Monday, May 23, 2011

Discussion: DNF-ing Books

It's OVER between us!

Why I will DNF a book
(that's "Did Not Finish")

Ok, so you've gotten the book you DO want to read, and then...ugh, it sucks. I know some people feel the burning need to finish every book they start, but I don't have that hangup. I understand though, really. I used to be the same way. But a little while ago I looked at my TBR, did a few calculations of page numbers/reading speed and came to this depressing conclusion:

Even if I live to 100, I won't live long enough to read all the books I want to read

...and that's just the books I already know I want to read.

Sad, right? So I've become a ruthless DNF-er. Here are a few things about a book that will nine times out of ten make me DNF.

The main character is too stupid to live or so bad I don’t want her to live. 

Yes, poking that sleeping lion seems like a great idea!

I’m a character girl, and if the main character is just too stupid to live, then I’m going to have a problem here. Look, I know an author needs to create tension some way, but making tension by having your character do the dumbest things imaginable is not a good idea. Likewise, I shouldn’t be rooting for the main character to die because I hate her so much. I’ve actually DNF-ed books because I desperately wanted the main character to just die already, but of course I knew that was never going to happen.

Man-hating MC

No, thank you. I like guys.

Ok, I’m all for girl power, you know? I like an empowered female MC-- in fact, I prefer one over a wimpy do-nothing damsel. But man haters? No thank you. Once the Rah-Rah Sisterhood “Men are the scourge of the earth and it is only through the wizened guidance of the Sisterhood that the world continues to turn on its axis” soundtrack starts winding up I am so gone. I like men and I like a MC who likes men. Otherwise how am I supposed to get my swoony kissing scenes? 

Too easy kissing scenes

Epic staring contest!

Yeah, yeah, I know I just said I want smooching, but I don’t want it to be too easy. If there’s an instant attraction from page one, where’s the tension? Where’s the excitement? I’m a woman that needs some teasing. Give me scenes where they almost kiss, and then don’t. Give me some build up. Give me some conflict. That’s interesting. You know what’s not interesting? Reading about the two main characters longingly gazing into one another's eyes. That’s just boring. Hearing about his nutmeg colored eyes or bronze hair described fifty million times really doesn’t do it for me either. 

Sloooow pacing 

Patience is a virtue I don’t possess. I don’t want to sit there are read pages and pages of description that actually add very little to the plot. Stellar world building is just fine, but please don’t take four pages to describe a doily. I also don’t want to sit with a hand-wringing main character as they spend entire chapters vacillating between choices. If I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t care what the character decides just so long as they decide something, then there’s something seriously wrong. And please, please, please don’t take over 100 pages just to get to the hook in the jacket description!

The author kills a dog 

Gordon's got the right idea

(Ok, this is kind of a lie because I’ve actually finished a ton of books where a dog dies. But I hate it enough to put it on the list anyway).

Ugh, seriously, just don't do it. Please?

How about you? What features will make you DNF a book? Or are you the type to stick with it until the bitter end no matter what?

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  1. I love your "NO more dead dogs" reason. I recently read a book where the lovable dog was abused and then killed off. It's a total turn-off from the book and just makes me too sad :( All dogs deserve happily ever afters! lol

  2. The highlight of this post was definitely the pictures. They're awesome. As always, I agree with your reasons, but actually since I've become a book blogger, I've become a lot more intent on finishing books I don't like, rather than the other way around. The one that ALWAYS gets me is the too easy kissing scenes. I'm all about the slow burn.

    I agree about the dog thing...but, I get irritated when whether or not a person likes dogs is the gauge for the worth of the person. I'm a cat person and I didn't grow up around dogs, so it takes me a while to stop feeling nervous around them. Maybe it's just that I hate feeling like the MC would hate me at first sight because I wouldn't be able to react to her dog with the proper, instant enthusiasm. God, that's a whole nother rant, though.

  3. Amen sister! I too did the math a little while ago and have gotten much pickier with which books I actually finish. This list pretty much sums it up!

  4. If I choose to not finish a book it'll be very early on. If I don't like the writing style or characters immediately the book will be chucked to the bottom of the pile. If I'm a good way through, I'll keep going because I'll be annoyed if I just wasted all that time reading what I did LOL.

  5. I definitely give up on books unless they are for review. I agree with all your points especially slow pacing and stupid characters. Characters are definitely the most important thing for me. If I don't connect with a character then I know I am not going to like the book.

  6. I can't say i have certain things i don't like. I mostly stop the books that make me sleepy or i don't remember what i've read the previous day. It's a sign that's something is wrong.

    Only once i stopped reading cause of a character.

