Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish turn-offs

Top 10 TuesdayI had a lot of fun writing my list for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme, which is bookish turn-offs. As it turns out, there are lots of ways that books can piss me off! So here, in no particular order, are ten nine things that will make me want to chuck a book across the room (even though I probably wouldn’t do it!):

1. Irresistible protagonist — I know it’s a cheap shot to make fun of Twilight, but Bella Swan is really the perfect example of this. She goes on and on about how clumsy and awkward she is, yet every male character falls in love with her — not only Edward and Jacob, but a bunch of random (mortal) classmates too! Boo-hoo, Bella, everyone is in love with you, your life is so hard

2. The Best At Everything — This is closely related to #1, and it seems to be most common in fantasy novels. The main character is charming, quick-witted, magically talented, an expert swordsman, and stunningly good-looking…it’s so boring, and not relatable at all (at least not to me!). Same goes for characters with “flaws” that aren’t really flaws, like the girl whose clumsiness is somehow adorable and endearing (oh, look, I’m talking about Bella Swan again!).

3. Present tense — There’s nothing wrong with writing a novel in present tense, and it can certainly be done effectively. But personally, I just don’t like it; it distracts me from what’s actually going on in the book.

4. Accents and dialect — These are the worst! The most common example I’ve come across is a Scottish brogue, and for some reason, authors feel the need to spell out every unique pronunciation. “Aye” and “canna” and “dinna” make me grind my teeth with rage. Why can’t they just say that a character speaks with a Scottish accent? Do they think we’re going to forget or something? (Note: I am definitely not complaining about Scottish brogues in real life! In fact, I would like some more of that, please.)

5. Evil Templars! — I am Catholic, so I really don’t like reading books that portray the Catholic Church as a big bad villain. I don’t mind the occasional (fictional) devious priest or wayward nun, but it’s just no fun to read books that demonize my entire religion. This is definitely a very personal gripe, so your mileage may vary…but this is why I don’t read Dan Brown. (Well, that, plus I hear he’s a terrible writer.)

6. Angels and demons — This is closely related to #5. Since I actually have religious beliefs involving angels and demons, I get very annoyed by popular fictional depictions of them. Especially sexy depictions of them. That said, I still totally plan to read Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett!

7. Withholding crucial information — I think there’s a worrying trend in contemporary literature to make books more like movies. You know how, in certain movies, there’s a great twist in the third act that makes you gasp, “OMG, how cool!”? (Think the ending of “The Sixth Sense.”) That’s fine in a 2-hour movie (although I think it’s an overused gimmick even there). But it’s really problematic when authors use it in a 500-page novel. I don’t want to be plugging away at a book, only to have the rug pulled out from under me in the last 30 pages (*cough cough* Atonement *cough*). Withholding information just for dramatic effect is cheating, and I don’t like it. Unless the twist is damn good…then all is forgiven.

8. It was all a dream — Okay, technically this is one of those plot twists I just mentioned in #7. But it gets its own entry because of how much I really, really hate it.  I’m referring not only to an ending that literally says “it was all a dream,” but also to any event that makes everything that came before it pointless. If an author spends an entire book crafting a high-stakes plot and making me care about the characters, (s)he shouldn’t suddenly invalidate all that development! I like when a character’s actions have consequences that aren’t magically erased by “it was all a dream” hand-waving.

9. When publishers are liars — Ever pick up a book, read the cover blurb, think “Wow, that sounds really interesting”…then read it, only to discover that the book is actually about something totally different? I hate that so, so much. I feel like we should be able to sue publishers for this. Isn’t it a form of fraud, after all?

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11 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish turn-offs

  1. Jenny @ Reading the End says:

    Oh man. I cannot abide with #2 anymore. Maybe when I was younger it didn’t bother me so much, but yeah, I will put a book right down when a character shows signs of being the absolute most competent at everything s/he tries. Gag.

    The evil Catholics thing — yeah, I think I have burnout on that. It’s not that I’m unwilling to read anything that casts my religion in a bad light, because definitely there are bad things to be said about the Church, but I get tired of seeing the same old Cardinal Richelieu types trotted out again and again because someone needed a fanatic villain. It’s been done so many times and it feels lazy. I loved A Canticle for Leibowitz because all the Catholic priests in that were good people. (Also for other reasons.)

  2. Sandy @ Somewhere Only We Know says:

    Oh I love present tense! And I read it so rarely! Almost everything is past tense that I read. I completely agree about accents and dialect though! HATE that! And I completely agree…though I’m not catholic, I don’t enjoy reading books that are anti-Christian in general. And I definitely know exactly what you mean with number 9! Great list!

    TTT
    Sandy @ Somewhere Only We Know

    • Christina says:

      Haha, I think you like present tense for the same reason I don’t — it’s so rarely used. I find it distracting because I don’t expect it, since past tense is the norm. But I do agree that present tense can be done really well…I just personally don’t prefer it.

  3. Lisa says:

    That’s a great list – and you’ve got me thinking of what would be on mine. I really struggle with dialect, because deciphering it can take me right out of the story. And I particularly despise what I call “Gone with the Wind” dialect for any and all African American characters (though I recognize older books were written in less sensitive times).

    • Christina says:

      Ooh, totally agree on the Gone with the Wind dialect. Huck Finn makes me cringe too, although in that case Twain was satirizing racism rather than endorsing it. It’s true that these books are a product of their time, but that dialect is certainly jarring on 21st-century ears!

  4. Rebecca says:

    I also hate it when the summaries are misleading, and when angels or demons are written about. I’m not Catholic, but I am religious, and I don’t believe in making these beings sexy or anything along those lines. So I completely avoid those books altogether. Nice list!

  5. Sarah Says Read says:

    #1 and #2 can be SO annoying. I like my characters with a few flaws, thankyouverymuch.

    Accents can be frustrating for me when they’re not well done, but I think Diana Gabaldon writes the Scottish accent pretty well. I don’t even notice it after a while 🙂

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