Sunday, July 19, 2009

What I Don't Want to Read

In his book, "No Plot, No Problem", Chris Baty (Mr NaNoWriMo) starts by asking you to think about what you like to read, and what you don't like to read. Or should I say, read about. Not genres, but topics or subjects or plots or ideas. This is an interesting exercise, and I like to do it with a whole class. There are so many different opinions! I spent some time at the Crime writing festival in the bookshop, cruising along the shelves, and I've done the same in my public library. Reading blurbs, scanning the first page. We all do it. What turns you off a book? This is some of my list.

* Crime fiction that tries to be funny. Apart from Janet Evanovich (who is being very un-original these days), I simply don't like funny crime. Black humour or witty dry lines from characters is a whole different ball game. But quite a bit of the humorous crime or mystery books I've looked at are laboured and tacky.

* Anything that involves plane hijacking, terrorists, or spy stuff. Too much like reading the news at the moment, no matter how well researched it is.

* Any novel about serial murder that goes way overboard with the blood and guts and gore stuff, just for effect. I'm actually not that interested in the gore - I want to know how the person gets caught, and why.

* Most novels that change point of view and give the villain or serial murderer a voice in the book. Most times it doesn't add anything for me. If I cared at all, I'd want the detective to find it out for me, not be "told". I see this as a sneaky way of telling.

* Whiny YA novels where the main character seems to think her life sucks, and wants to tell me about it. Nup.

* Chick lit novels that are similarly whiny but for an older age group. Everyone raved about "I Don't Know How She Does It". I tried to read it and wondered why she bothered.

* Novels where the main character has a mental illness. They never seem credible to me. If the narrator really was mentally ill, how could they write something so cohesive? It somehow offends my sense of logic, and I lose empathy. No doubt others will say I am insensitive...

* Anything with vampires in it. This is entirely a personal response, created by having a series of students a few years ago who wrote the worst vampire novels in existence, and then I had to read them and give constructive feedback. It has scarred me for life.

* Literary novels about middle-class men whose lives have suddenly gone awry, often because they have been laid off or their wives have left them. So what? Suck it up. Don't write about it.

* Misery memoirs. Sorry, I know lots of people love them, and love the "winning through despite terrible ordeals" bit, but I can't bear them. They make me incredibly depressed. I couldn't even read "Angela's Ashes".

I'm sure there are lots more, but honestly, I usually give most things a go. Up to Page 50 or so. Before I chuck them back at the library. What do you hate?


Snail said...

All those plus:

Derivative fanstasy, esp. bad sword and sorcery. It doesn't have to be awful, so why is so much of it unbearable crap?

Fawning biographies. Fortunately, there are so many good biogs around, these are easy to avoid.

Novels that rely on MacGuyveresque solutions. (Although that doesn't become evident until well after 50 pages.) Works that include these also tend to go into loving detail about firearms, yet confuse automatic and semi-automatic weapons. Research, people. Research.

Whimsy in any genre.

Yes, I'm turning into a grumpy old woman!

Sherryl said...

No grumpier than me!
But I sometimes imagine editors who are sick to death of vampires and paranormal being forced to read hundreds of them in the slush pile. Adds angst, I'd say.

Lorraine said...

The world needs grumpy old women. And yes Snail ... research, people, research.