We all read for different reasons and some of us like variety in our reading. There are times when I want deep and meaningful prose that is intellectually stimulating and there are times when I want a fast, fun little story. I feel the reviews I write might also reflect what I was looking for when I sat down to read and whether or not my expectations were met.
I was looking on my iPad at the books I had to put down. A few of them I went back to many times trying to absorb the words and get into the story. I discovered something about these books that I felt I should share with you. I don’t know if you are reading or writing, but you are either the audience or you are trying to reach an audience.
I’m not going to touch the YA audience with this post. Writing for children, pre-teens, teens, young adults, new adults all carry a host of intricacies that I can’t touch on.
I feel that I am a reasonably intelligent adult, maybe above average in some areas (I can recite the Krebs cycle and tell you all about adenosine tri-phosphate, and Acid-Base balance is an easy topic for me).
The majority of times that I had to put a book down and not go back to it has to do with its complexity in word choice.
Here is a list of words from one such book (I stopped at about 25%.) This is supposed to be a contemporary fiction but so many words are archaic. I think the author was striving for artistically archaic, but having to stop and look up every third word made for terrible reading. These words were all used in the first three chapters.
Truculent…okay, I’m going to stop now. I think I made my point, but the list goes on and on.
The story, at least what I could make out about it, after pausing to look up the words, was very interesting. But really, the effort required???
I like to be intellectually stimulated, and some of these words I knew…just not in the context that they were used in the story. I like to learn new things. But this was NOT entertaining in the least. It was a bothersome chore.
In other words, I felt more common words could have told the story better. The complexity of this “contemporary” western fiction required far more brain energy than I was willing to spend.
Writers, don’t make it unnecessarily difficult for us! The fact that you can use a thesaurus or know well the meanings of these words does not impress me. Tell me your beautiful story in words that paint me pictures. Don’t pull me out of the flow of you story to look up and contemplate the meaning of your words.
On the flip side, the other books I set down and did not go back to were not overwritten, but underwritten. More often than not, they were dialogue with not much narrative prose. This is tricky when telling a story and is frequently why people complain about “show” and “tell”.
In trying to cut out exposition and back story, I think we sometimes go overboard and that leaves a very simple skeleton of a story with no substance.
I am going to admit some guilt here. With Alliances, I feel that some of the rationale for me being dissatisfied with it has to do with lack of narrative prose. I cut so much of the exposition. Character development is critical, and without some history, descriptions of behavior, setting the stage, a hint of some thought processes, a life before your event and the like, we aren’t going to get to know the characters very well or bond with them and the read is going to seem critically superficial.
Reaching your audience requires more than a plot. You can have the most beautiful, fascinating setting in the world, the best thought through plot ever designed, but if you complicate with your choice of words, or leave me wondering who, what, when, why and how…I’m going to put the book down.
These are just a couple of reasons I stopped reading. The two that jumped out at me. There were other reasons, but I won’t go into those now.
What makes you put down a book and never go back?
Have complexity or simplicity stopped you from finishing a story?
Have you ever returned a book after a few pages?