I love a good book. I love losing myself in a mythical world, becoming the heroine in an adventure, being scared out of my wits, or remembering the whole falling-in-love process.
What I don't love is when my fictional-world-immersion is brought to a screeching halt by bad writing, whichever form that bad writing takes. This can happen in a variety of ways.
- The obvious: mispeelings, badly grammer, and punct'uation issues. Ugh. That even hurt to type. I'll bet it hurt to read, too. "Then" and "than" are not interchangeable. People don't "shutter," nor do they keep their eyes "pealed" for danger. Your girlfriend's "bear" arms are not sexy, trust me. I see it once? I hope it's a typo. More than once and I'm closing the book.
- Characters who don't stay true to their personalities. A tough-as-nails FBI agent melts into a puddle of goo when her apartment is broken into. A young girl gets pregnant, has the baby and raises it alone while putting herself through medical school, and yet falls right back into the arms of the deadbeat boyfriend as soon as he comes back to town, years later, even though he's still a jerk. A tough guy suddenly can't make a decision, eat, sleep, or work because a hot girl came into his life for one night and disappeared. A snotty teen who is suddenly comfortable with the geek gang at school because . . . oh, I don't know why. The list goes on. People change, but they don't change instantly and it should actually look like a struggle if they're trying.
- Impossible scenarios. Two people "in love" have a misunderstanding and somehow, one of them manages to move out of town without the other knowing it—in a small town where everyone knows everyone else's business (and everyone assumes, of course, that Person A knew about Person B moving away SIX MONTHS AGO). Two people hate each other for decades but get locked in a building of some type overnight—implausible enough—and suddenly realize they love each other deeply after eight hours of conversation.
- Emotionally abusive/stalker behavior portrayed as intense love. Sorry folks. Not love. Not even close to love. This is even worse when it's in YA novels and intense jealousy and controlling behavior are played off as protectiveness. Don't teach young girls this is what to look for in a relationship.
- Finding "true love forever" . . . at age eleven. When characters fall in love only to have circumstances separate them, and then meet up after twenty years apart, I expect those characters to be older than thirty. I can't count how many NA books I've read that employ this plot line.
- Too much street slang. It's dialogue. It's "real." It's gritty. I get it, I do. But if the dialogue is so slang-y that I can barely decipher it, I'm quitting. I want to read, not struggle with a foreign language. What's the point of being so "real" that nobody knows what the heck you're talking about?
- No research done by the author. If you're writing about high school kids, know that the football captain doesn't have practice in April. iPhones don't "snap" shut. People in Victorian times didn't use phrases like, "Oh, crap." Someone who is failing every class with a month of school remaining is not likely to graduate on time. Children in medieval times didn't make parchment paper airplanes during playtime. Well . . . maybe DaVinci did, but that's why he was a Renaissance man and not stuck in the Middle Ages.
I've seen all these things and more (in published books), and they've jarred me out of a book as effectively as my alarm clock drags me from sleep. The only way to survive is to follow the drill:
DROP the book.
ROLL your eyes and move along.