  7. Characters that I don't care about (or don't believe -- as in, they are unrealistic) along with pacing issues are my two biggest reasons for not finishing a book.

    Like you, I used to be relentless about finishing, but yeah, life is too short and there are too many other books out there -- good books, GREAT books -- to waste my time on the bad ones.

    I will say that one book I almost gave up on was THE BOOK THIEF, and I am soooooooo glad that my friend talked me into finishing it. It's a slow, thick book, but it is SO, SO worth it.

  8. I am reading one now where I dislike the MC but a few reviews have told me to stick with it. I don't know if I can. I wish I was more ruthless, like you. I try and give it 100 pages and if I still do not like it I can let it go easier!

  9. Fantastic, and so true! Great post.

    I'm thinking about the books that I DNF'ed in the past few months or so, and they all really have one thing in common: unlikable main character. Yeah, when the main character is a Mary Sue, or otherwise too stupid to live, it's hard to keep on going... especially when I have soooo many other books clamoring for my attention.

  10. This is such a great post! I will give up a book for all the reason you listed. Mostly if they characters don't grab me as well as the plot its a goner!

  11. Small-

    Love this post! There really aren't too many books that I DNF. One I won't go into details.

    If the plot is so slow that it's neither character nor plot driven. It just sits.

    Another is if it has issues that I can't handle.
    Dead dogs or dogs dying would do it for me.

    Grammar and spelling errors so bad that I have to correct them before I can figure out what the sentence is trying to say. Totally disrupts the flow of the story. I don't mean ARC's. I mean fully published books that have been sent to me for review. I expect that in an ARC.

    Sometimes I find it hard to finish or even start sequels that have taken too long to come out. More than a year and I have to read the previous book over again to remember what was going on. That's a waste of my time. I usually get the sequel then find I'm not as excited by it as I was originally once I've started it.

    That's all I can think of to add to your points above. There aren't many that I don't finish, but when I don't, they have to be really bad.


  12. I tend to stick with a book until the bitter end most of the time. However, slow books could force me to give up. Complex fantasy elements may bore me to tears, or just plain old put me to sleep. Stupid main characters give me the same feelings you've expressed above.

    Its difficult for me to give up on a book. I just keep hoping it will get better, I guess.

  13. My reasoning for DNFing a book is similar to yours, but a lot looser in definition.

    1) If the plot is to boring or unrealistic.

    This almost happened in the City of Bones Mortal Instruments series for me, but I loved the bickering between Jace and Clary too much to put it down. I'm a total sucker for intense love hate romances.

    2) If a love story I was so happy to read about was ruined by the vicious slaughter of Nazis.

    I know, that was a little specific, but this happened and I couldn't finish the book for a year after I was half way done. Every time I'd pick it up I was overcome with such fury I'd throw it down and walk away.

    3) Multiple crappy spelling errors that ruin the flow for me. And like Buried In Books said, in ARCs I expect this, not in mass paper backs that have been published for years.

    "Shut the shut up" Really? The intensity I was reading about totally just died.

    Excellent post Small! :D

    Kelsa P.

  14. "Patience is a virtue I don’t possess."

    LMAO! Oh, Smalls! You definitely have a talent for these discussion posts. Truly. As bored as I find myself while reading some books, I hate to DNF. I don't know what my hang up is, but your right, life is too short to continue with a story in which you wish the main character would just die already.

  15. You named ALL of mine!!

    It's spooky.

    I hate when pets suffer, any pet, even goldfish. I don't care DON'T MAKE THE PET SUFFER!!!!!!!!

    Slow pacing drives me nuts, and I'm ubber impatient, in ways that it's not even healthy! Man hating, Insta-love and TSTL are like the worst.

    And I completely agree with you! I used to be one of those that FINISHED or else. but that was making reading a chore and I don't like that. These days, I just rather drop a book after 50 pages and call it a day, than force myself when I know I'm just not going to like it.

  16. And PS! That bunny is super pretty!!!! :D

  17. I've come to the conclusion that I need a 50 Page Rule: if I'm not hooked by something after 50 pages, I am gone.

  18. I'm trying to be better about not torturing myself through books I'm not enjoying. It's hard, though, because I keep thinking that the redeeming value is just another page away if I can keep turning them. Sadly, this doesn't always happen.

    Cliches are a big one for me. If the story feels too trite and unoriginal, I have little patience for it. It can be a retread, but at least give me SOME interesting or unique elements. Relying on those too familiar characterizations is a great way to turn me off.

    Above all, though, the pacing thing is a killer. If I lose momentum, there is very little likelihood that I will want to pick up that book again.

