Wednesday, 10 October 2012

What makes you dislike a book?

Recently, I have become fascinated by reading reviews on Goodreads. Not just for my own books, but reviews on books I loved, and books I wasn't crazy about. It never fails to astonish me how different people's opinions can be.

But what I don't get are ratings that don't entirely match up to the review. One thing I've seen over and over is people who made a point to comment that they loved someone's writing style, but were so annoyed by the characters, they only gave one or two stars overall. It got me wondering - what is the biggest factor that makes people decide to give a bad rating?

For me, not understanding or liking a character is not a good enough reason. I recently read a book in which I didn't feel any connection to the main characters, and one of them I outright HATED. However, even though I wasn't crazy about the people in the book, I  enjoyed the story, and the writing was excellent.

Reasons I dislike books include draggy plots, masses of errors that distract from the story, and unrealistic dialogue. But not understanding a character's actions? I dunno, I guess it feels a little judgmental to me. Just because a person might not agree with a choice, it doesn't make the overall story a disaster - most of the time. ;)

So tell me - what makes you dislike a book? What would make you leave a bad review?

58 comments:

  1. Hum ... this is a tricky one. I agree, draggy plots, masses of errors, unrealistic dialogue and generally bad writing will turn me off.

    I don't mind dislikeable characters. Having someone you love to hate draws me in. George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series is a perfect example of this. There are some characters that are vile, despicable people. But reading a chapter from their POV is fascinating.

    I can also still connect with a character who's motivation I don't necessarily agree with.

    However what turns me off is when a character doesn't have adequate motivation for their actions. A character can be a sinner or a saint, and I'll still enjoy reading about them, as long as they're three dimensional and they have clear motives.

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    1. Excellent answer! I think maybe that's what it is for me, too. If their motivation isn't adequate, it becomes a big problem.

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  2. Nothing could make me leave a bad review! But what makes me disappointed with a book are passive characters, unrealistic dialogue, and anticlimactic endings. I really dislike it when an author hints at something huge and exciting to come, multiple times, and then doesn't deliver.

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    1. Completely agree on all counts. Unrealistic dialogue is one of my biggest peeves, and anti-climatic ending, too. *coughBreakingDawncough* :p

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  3. I think disliking characters is sometimes as good as liking them--I like a book to make me feel *something* about the characters. If I finish it and feel indifferent, that's not good.

    The thing that is guaranteed to put me off a book is bad editing or inconsistencies.

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    1. That's a really good point. Feeling something, even if it is hate, is better than feeling nothing!

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  4. I think character is the biggest deal for me. If I love the characters, I might be willing to overlook other problems (if they're there). But if I don't like the characters, there's going to be a problem. Like what Stacey said, I like a book to make me feel something.

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    1. I don't mind not liking a character, as long as the things they do make sense. The book I mentioned that I read and didn't like the characters was still a good book to me, because while I didn't agree with the things they did, their reasons (sort of) made sense. :D

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  5. So many things! I am notoriously fussy with books - so when I do love one, I tell EVERYONE.

    But if I had to choose a couple, I'd say:
    - Annoying MC. If she has an unrealistic/overly snarky/stupid voice, or makes ridiculous choices, then that can put me off a book.
    - boring plot, cliched characters. Overcoming the blonde, bitchy cheerleader, and OMG, the hot jock (who's actually crazy-intelligent) loved MC all along! What are the chances?!
    - LI who is a total douche. I am not going to start swooning over a stalker/abuser/cold dead vampire called Eddy.

    The book that gets the thumbs up from me is the one I think about for days afterwards, with flawed characters I care about, a LI I, well, love, and a clever plot. Or even just a couple of those things. Yeah, I'm fussy!

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    1. *giggles* I definitely see what you're saying - most especially about the stalker/abuser thing. That is one thing guaranteed to make me close a book!

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  6. Usually for me there has to be a lot of things to make it a bad book, I can forgive a few.

    I'm noticing more when people have long drawn out sections of telling. (Yet I miss this in my own writing!)

    Characters who are to far-out for my tastes (and were talking contemporary here). I understand people have quirks, and yes it makes them interesting, but when all the most important people in the story have something so utterly extreme in their personalities, it bugs me a bit. Like where's the normal... any normal.

    Too many coincidences. Yes, fiction can't survive without coincidences, but when too many big ones happen, I start to question the validity of the story.

    And of course writing style. I use fragments--I like them sometimes. But not all the time. And one author I read used stand alone participle phrases. I kept wanting to say, where's the rest of the sentence? Please attach that phrase to something. Mistakes are minor but when it's every few pages it becomes writing style. And sometimes that stuff bugs me.

    Sorry for the long post!

