Dec 21 2011 8:18am

Reading Dealbreakers, Part 2: What’s Yours?

Edvard Munch’s The Scream

A week ago, we wanted to know Reading Dealbreakers: What’s Yours?, and while we asked for dealbreakers that were external to the book, some things are so aggravating they have to be shared, so many of our commenters told us what bothered them within the pages.

So we thought we’d list some of those comments here, and ask you: What plot device/writing style/character type/setting is such a non-starter that you won’t even give the book a try? Or will throw it against the wall if you discover it?

Some of our commenters listed these:

I don’t like when older characters from a series dominate the current storylines.

I can’t stand if one partner cheats on the other in a book.

I have a hard time reading any book where the heroine is described as feisty, zany or mad-cap.

Stupid names. I won’t read JR Ward because having to wade through all those phonetically-spelled names would drive me bonkers. Ditto historicals with clearly anachronistic names; if you can’t get the names right you clearly have not done your research.

Stupid or non-coping main characters. If she’s stuck in a huge gloomy underpopulated country house and she honestly believes someone is trying to kill her, I want her to at least try to swipe a steak knife during dinner.

Constant painful suspense for its own sake.

Putting all the revelations and explanations into the last chapter.

I can stand it when a writer bends history or economics or physics, but if they break it, I’m out of there.

If a character says something while falling through the air and lands without serious injury, they get three words absolute max. Four to five words, they’re going to break something unless they’re falling into deep water....Furthermore, even pedants don’t speak in complete sentences when they’re warning someone about a poisonous snake, a falling rock, or an armed assailant who’s come out of nowhere.

I’m generally bothered by bad exposition. Ditto, endless descriptions and reiterations of the characters’ internal emotional states.

Equally bad: books where the omniscient narrator interrupts every conversation between Farley and Genevieve — and they have a lot of conversations — to remind us that Farley is so insecure that he has trouble believing anyone could love him, while Genevieve is laboring under the mistaken belief that Farley is in love with her second cousin Earlene. Since we have been reminded of this repeatedly over the course of the book, and slogged through a half-dozen scenes that exist only to illustrate the point, it seems downright unkind of the author to assume we need to hear it again. If this were a Warner cartoon, one of the characters would by now have produced a gun and shot the narrator, just to shut them up.

Virgin hero in a modern book

The “gay for you” trope

A full figured heroine that only thinks about her weight

Polyamory with brothers (I’ve only read a few that actually didn’t skeeve me out)

LOVE BDSM books but why oh why does everyone have a club?

Cussing in a story for no other reason than to swear.

Ok...if its a YA romance and the characters have come to a point where they decide to sleep together, well, seriously, you don’t have to leave a gap & frustrate the readers. Chances are, if the reader is old enough to read & grasps the emotional concepts that brought the characters to that point, chances are they’ll be okay reading it. However, write it classy, don’t make it nasty, don’t drop those “C” words to describe things. If the author thinks the characters were ready, then they should be able to write it, too.

Predictability. Hate it. I love twists, turns, plays on assumptions.

Telling, not showing. Drives me nuts.
Misogyny/racism/etc., and pretending to be so sympathetic to a cause by including the most obnoxiously tokenized gay and other minority characters.

Forced humor on every line. We get it! You think you’re hilarious! Bah. You’re not. At least not to everyone. Tone it down!
Saying ’I love you’ after three days.
TSTL main characters!

Obvious stuff, like the bad guy is totally bad guy looking

I hate previous marriages for my heroines...

So—what are your dealbreakers?

Thanks to Dolly Sickles, RebeLovesBooks, bungluna, EC Spurlock, tnh, EB_Rai, iluvvv. J_L. mjhammitt, and ephramny for their thoughts!


