So I'm reading a disappointing book at the moment. No worries, not by anyone I know... I just finished one and went to my pile for a 'quick read' and pulled out a mystery, as I am meant to be revising a mystery and so am trying to keep in mind what works and doesn't. Sadly, I've found a COUPLE 'doesn'ts' recently, so maybe I will include lessons from more than one book...
SHOW SHOW SHOW.
One of the most annoying things about the one I am reading is it all feels like summary. Even the DIALOG feels like summary. I'm not sure if it is the choice of narrator—the author SORT OF changes perspective, but is not terribly DEEP in any of them, so I'm not FEELING IT and so all of the PoVs end up feeling just descriptive.
DIALOG, TAGS, and NAME CALLING
The thing that is REALLY driving me crazy is the author keeps having the characters call each other by name instead of using dialog tags. This is something I did a lot in my first book and I felt very clever, but I have since read enough WATCHING for it that it comes across as melodramatic. Watch Supernatural some time—Dean and Sam use each other's names a lot and it is just so much silliness (but they look good enough to make me watch anyway—not so with no moving pictures). Once in a conversation or LESS is much more realistic. Granted, there are people who do this, but making it a tic for ONE character is a far cry from making all of them do it. MOST people DON'T do this.
TENSION Must be SPECIFIC
This book keeps using vague threats and expecting me to keep reading. I am irritated. Sadly, I am also a person who usually finishes what I start. Tension should be tangible. Maybe it is because they haven't attached me to the characters—maybe if I cared more this vague tension would feel more tense—there HAVE been attacks, but the characters aren't well drawn and the incidents don't have any sort of build or tease. It is more 'this person does something stupid and this bad thing happens'
Or if you can't, kill them. If you need a character to do something really stupid, give them a compelling reason (like cut off their other options, or increase the stakes so they think they have no choice, or MUCH earlier give them a compelling flaw that this situation fits so the reader thinks, well sure, it's stupid, but it is her only real flaw). I get SO ANNOYED with characters who seem set on their own destruction unless it is part of a complete profile that is on a danger course. You CANNOT convince me that an otherwise competent, mentally stable person is that dumb. Seriously.
Oh, for Pete's Sake, DUMP the DAMSELS in DISTRESS!!!
I like a hot guy as much as the next girl, but I am SO not interested in reading about a woman who needs to be saved all the time. Maybe ONCE. After she's saved a bunch of people herself. But habitual victims are NOT interesting.
So there. Read any bad books lately that have taught you what not to do?