Top Ten Tuesday

Greatest Turn-offs in Books

This is a really good topic for a weekly meme, if I may say so. The hosts – Broke and Bookish – have found something I can really talk about. This makes me sound like a total kill-joy, doesn’t it? But I do have a very firm list of things that annoy or downright turn me away from a book. So here’s the ‘top’ ten:

1 – Stupid hero/heroine

Self-explanatory, really.  I can’t abide idiots, especially whining ones. It’s ok if the character is very young or thrown into a situation beyond their experience and skill but when they behave like immature brats I just can’t care about them. Wilful ignorance is an even worse sin.

2 – Abusive partners of the hero/heroine

This is just something I can’t understand and yet it’s a common trope in romances. WHY? I don’t believe I’ll ever be comfortable reading about abuse and characters mistaking it for some kind of love. No, just no. (My rant about ‘Consequences’ on GR is proof enough.)

3 – Mary Sue/Gary Stu characters

I’ve read several books (and fanfiction, too – my guilty pleasure) where I encountered the epitome of Gary Stu and Mary Sue characters. It makes for a very predictable and boring read, not to mention annoying the hell out of readers. Who can love a character that is perfect in every way, a super fighter, the embodiment of beauty, super smart, the love interest of every person they come across… ?

4 – Gross historical inaccuracies

I can get behind fantasy interpretations of certain eras and places (steam-punk and dystopias, for example), but when a book tries to sell me some poorly researched setting in Victorian era and clearly breaks all the social norms and rules of the time I raise my eyebrows. Either make it clear the character is wilfully breaking/flaunting the rules or make the setting a more contemporary one.

5 – Bizarre dream sequences/hallucinations

If the author suddenly surprises me with a lengthy description of hero’s bizarre dream/hallucination/fantasy that has little or no meaning for the plot except to give him an opportunity to experiment a little, I get annoyed. If it happens a second time, I close the book.


6 – Fantastical creatures galore!

This one’s kind of odd turn-off for a fantasy and supernatural genre lover, but it’s true. I don’t like books where too many fantastical creatures are thrown together. So a book with vampires, werewolves, fairies, dwarfs, shifters, demons, angels, dragons and an assortment of half-breed people equals a headache to me. An author should stick to one or two creatures, at least in the first few books. A good example of masterly juggling several creatures is the Mercy Thompson series.

7 – Gratuitous violence, torture, gore

I’m not into horror and while I enjoy a good detective or crime novel from time to time, I don’t like too gross cases. Even if the story is about war, a psychopath or so, I can still read it but not when the level of violence gets over the top for me. When poor characters are tormented and mutilated just for thrills and a shock factor, I’m really angry (instant healing or magic powers notwithstanding). The same applies to animal cruelty.

8 – Very limited vocabulary

The endless regurgitation of the same adjectives, descriptions and verbs just doesn’t do it for me. Open a dictionary, use synonyms, be creative! And don’t give me the same old ‘blue eyes, dimples’ descriptions. I’d like to believe there are other things one notices on another person. I know I’ve got a curious fixation with mouths and teeth. It’s where I look when talking to another person in a crowd or a loud environment, you know. And please, don’t use ‘she said’ at the end of every line in a dialogue. If it’s written well, the readers will know who just spoke and what tone they used.

9 – Insta-love

Oh, my pet peeve, I should say. It just doesn’t float with me this instant love business YA books (and others) are guilty of. I believe that romance and true love builds over time. The first spark is only attraction, lust and projection. When you truly, deeply understand a person you can say you love them. Give me a slow building romance any time of the day.

10 – Horrible/unpronounceable names

Have you ever read a book with names that you had no idea how to pronounce? Or names that sounded all the same and you ended up confusing one character for another? It completely sucks out the fun in reading a book. I have trouble remembering names, so I’m especially sensitive about the possible confusions arising from too many fantastical or archaic spellings. Reading a book about Africa or Asia can be quite an adventure, but I understand why the names sound strange to my ears. What I can’t abide is a profusion of apostrophes and names that read more like a random set of keystrokes; then I give up.


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