which reached the semi-final stage. But it turned out that the editors at Foreword loved The Outcast, so out of 2,500 books entered this year, The Outcast is a finalist. I'm so pleased my bad boy is getting some recognition. Fabian would shrug it off, but Kate would be delighted.
Are some of your pet peeves in the list above? I'd love to hear more about what annoys you - especially in romance.
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