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    1. I am a big fan of fragments lol!

      I completely agree with you about coincidences. Too many of them really ruin books for me.

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  7. I generally don't leave a review, if I disliked a book or DNF'ed it. So, I'm a really hard one to ask this question, because I treat books like I treat people I meet and don't really care for. I try to find at least one thing that's redeemable about them, and hang on to to that! :)

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  8. I'm glad to hear that some people like unlikeable characters (if that makes sense) because it's the motivations that are interesting. Some of the characters in my WIP have been described as not very likeable! Evil characters can be fascinating.

    Books that are "one thing after another" tend to turn me off. As in, this happened, then that happened - but why? What's the point? Real life is like that, but a book needs a plot.

    Also, asides and tangents from the main action. Not talking about subplots, but where the author goes off to talk at length about something that doesn't seem very relevant. It can be done well, but too much can get annoying.

    I'll stop before this turns into a rant! :)

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    1. Haha!

      I agree, motivation is important with characters!

      And asides and tangents bug the crap out of me lol!

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  9. Characters are definitely a big thing for me. Now some characters are meant to be not liked, or not understood and that's fine. But if I hate the MC or the supposedly swoonworthy love interest then I won't enjoy the book. I don't want to spend that much time with someone I just don't like. However, I would never leave a bad review. I just don't review books I didn't enjoy. I realize that just because I didn't like them, someone else might love them and I don't need to put my negative opinion out there. After all, there are people I can't stand in real life either and other people love them. ;)

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    1. That's a nice way to look at it. :D

      I guess I can understand that not liking an MC can make a person dislike a book. For me though, even if I'm not crazy about them, if the storyline is interesting enough, I'll keep reading. :D

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  10. My major reason for disliking a book is because it's boring. I don't have to love the main character, but I do have to love the love interest. If I can't stand him, then I'm not going to be cheering for the two to get together.

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    1. YES! If the LI is hard to like, it does make a book harder to read. But sometimes they come around lol ;)

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  11. I will never leave a bad review. If I hate it, I'll just not mention it. Being a writer, I understand now how dang hard it is to write a book...even a crappy one.

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    1. True story! Although, I don't think you have a crappy book inside you, Elizabeth!

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  12. I've enjoyed books that were poorly written but had exciting characters and an engaging plot, I've also enjoyed well written books that were more character driven than plot led.

    But I don't think I've ever enjoyed a book with 2 dimensional, annoying or boring characters. So for me, I think that has to be the key - in order to keep reading I have to care what happens to the characters.

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    1. Yeah, caring about them is definitely important. :D

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  13. Saggy middles and over-description. If nothing is happening in the story, I'm more likely to start skimming or tune out.

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    1. Over-description is one of my biggest issues with books!

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  14. An unlikable protagonist can definitely be a deal breaker for me, because the story centers on the protagonist. I try to like the main character, but if I don't agree/like any of the things that he/she does, it's a lot harder to enjoy the story. A bad ending can ruin the book for me too, because I often wish it had ended differently.

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    1. Ooh yes, I didn't think about the endings! They can really kill a story.

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  15. Do be quite honest, if I do not like a certain character then I think the author has done justice. However, this only applies for characters that are antagonist or perhaps characters that are made to be disliked. There have been some stories that I have read and I did not like the protagonist, due to their irksome habits. Even if I did not like the characters, there is a chance that I would enjoy the story.

    The thing that could ruin it the most for me is bad endings and a horrible plot line.

    http://brittneycanna.blogspot.com/

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  16. I think there's a difference between characters you don't like and characters you don't connect with. For me, the former is fine, but the latter is a problem, especially in a main character or main supporting character (love interest, best friend, etc.). If I don't understand a character's motivation, I have trouble connecting with the story. I don't have to agree with it, but I have to understand it.

    Lack of chemistry between characters (especially ones who are supposed to be falling in love) is also a pretty big deal-breaker. I'm willing to deal with a slow plot if I'm engaged in the people and relationships in it.

    I don't usually leave negative reviews (or, um, any reviews actually), but I also don't like the stigma that leaving negative reviews somehow makes you bad, insensitive, or callous. As a writer, I appreciate critique as much as praise. I'm not saying go out and bash the book, but if you have legitimate reasons for disliking it, even if they're personal opinions, it's okay to put them out there. When I'm looking for new books, I read the reviews and they have some impact on my decisions. Just like anything else, I think it's important to be able to hear all sides in order to make informed decisions.

    Whoops, end rant. Er... sorry about that. :-)

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    1. Lol, rant away!

      I completely agree about understanding motivation. It's really important.

      I rarely let reviews influence my decision, unless they are all terrible. In which case, I won't bother lol!