  19. I finish the books that I start but I'm extra careful when choosing books. If I get even a hint of the things you mentioned, I will skip.

  20. Great post

    I stopped reading Monsters of Men because I wanted everyone to die and the "enemy" to live because they weren't so annoying.

    I so agree with books being slow. If if book is 500 pages then it better be fantastic otherwise either slice the book in half or EDIT some of it out of there.

  21. I DNF books when they just don't go anywhere, or if it's just WAY too confusing. If the author is throwing a ton of stuff at me, then I'm probably not going to stick with the book. I'll try to read a little bit longer, but if I'd rather be doing something than reading, then I know something's not right. Awesome discussion post!

  22. Jessica, Aw, that sounds horrible! I agree, all dogs do deserve happily ever afters! :)

    Rubita, Glad you liked the pictures :) Oh yes, the slow burn is where it’s at! Well, you may be a cat person, but at least you’re not into ganking poor puppies left and right :P You can add cats, or really any animal to my list of DO NOT KILL THEM! I don’t like any of it.

    Celesta, :P Right? There just isn’t enough time!

    Lisa, I’m so relieved when I realize early on that I’m not liking a book. I used to push through and just finish it if I’d read a decent chunk, but I try not to do that anymore. I figure, I’ve already wasted so much time, do I really want to waste more? But I do also feel like I should just finish it.

    Nic, I’ll even DNF review books. I know that probably doesn’t make authors/publishers too happy, but I’m not getting paid so why put myself through torture? Characters really can make or break a book.

    Yiota, Haha, yes, those are very good signs that I’m just not into it. That must have been a terrible character if it’s the only character you ever stopped reading a book for.

    We Heart YA, I’ve heard that about The Book Thief! I usually look at reviews if I’m considering DNF-ing a book. If everyone says it gets better, then sometimes I’ll try to stick with it. I agree about the unrealistic characters too. Big turn off.

    Jana, I always figure I can go back and pick up the book again at some point, so a DNF doesn’t mean forever. That makes it a little easier for me to put the book aside. I’m curious now as to which book you’re reading :)

    Madigan, Thank you! Yup, why waste time with someone you don’t like?

    Savannah, Thank you! Oh yeah, if the characters and the plot aren’t doing it for me, forget it!

  23. Heather, Oh yeah, grammar/spelling problems is a big no-go for me. That’s a big reason why I don’t accept self-published books. Many of them are great, but many of them really aren’t and I just can’t waste time reading poorly written books. I’m with you on the sequels too. If I can, I try to wait until all the books in the series are published. Sometimes though I’m too impatient to do that, and sometimes I don’t realize the book is a part of a series until after I’ve read it. I really like it when books in a series are published quickly like The River of Time series (March 2011, June 2011, September 2011). Then at least I can remember what happened!

    Gina, I know the feeling of hoping it will get better. Especially when I want the book to be better due to hype. Even though I DNF all the time, there are times when I’ll finish a book I’m not enjoying and it’s usually for this reason.

    Kelsa, I’m so curious now about what book was ruined by the vicious slaughter of Nazis! I hate it when a book makes me so angry. There are a few that just looking at their covers makes me mad. LOL! I agree about the spelling/grammar issues. It just pulls me right out of the book. I love the way you described it. :P

    Missie, Thanks! :D Now, it would be totally worth it if I was reading a book where I hated the MC so much I wanted her to die…and then she did! Of course I’ve never seen that happen, but it would totally make me love the book. :P

    Alex, LOL :D Exactly on everything you said! You’re so right. Reading shouldn’t be a chore. It’s for fun, so why torture ourselves? The bunny looks so soft. :)

    Bookish Hobbit, Sounds like a good rule to me! I wish authors and editors would keep that in mind when confronted with those super meandering beginnings. I just read a book where I would have cut the first 100 pages. Not good! But then the rest of the book was great…

    Logan, I keep hoping for that redeeming page to come too. That’s why I’ve finished some books that people have said they were surprised I didn’t DNF them. I’m ok with some clich├ęs, as long as they’re done ok enough. I mean, where would epic fantasy be without the strong sword-wielding Aragorn-ish hero? Yup, pacing is probably my biggest DNF reason. I’m too impatient.

  24. Alexis, That’s a good approach. I’m still way too easily sucked in by beautiful covers…even when the book smacks of all the things I hate.

    Sara, Thanks! LOL, yes when I want the villains to win then that’s a baaaad sign :P Totally agree on the page count. There’s no reason a 500 page book should have slow parts. If it does, then they just shouldn’t be there.

    T. B., Thank you! Totally agree with what you said about looking for something to do other than reading. When I find myself watching TV or, and this is a big warning sign—looking for laundry to wash and fold, then I KNOW I need to DNF the book already.

