I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to books. I have a large range of interest, and a high tolerance for crappy intros. This is not to say I don’t ever stop reading something and never come back to it. And this isn’t to say that I like everything I read. But it’s pretty hard to turn me off so much that I just flat out can’t even force myself through it.
I may have mentioned a few times that back in the day I had a 10% rule. I spent a lot of time at the library and in bookstores so if the book was 300 pages long, it had 30 pages to get interesting or I’d dump it. That was my “policy.” I had too many books I wanted to read, I wasn’t going to spend time reading something terrible when I could be reading something awesome!
The Witching Hour by Anne Rice was over 1000 pages long. And this is where I’m glad I had that 10% policy and not a 10 page policy, because I LOVE that book, but it took me 55 pages to get into it. 55! I would have missed out on a wild ride if I had given up before then, but it was so hard to get through those first 30 especially because I had no idea what was going on. I half suspected it was because the book was too old for me at the time, but when has that stopped a bookworm?! Never, that’s when. ^_^
So here are my Reading Pet Peeves and pretty much the only things that will get me to give up on a book even when I actually might want to know what happens (10% rule or no 10% rule). This is how annoying these things are to me.
#1 POP CULTURE REFERENCES
I don’t know why, but these things stick out like red paint on a white house. I have a limit. If I lose count of the number of pop culture references in a chapter, I put the book down and the author goes on my “do not trust” list. It’s okay to mention some relevant music artist or a movie or if it’s an 80s themed novel and they want to mention Cyndi Lauper or some other 80s thingie-bob. But if there are so many I lose count? That just disgusts me. Without mentioning any names, I recently read a book where the author mentioned books, movies, musicians, brands, every single pop culture reference you could think of, and squeezed them all within a couple of pages. It made me sick. I said to myself, “If I see one more, I’m putting this book down.” And I did see one more, I saw five, so I quit. And I actually wanted to know what happened, but no bad enough to put up with that.
Here’s why I hate it: For one, I live in a box, so most of them go over my head, and if the person is using that many, they’re a crappy writer and probably didn’t even have the wherewithal to offer enough context clues to what they were talking about so that people who didn’t know wouldn’t be lost. For second, it’s freaking lazy. If you don’t know how to describe something or show me how old someone is without resorting to a bunch of pop culture references, then you have issues. Like I said, a few are fine. They can help place you in a certain decade or tell you something about the character, like saying your character’s little sister goes as Britney Spears for Halloween every year is funny. Saying the character is going to Evanescence concert tells me they like (awesome) rock music. But referencing Twilight or Hunger Games and in the same sentence they’re referencing Gossip Girl, American Idol, and iPhones? I’m throwing the book off a bridge, and I hope the piece of crap drowns.
#2 SHOCK VALUE FOR THE SAKE OF SHOCK VALUE
What is wrong with people? Is it necessary to violently rape a character when it has absolutely NOTHING to do with any part of the plot whatsoever? Is it necessary to blow up a random building on page one when nothing else is going to blow up in the ENTIRE rest of the book? Is it necessary to have a cliche teen party scene where absolutely NOTHING essential to the plot happens at all? Is it? NO, loser, it’s NOT!
#3 BORING AS CRAP
Now, boring is subjective. I may find a 5 page monologue on sea turtles boring as crap where someone else finds it horribly fascinating. Even if the book has a sea turtle theme, do I really need 5 pages on the proper care of injured sea turtles? No, I don’t think I do. Just tell me what I need to know to understand what’s going on later and shut up. I don’t need 5 pages when 3 sentences will do. I DO NOT CARE.
Has anyone seen the 90s movie SPEED? Of course you have because it’s awesome. Now this is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Firstly, nothing blew up in the first minute. But most importantly, the characters are going into an intense situation right away. Do you want to know why this is fine? Because there was a reason for this! Same bad guy for starters. The entire rest of the movie is intense for second. Plus it showed the kind of situations our man Keanu Reeves had to deal with on a regular basis. It had a point.
Another perfect example: In a book I recently read, there was a cliche teen party complete with spilled beer and vomiting, but hey guess what, it wasn’t for no reason, something that actually has something to do with the plot happened at this party!!
And my last example: Has anyone seen the movie DEEP BLUE SEA? It’s awesome. They have all this shark science going on and what not. Guess what? They don’t go into all this boring detail about sharks. They tell us only what we need to know to understand the complicated shark plot and then they WOW us.
It’s not that hard, people, it’s not hard. Stop doing crap for shock value. Stop going off on boring tangents. Stop dropping pop culture references to show me how “teenagery” your MC is. Are they a teenager or not? If they are, and you’re a good writer, you really shouldn’t have to work that hard. Abusing pop culture references is gross. Putting a party in your book just because “that’s what teens do” is gross. Attacking characters for no reason is gross. Talking about sea turtles for 5 pages just because you find them interesting is gross. STOP IT.