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  17. I don't do bad reviews, because if I don't like a book, I stop reading.
    Lengthy exposition and description usually do it for me. Although if I hate all of the characters, that will do it as well.

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  18. I do my best not to say anything bad. I might be critical in pointing out something I don't like, but I don't be mean about it. Weak and whiny characters immediately put me off. Long descriptions, grammar and spelling errors, and unrealistic dialogue. If it has great characters and/or plot, I might overlook other things, but they have to be really good!

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  19. Characters are a big part of it for me, but the biggest part of giving a low review would be terrible writing! The writing is everything!

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  20. I've read a lot of great books where I didn't like a character, in fact they out right made me furious, but that didn't mean I didn't enjoy the story. Plot does have a lot to do with it. If the story drags on and on with too much description and not enough action, that starts to get annoying for me and I have no problem snapping a book shut and moving on.

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    1. I like that a lot of people are saying too much descriptions bothers them. I genuinely thought it was just me, and that I have a low attention span!

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  21. For me it's all about the writing and character development. If they start to drag then I'm sort of done, even though I'll still probably finish the book.

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    1. Character development is super important!

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  22. Pacing for me is a huge turnoff. And characters I don't connect with. It's the little things that make me connect with a character. Habits, flaws, etc.

    Though, per my recent post, I have decided not to write any reviews anymore. Unless personally asked for one. I just don't think I could write anything I didn't like about another writer's work.

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    1. If I have nothing nice to say, I won't say anything, but if I liked the book but saw aspects that bothered me, I'm okay with pointing them out, as long as I do it nicely lol.

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  23. I've given bad reviews to plenty of books, including some of the books I've read for my YA Lit class this semester. Reasons include historical inaccuracy (a number of recent prominent YA "historicals" are like Gossip Girl in period clothes, no effort to really accurately depict personal, social, and cultural attitudes of the era), boring writing, amateurish writing, not enough plot structure, not feeling connected to the characters, very slow pace that never picks up.

    I can also have problems if the POV and/or tense doesn't seem to match the type of story being told. I've stopped reading at least one book because I just couldn't get into first-person present tense, in spite of having initially been excited to find YA Russian historical fiction. It's become a lot harder for me recently to connect with first-person narrators, given how common it's become. I really need a unique, compelling voice, not one that sounds exactly like 10 other first-person books I've just read.

    I've read plenty of books with questionable, evil, or bad characters among the cast, but that's not a reason in and of itself to throw a book down or give it a bad review.

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    1. Eek, I usually write in first person lol! But past, not present. I'm not crazy about present tense books, but there are a lot of them in YA.

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  24. totally agree with your thinking. unfortunately, being a slow reader w/hardly any time to read as it is, those books just dont get finished, nevermind reviewed by me!

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    1. LOL! Well, that's fair enough. :D

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  25. I'm going to have to side with you on this one. I think characters I really don't like are just the icing on the cake, but draggy plots are a total fun suck for me.

    If it takes me 45 minutes to read 8 pages because the author had ridiculous descriptions/the plot makes zero sense/ my eyes are glazing over because the MC is talking about hills again *cough Jane Eyre cough* then I probably won't think too highly of it.

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    1. YES! I have the exact same issue - sometimes you can read and read and nothing happens, and it gets so draggy.

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  26. There haven't been many book I've disliked - some I wouldn't choose to read again, some I've been really disappointed with (Death Comes to Pemberley) - but there have only been a few that I haven't finished. I'm quite forgiving, but I agree with Samantha above - too many descriptions of hills will have me running for them!

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    1. Heh, nice! As I said above, I definitely agree about descriptions. :D

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  27. As an author, I will only leave a review if it's positive - my own personal policy. The only thing that'll turn me off a book is a plot that meanders and where I can't see any forward movement.

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    1. I sort of have the same policy lol. If I really don't like a book, I won't review it but if there are small niggly details, I might leave a review anyway!

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  28. I don't leave negative reviews. If it's negative, I leave it unsaid, just because it's my opinion and i'm hard to please.

    Character is important for me to keep reading, but you gotta hook me and then not let me off the hook. It's the attendtion span thing.

    :)

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    1. Yeah, I have quite a short attention span, too!

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  29. Frustrating characters are usually a good thing for a book, as far as I'm concerned, as it stirs my emotions (even if it makes me want to throw the book off a wall!). For me, an unforgivable mistake is poor writing (of the distracting kind) and bad grammar. I'm not a stickler for perfection, but some books read like they haven't even been given a spell check! I wouldn't leave a bad review on it, though, I only leave a review if a book has moved me to speak kindly of it. :)

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    1. Much the same with me. I want to feel SOMETHING when I read a book. If I feel nothing, what's the point? :D

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