So Many Books; Some Little Time Part Two
Assuming a book passes the three rules of thumb I mentioned before, if a book captures and holds my interest into the first chapter, there are other rules that I use to see if I want to continue reading.
The Pages Versus Characters Equation: In chapter one I apply the writing equation: The number of characters > the number of pages = confusion for the reader. Consider that Julia Spencer-Fleming did not introduce Linda Van Alstyne, who figures prominently in the larger story arc, until the third book in her series. I almost always I stop reading because most of the time in the past when I have continued with the book I discovered the confusion reflected a lack of either writing skills or thoughtful editing. Twice, because I had faith in the author, I continued reading in spite on my confusion and ended up liking the books very much. But as a reader I had to work harder than I do in most books. I’m not willing to do that unless I know the author well.
Too Many Paper Dolls: I don’t much care if characters who “walk on” for one page or two are not fully developed characters. I find it annoying when a continuing character shows only one dimension. In an otherwise pretty well written novel I read recently one important character showed only one emotion — rage —for nearly 200 pages. Nobody is enraged all the time; it takes too much energy. After a while I got bored with the anger. In another work that showed elements of quality writing every living character with one characteristic (having a Y chromosome) was stupid, sexist, corrupt and passive-aggressive or brutal or both. One male character was described as benign but he died before the story started. Apparently in this author’s universe empathy was fatal to men.
Too Much Like A “B” Monster Movie Plot: “Golly gee, there’s a monster loose in this haunted house/summer camp/spaceship. Let’s split up and explore the creepy dark spaces so we can almost all get killed in bloody, frightening way.” The equivalent cliché in murder mysteries is when the heroine/hero goes alone into the dark parking lot knowing the killer who has been stalking her/him all day could be waiting there. I am so tired of the intrepid, reckless protagonists, I’m about to start rooting for killers.
What convinces you to stop reading a book you have begun?