There are very few things that pull me out of a story when I read. I’m terrible at history so inaccurate facts like corn in the wrong century … don’t bother me. A dutchess that can’t own land … psshaw, I wouldn’t know it couldn’t happen.
I was horrible at English (I know … don’t laugh.) so if the theme of a story isn’t strong and the symbolism doesn’t work … it’s all lost on me.
Very little makes me walk away from a story. I can put up with a whole heck of a lot in the technical aspects of writing if the story has pulled me in.
Since I’ve learned the “rules” of writing, I am a little particular about too many point of view shifts within the same scene. You know when the hero is thinking one thing and all of sudden the heroine is thinking something else? Technically that’s head-hopping and it’s generally frowned upon. (Unless of course your a NYT Bestseller then editors seem to be less picky about this point.) It does bother me. But if the story is really good, I’ll roll with it.
But the one thing I hear writers complain about the most is roaming body parts. I have to admit, I don’t see it. It doesn’t bother me. Oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, it often happens with hands and feet …
She threw her hand up between them.
His feet raced across the room.
But could also include …
He tossed his head.
Her jaw fell to the floor.
But the body parts I manage to magically move all the time … EYES!
Her eyes roamed his torso.
His eyes raked her face.
Their eyes flew across the room.
Okay, okay, I know I’m not supposed to do these things. You can’t throw a hand and feet can’t race. Heads can’t be tossed and jaws don’t fall all by themselves. And eyes, well eyes never come out of their sockets to roam, rake or fly. I know this. You know this. But sometimes when gazes are locked and two characters are staring at each other, how much description can you do without saying their eyes are doing something?
I’ve even heard one person laughing because the line read “She laid her head in his lap.” and the reader couldn’t get the image out her mind of the heroine removing her head and placing it in the hero’s lap. Really? I wouldn’t go there. It wouldn’t even cause a blip on my reading radar. I lay my head in Mr. Nina’s lap all the time when we’re snuggling.
The phenomenon of wandering body parts just isn’t something that would bother me in a story. I’m not saying it’s okay, so much as I’m saying it’s just not a big deal for me as a reader. But I know it’s a hot button for many readers.
So do wandering body parts bother you? Because you know me, I’m curious about stuff like that. And while we’re at it, anything else drive you absolutely nuts as a reader?
We all have those things that drive us absolutely nutty when we read. Something that pulls us from the story and if it gets bad enough … causes us to throw the book against the wall, never to finish it.
As a writer I think my threshhold has gotten more sensitive. Things I didn’t know were a problem when I was just a reader now drive the writer in me insane.
Constant head-hopping between characters in a scene is one of mine. It’s a rule … don’t do it very often. And if you must … once … and DO IT WELL. Make me be in the other character’s head before I realize it. Make me go back and see exactly where and how you skillfully moved me into the thoughts of another. But for goodness sake … please don’t keep flitting in and out of heads. (Of course only NYT best selling authors seem to get away with this … which is why it drives me MORE insane.)
Also, the choice of adverbs vs a good solid verb. I’ve mentioned this before. Used sparingly adverbs are AWESOME. Overused and they pull me from the story. My other nitpic is repeating a word (unconsciously) a couple times in sentences close together. Sometimes repetition is used as a tool … I get that. But when another word could have been used so the repetition didn’t occur, it makes me crazy. Words are an authors livelihood. Use them to your full advantage.
Those are things the author can control.
Then there are those things the author can’t control. Typos or bad editing. I can forgive a few typos. They happen. I’ve had them in my books. Even after 3 sets of edits (where I read EVERY word the first two passes) and a line editor … it happens. It’s easy to read a word you expect to be there when it’s actually missing. As an author you hope it won’t happen, but it does. I’m okay with a few, but when there are several in each chapter … I’ve been known to give up.
A friend of mine actually read and enjoyed a book that had at least one typo every two pages. She mentioned it, so it bugged her, but not enough to stop reading. No. It is so not going to happen with me. That’s too many. The book will sail through the air never to be read by me.
So I guess I was just wondering … what makes a book a wall banger for you?