I’ve been fortunate to work in two public libraries and volunteer in my children’s elementary school library. Honestly, being paid to be surrounded by books was better than awesome. At the last parent’s night at the high school, I wandered the aisles of the library totally engrossed. I seriously considered skipping the remaining scheduled activities to hide in the stacks. But then I’d have wanted to take home a dozen or more books which would have caused a huge issue as I didn’t have a high school library card!
I can peruse the shelves in a bookstore forever—just ask my husband who can finish his browsing in like ten minutes. He doesn’t mind so much if said bookstore has comfy seating where he catch a few zzz’s while waiting.
I’ve been known to slip away into the quietness of a church library when I find myself at a different church and will admit to checking out books without looking into the lending policies concerning non-attenders. As long as I return the books, does it really matter?
While my ideal job would involve a combination of reading many, many books of my choosing and writing like all day, every day, working in a library is a close second. When I took the first library job, some people wrinkled their noses, shook their heads and spewed words I can dare repeat. “Oh, that would be so boring!” And, “Why would you want to work in a library?” With great restraint, I refrained from slugging the naysayers. Just barely.
The more I delve into writing, the more I want to devour books, often reading two at a time, with a long to-be-read list that grows by the hour. What makes a story worthwhile and memorable for me? The one component that will always top my list is being able to “get lost” in the story and experience what the characters are feeling. I want to care deeply about them and be able to immerse myself in their world. Toss in a good measure of romance, lots of emotion and just enough what’s-gonna-happen-next, and I’m one happy reader.
I know what I like, and I know that which I am not fond. What tempts me to close a book and move on to the next one?
- Poor writing to the 10th power. I’m blessed or cursed—not sure which—with an internal red pen that tweaks, corrects and audibly groans as I read. While I can turn it down, I haven’t found a way to disable it as yet which makes reading very poor writing soooo tiring. I can put up with somewhat erratic punctuation but have little patience for poor grammar, excess passive tense, and lots of other things. I once discovered a single paragraph that spread across more than one page and covered a five year time period. Puh-leeze.
- Formulaic storylines. Way too predictable and incredibly boring for my liking. Real life is too unique and unpredictable and intense to be squished into a one-size-fits-all mold. I want to read about those lives.
- Characters who don’t know who they are. Or rather it’s the author who doesn’t know their character’s inner workings. If you hear me muttering, “He/she would NEVER do that!!”, you can assume I just finished reading a very unrealistic, not plausible, would-never-happen-in-a-million-years situation or response. I get that fiction is make-believe or pretend, but please, develop the characters enough that while I’m reading, it doesn’t feel like pretend.
- Plot lines that tie up neatly in two pages OR materialize out of nowhere. More muttering along the lines of, “Where did THAT come from???” Remember, I’m immersing myself in this story, and I don’t want to be left in the deep end, barely afloat, trying to figure out what just happened. Yeah, it’s make believe, but the author should make me believe it could happen.
What about you? What are your pet peeves about fiction?