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Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
I'm trying to think of a dealbreaker, and I thought I didn't have any (except for poor or bad writing), but then I realized why I don't read a lot of romantic suspense: I can't get past when characters choose to have sex when they're in the middle of danger. What? Put it back in your pants, there are bad guys after you! That bugs me.
3. JDGardner
Sweeping declarations of love or wild "love" charged sex scenes between non-paranormal protagonists during the first chapter or, hell, during the first few pages of a book. Especially if this is our first introduction of the main characters. I mean, unless you are werewolves who happen to be mated or otherwise predestined to be with one another, it is wholly unbelievable and grates on my nerves (and even then it's ridiculous unless done right). Basically you are just trying to throw sex in as fast as possible and I just think that sets a bad precedent for the rest of the novel. There are only a couple of authors who get it right, at least to me. Dana Marie Bell can do it very well as does J.R. Ward in Wrath and Beth's "first" time meeting. Those are about it.
4. EmD
Cheating. Will not read a book if there is cheating. It's an absolute dealbreaker for me.
5. CdnMrs
I'm getting sick of the "giant misunderstanding" as a plot point. Find some other way to build tension and make conflict. I hate when characters don't speak their age. If you're 25, heck if you're 40, there's no way you're using the word "shall" all the time. I guess bad or characteristically inappropriate dialougue in general will ruin a story for me.
6. TElmgren
I think most of mine have already been covered. The TSTL Heroine, bad exposition is a BIG one, putting all the revelations and explanations into the last chapter is equally annoying as well as the endless reiterations of the character’s internal emotional state. I despise when the dialog is constantly interrupted with long inner monologues or narration so you have to go back to the last page where the dialog left off because you don’t remember where you are in their conversation. Virgin hero’s Saying I love you after three days Full figured women who constantly whine about their weight drive me batty. I’m a full figured woman, and I am perpetually on a diet, but these women are possibly more annoying to me than the TSTL heroines! Books where all of the characters are so stereotyped that they become caricatures… unless the book is meant to be a farce. The biggest one is when an author clearly thinks all of her readers are idiots and repeatedly tells us what is going on, when it’s already clearly been shown to us. Ugh! I think I hate that the most. Instant wallbanger material!
7. Amy111
Werewolves, vamps, shapeshifters, anything paranormal is not for me.

Bitchy, ball busting heroines are an instant close the book. Weak or overly-feminized heroes are a close the book for me. I can't stand when male dialogue sounds so obviously like it was written by and for a woman. I want realism in how men talk and think.

Another dealbreaker is an author's voice. If the writing is second grade level, artless and basic, I can't read. I don't care how good the plot and characters are...if the voice isn't compelling and the author doesn't sound like she's put at least some effort into learning the actual craft of creating exposition and dialogue, I can't read that author. There are some really huge selling authors I can't read for that reason--and I've tried.
8. Janga
Myretta must be my reading twin. I'm a no-vampires reader too.

I also HATE generic sex scenes, the ones that do nothing to reveal character, change the relationship, etc.. They give me the feeling that with appropriate name changes the scene could be plugged into another book.
Carmen Pinzon
9. bungluna
I hate meddling secondary characters, especialy the precious senior brigade.
Larisa LaBrant
10. MsGodiva1
Heroines being raped and tortured during the book, not as a past incident (ie abusive husband). Completely ruined the wrap up of Feehan's Drake sisters series. Altogether stopped reading her books. Threatened? ok. Fight scene, sure. Injured, hard to do suspense or paranormal romance/adventure without it.

Hero being a complete jerk until the last chapter epiphany or he almost dies. If my friend said she was completely in love with a guy like that I'd be deeply worried.

BDSM & polyamorous isn't my cuppa either.
11. chris booklover
By and large I will read any well-written love story, although certain genres (historical romance, romantic suspense) appeal to me more than others (paranormal). I have discovered, however, that certain tropes are EXTREMELY unlikely to work for me, either because they indicate bad writing or because they show that the novel is a hero-in-pursuit fantasy rather than a genuine love story. As such, I tend to avoid:

Love triangles, especially those involving siblings.
Characters who are commitment-phobic for no good reason.
Jealous, possessive, out of control heroes. Heroines with these qualities are no more attractive but are extremely rare.
Grovel scenes.
12. Yveva
Rapey scenes played off as romantic are a big deal breaker.

Not a dealbreaker, but enough to keep me from recommending a book, are conflicts that really aren't conflicts at all or that could have been easily solved.
Alie V
13. ophelial
If I read the back blurb and see it's a paranormal it goes back down immediately. They just don't interest me in romances. Same goes for fantasy or too far in the future romances.
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