On DNF books

Abandoned Book by swotai (via Flickr)
Abandoned Book by swotai (via Flickr)

Today I started reading the first book in a paranormal series that seems to have been generally well received. I got up to page 16 before I closed the book, knowing I’ll probably never read this series. Sixteen pages were enough to tell me that the author’s voice and style are just not going to do it for me.

For one thing, certain words bugged me as sounding out of place or not quite right. Like when a writer uses a word and you know what they want to express, but the actual word is just an approximation, or they’ve tried to turn a verb into a noun (or a noun into an adjective, etc.) but used the wrong morphology–or worse, turned it not into a noun but an adjective being used as a noun when a perfectly good noun already exists.

Another problem was the awkward management of POV (point of view). I’m not against POV changes within the same scene. I even tend to prefer them in general (although I concede there are certain types of stories that are strengthened by restricting POV). But when I notice and am jarred by the POV changes by page 16, I think it’s safe to say that it will only get worse as I read on.

I also didn’t get the way the characters talked. They were too wordy. In a confrontation, I think people tend to say fewer words more emphatically. For example, instead of saying to someone, “What you’re saying is inappropriate and may be considered offensive,” when they’re being a funny drunk, I might just go with, “Dude, shoosh. You’re getting embarrassing.”

The author tries to drop mysterious hints about the relationship between two characters. Rather than being curious, I was annoyed at how many times the author drops them without really saying anything new. Hints should be subtle. They shouldn’t be frustrating.

Finally, when the first scene ended on page 16 and the new scene introduced a different character, I just thought, Bugger this, I have better things to do.

So, I’m curious to know… When do you know that a book is going to end up DNF (Did Not Finish)? And what’s your record for the fewest number of pages read before you put a book down permanently?

Note: This post was originally published on October 14, 2007.

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Kat Mayo is a freelance writer, podcaster, Twitter tragic, and compulsive reader. Her reviews have appeared in Books+Publishing, and she was the winner of the 2014 RWA Romance Media Award. She believes in happy endings, and kills fairies with glee.

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