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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Is Your Book a Turn-Off?


Is Your Book a Turn-Off?
How much detail is too much detail in books? Having struggled to the end of a book just recently, it set me to wondering how many other people are put off by an author trying to show off just how much research they've done for their story. We also all hear about 'show not tell' and yet do you ever get carried away when doing this too maybe? It is very tempting to waffle on just to boost the amount of words written, but is what you're doing a total turn off to the reader?

Our education definitely doesn't stop when we leave school as much of what we learn in life comes from reading books. I read extensively as do many people I know and it is due to this I have a little knowledge on a wide range of subjects. Book snobs will pretend this isn't true of novels and  everyday books, but it is. If an author has put their time into doing decent research about background detail to certain storyline's it's amazing what we as readers can learn. The thing is, when is that detail too much? When it intrudes on the story and makes the reader forget what they were reading about before the 'lesson' started. There is nothing worse than starting a book, enjoying it then suddenly realising you haven't got a clue what the book's about any more. The reason for this is because what started as a little bit of detail on one page or two grew into half a chapter losing the storyline in the process making you have to go right back to find out what was going on. It becomes a lesson rather than a story; like being in a lecture room being taught about a new subject you really aren't interested in.

Is it done to show off how much background checking the author has done, to show-off how knowledgeable they are on the subject or is it to pump up the book and have enough words to make it a decent sized novel? I have no idea, but each time I see a book written in that way it turns me right off reading it and is likely to stop me buying anything else by that same author in the future. Even worse, anyone reading a book like this is likely to tell everyone else how boring they found it too.
Take a look at your latest book. Are you guilty of doing this anywhere? Maybe too much detail about a person or over heavy description of a setting or situation. It could be just plain showing off how much you know on a particular subject that should have been only touched on in the storyline. Whatever book you're writing, be it fiction or non-fiction - don't prattle on. You aren't writing a text book or teaching manual you're writing a book that is meant to entertain and grip the reader. Give detail, but don't let it overrun to half a chapter or more in the process. Allow enough information to educate about the subject without going into it too deeply.

It would be interesting to hear thoughts from others about this. Have you started to read books that you've been turned off by for the same reason? If so, let us know and tell us what your other turn-off's are about books you've read. If that isn't what turns you off, what does? What will make you put a book down that you've started to read and give up on it - apart from the obvious of not being well written or edited? Let us hear your thoughts and pet hates.

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