Three things… that make your book suck

I was twelve the first time I threw a book across the room. Boromir died. I was pissed. And crying. And pissed. Boromir was the only normal person in the fellowship of the ring- and therefore happened to be the character I identified with most. After I got over the shock, I went right back to The Two Towers, but the book-hurling instinct was born.


Now, if you’re going to have a reader throw your book across the room, it had better be from heartbreak. That’s the only decent reason. Now that I’m old and jaded, I no longer expect my fictitious fantasy friends to come out of their stories unscathed at the end. And I don’t pitch books I hate- too much effort. These days, I’m much more likely to set down a disappointing paperback with a harumph and never look at it again. And here are the three things I harumph at most.

1. Prologues  forever. I have a terrible habit of reading prologues. Boring, useless, shitteous prologues. Because I am a sucker who still somehow believes that there may be a morsel of knowledge squirreled away in the prologue that I might need to know to enjoy the rest of the book.


scrolling yellow font = automatic eyeball glaze

The only thing worse than a book with a fat prologue is a book that dumps prologue-like chunks of exposition all over the plot. Now, all rules can be broken, but you really have to be a master of the craft to get away with that. And you aren’t. So sorry.

(Now, I know there is a certain type of reader that lives for the worldbuilding, the lore, the mythology, the history, and so on. And that’s why we have websites now, that you can stuff full of extras to delight the people who aren’t reading for the characters or the plot. All six of them.)

2. Women with no agency. There is a longstanding tradition of lame, weak, pathetic, imbecile victims female characters in genre fiction. So what I’m saying is, it’s old. It’s been done. Stop now.

Related: Hero Rapists. Boring, trite, awful. Attention, gentlemen scribes: many more women are raped or sexually assaulted than you are aware of. Yes, the 1 in 4 statistic gets bandied about, but if you can get the women in your life to open up and talk to you, you’ll find the number of women who’ve been assaulted if not outright raped is much, much higher. Yes YOUR wife/girlfriend/sister/mom/bestie/cousin/coworker/neighbor has been sexually assaulted. And some of us will never admit it to anyone, because we know what admitting it will get us (jack squat, potential consolation prize of “whore” label). So does having a hero who is a rapist still seem clever or cutting-edge?

(Please note, I’m not saying don’t write about rape, or rapists, or rape survivors, I’m saying don’t expect me to think your protagonist is EDGY and COOL in a DARKSIDED way if he rapes somebody. He’s not, he’s lamer than a scorpion in your underpants.)

3. Logic holes. Whenever I see one of these things, I always feel bad for the writer, because logic holes can be hard to see from the inside.


Still, nothing destroys a good read like a nasty logic hole. I had one ruin the end of an otherwise very enjoyable YA trilogy (no names, gonna protect the guilty here). Now, judging by ye olde internets, I’m not the only person who found the end of the last book unsatisfying. However, as a grizzled vet with millions of books under my belt, I knew that the star-crossed lovers were not going to be together. I was all ready to cry buckets over it. Unfortunately, the reason the lovers did not end up together was because the hero sacrificed himself … pointlessly. The rules of magic set up earlier in the series were either forgotten or discarded. Not one of the characters recognized the utter nonsense of the hero’s death, which means the author didn’t either. (It also lead me to believe that the author had not read very much fantasy in his/her life, which, unfortunately, was what he/she was writing.)

I really do think that the hordes of readers who were bent out of shape about the tragic ending of the trilogy would have been more accepting- if the logic for it was strong. They didn’t pick up on the nonsense of it because they aren’t archnerds like me who’ve spent the last 25 years reading and analyzing everything they could get their hands on. But they still sensed it, and it still marred their enjoyment of the story.

As for me, number of tears cried over star-crossed lovers? Zero.

So writers, please, look over your work for these flaws with a red pen on standby. This reader will thank you for it.