Thursday, February 2, 2012

"I don't care."

Last night, after I finished page 244 of a 378-page novel, I came to a decision: I wouldn't finish this novel. Why not? Because the author had created a hero who left me apathetic. After 244 pages, I realized, "I don't care what happens next."

Please understand, I do enjoy reading. Finding a novel that grabs the imagination like Velcro and keeps your mind engaged all the way to "The End" is a sweet experience. Unfortunately, the author of the novel that I abandoned failed to do that, at least for me. Since I have far less time for pleasure reading than I'd like, there's simply no reason to waste pleasure-reading time on books that don't capture my imagination.

I pondered the cause of my apathy. Was there no action? Sure, there was action, including a a couple chapters with explosions, a chase scene, a kidnapping, the sinking of a boat, and other dangers. Was the grammar or other style flawed? No, the grammar, punctuation, and style were all fine. I never spotted a single error in mechanics.

The shortcoming was in the main character. Although the hero was handsome, intelligent, and brave, the author had given no reason for me to cheer for this person. I had no reason to care whether he survived or not. What were the hero's goals and aspirations in life? Beats me. What did he think about? Again, no clue. The reader simply followed this guy from one page to the next, watching him face problems and escape dangers, but never truly caring about him as a human being. On the screen of my mind, I "watched" his exploits, but the author gave no insight into the character's mind and soul.

I'm thankful for this experience. As a writer, I too must bring my characters to life in such a way that readers will care, will want to know whether they succeed or fail, whether they live or die. If we writers fail to accomplish that, then we will have no readers. Our fiction will become pointless.

Have you ever read (or at least started) a book that you purposely decided not to finish? If so, what did you find lacking?



  1. I used to finish everything I read, then reached a point where I will put a book down if it doesn't engage me. I like what you said about learning from this experience.

  2. I assume you're talking about fiction books, because non-fiction books are easier to skip around and put down. In my case, I had a spurt of starting several novels and not finishing them. One or two I might try again, but they just didn't hold me. (One of those two was written by a secular author and one of the characters gave a couple of cuss words, making me wonder if I should continue.)

    I will mention, though, some other things that affect reading. I just finished a novel where the POV wasn't good -- scenes where the reader sees things the POV character doesn't and others where there's head hopping. There also was a factual error: There was a reference to the Senator from the State of New England. (The author's not American, but still...)

    Have a blessed day.