Monday, March 22, 2010
A while back, Jared Diamond wrote an interesting book called Collapse on the reasons why societies choose to be successful or decide to fall apart. Environmental degradation, inept political decisions, and the inability to think about the future abounded in examples of Haiti and Easter Island. Pretty enlightening stuff, even if it was a bit of a tome to get through.
This got me thinking about the book I just finished reading today (#15 for the year!). After a somewhat promising start, the story decided halfway through to fall apart. Ugh.
What makes a novel crumble?
1. Unbelievable Characters. When the protagonist (and even secondary characters) start doing things that contradict their personalities, I get irked. When I start asking, "Why do I care about these people anymore?" then I know the story is lost.
2. Far-fetched Plot Twists. I know it's tempting to pull a Days of Our Lives plot twist and suddenly have the main character take a lesbian lover or become possessed by the devil, but RESIST! There's almost nothing worse than getting halfway through a book to start rolling your eyes and saying, "You've got to be kidding me. Seriously?"
3. Plot Holes. Readers are smart cookies. They can spot a plot hole a mile away. When I'm writing, I know where there are plot holes. I'll admit that sometimes I get lazy and hope beta readers don't notice them. They do. So I fix them. I'm often amazed that a book could get to publication without the writer, agent, or editor fixing a plot hole.
4. Writing Inconsistencies. I notice this with series. If you spend four books telling me a character's truck was pink with aqua flames and now it's purple with blue flames I'm going to be ticked. I'm also going to be annoyed if the protagonist is sixteen on one page and fifteen on the next (barring a time travel novel). This in itself isn't a deal breaker, but I was already leaning toward putting the book down, this might be the straw that breaks the poor camel's back.
I'm looking forward to the newest novel on my list- I'm going with one I've heard nothing but good things about as two of the last three I've read have been somewhat disappointing. But you have to read the good with the bad to understand what makes a good story, right?
What about you? What makes you put a book down?