  25. My issue with books is when the dialogue is so stinted and painful to read, that I can't even finish the sentences. If it is not natural in real life, it won't sound any better in print! Great list though!

    Sorry I've been so un-commenty lately! I was reading your posts, but work...and then never went back and commented. Gah. I need to change my routine up!

  26. I pretty much agree word for word with what you said here. Especially the easy romance part. It just doesn't feel real to me when it's that simple. I guess it's because I don't really believe in love at first sight. I think they should have to work for it, lol.

    And I completely cracked up at the killing dogs part!

  27. LOL I loved this discussion post! Yeah the too-stupid-to-live MCs irritate me too, although not enough to DNF if there is other good stuff going on (like action-packed plot or whatever) to keep me reading, or if I see hope for them smartening up.

    Haha, your last point totally came out of the blue, I was all, "The author kills a dog...wait, WHAT?" I agree, though, having dogs die = not fun.

    You picked some fantastic pictures to go with this post — you always manage to get such funny ones!

    For me I'll sometimes DNF because of slow pacing/lack of plot, or if the MC is really despicable and I just plain don't *like* them (and there is no sign they will get any more relatable or redeem themselves). Sometimes also if I feel like the author is hitting the reader over the head with a certain message/moral they're trying to get across (and it's irritating enough to get in the way of my enjoyment of the story).

  28. Book Geek, Oh yes, I hate it when the dialogue is almost painful to read because it’s so awkward! Don’t worry about commenting frequency. I love it when you comment, but I know life gets in the way all too easily. My own commenting has been affected this week too.

    Natalie, I agree, easy romance just doesn’t feel real. I can’t get caught up in it and I find myself not really believing that it will last or is really that important. I sound so old :P

    Danya, Searching for just the right pictures is what usually takes the most time, so I'm glad you like them :) I agree about just not liking the MC. Ooh, and the moral/message. I don't mind a nice message, but I hate it when I'm getting beaten to death with it. Or if I disagree with it :P

  29. agreed about the easy romance. that is the worrrst. thanks for the list!

  30. Stupid MCs make me want to kill them and often stop me from reading/finishing a book. I also don't finish books if by like 50 pages in I still have absolutely no idea what is going on in the story.

  31. Lisa, it just makes the book so boring! I don’t know why it’s so popular lately.

    A Canadian Girl, LOL, yeah, if I want to kill the MC then that’s not a good sign! I agree too, if the plot is so convoluted then I’m not sticking with it. I want my reading to be fun.

  32. ROFLMAO This post just made me laugh so much I spat out some of my Curlywurly! Now I have jaw-ache LOL.

    You know, I don't think I've ever read a book which killed the dog - apart from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. But then the dog had to be killed for the story to exist. I suppose they could have made it a cat, but then I'd have been too sad to read it.

    Most of what you've already said would be the reasons why I stop reading a book. It's very rare though. Mostly I will just persevere, just to see if it gets better.

  33. LOL, your choice of images says it all. XD And I agree with your list! I used to finish books even if I KNOW nothing interesting will happen, but now I follow the 100 page rule. It either hooks me from then, or bye bye.

    Amazing post!

  34. LOL!
    I love your posts!!
    The pictures are great too =)
    I think for me a lot of grammar mistakes and a book which doesn't flow is annoying for me.
    And of course everything else you said =)

  35. Discussion
    The Slowest Bookworm, :D I’m happy to make you laugh! (I’m sorry about your jaw!) You are very lucky to have avoided those puppy killing books (or really any animal would bother me). At least it had a point in the book you read. I’ve seen it happen in so many books where the only point is shock value or the obligatory crying ending.

    Dazzling Mage, A 100 or 50 page rule seems to be a good and popular idea. I just DNF whenever I realize I’m not enjoying myself. Sometimes that’s at ten pages in and sometimes it’s 50 pages from the end. :P

    Books for Company, Thank you! :D Grammar mistakes or lack of flow will totally kill a book for me. I’m not too picky about writing style, but if it’s so bad that it gets my attention, then that’s baaad.

  36. GREAT list! I totally agree all of those things are really annoying in books, although I'm one of those crazy people who feels like they HAVE to finish a book that they start, so there's only a couple that I haven't finished. Funnily enough, one of those had a dog death in it (dog suicide, to be exact - so wrong)! I'm too scared to do the math on my TBR list, but now that you've put it into perspective, I might just start DNFing more books than I have in the past!

  37. Belle, A dog suicide?!?! oh my gosh, that’s so sad! The math really is depressing. I need to read faster!


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