What Spoils A Story For You?

Posted on 11th July, 2015

A couple of days ago, I was halfway through a contemporary novel by an author with a dozen or more bestsellers under her belt. Well-observed characters, bittersweet humour, a strong main plot and two warm-hearted sub-plots - it was a terrific book and I was engrossed in it until... 


Don't you hate it when a mistake throws you straight out of a book you are enjoying? In this case, it was a medical detail that was wrong. It was an understandable error in so far as the author wrote something that many people mistakenly believe - what they call on QI "general ignorance." 

But I knew it was wrong. 

I'm not suggesting it ruined the book for me, but it did jolt me out of the story and it caused a few minutes of annoyance. (I listened to the rest of the book and quickly went back to loving it.) But it made me think about what else I hate to find in a book. 

That's easy to answer. The thing I loathe the most is typos. They're irritating and intrusive. I once read a book that was not only littered with them, but also in one place missed out half a sentence. And no, it wasn't self-published. It was the work of one of the big publishers.  


How about you? What are your pet peeves in books? Is there anything that would annoy you so much you would give up on the book? 


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Comments (10)

I know what you mean, Jen. A little goes a long way where metaphor and simile are concerned. And, yes, if I read a book that was set in a place I knew well, and there were geographical mistakes, that would annoy me, too. Thanks for your comments, as always.
My previous comment seems to have disappeared so I'm re-posting!

Geographical inaccuracies (when contemporary stories are set in a real place) annoy me. Another pet peeve is when an author uses too many similes and metaphors. I just read a book where that was the case and almost didn't finish it. All things in moderation!
I know what you mean, Cathy. Any typo is annoying, but a couple in an entire book isn't off-putting. On the other hand, a book that is littered with them...
I can put up with a few typos if the plot is compelling but if a book is dragging then typos will probably be the proverbial straw that sends me off to find something else.
Good point, Nicola. I think the key word in your comment is "diplomacy." It's a question of how you approach the author. Lovely to hear from you again.
It is a shame when incorrect details are not picked up during the editing process. I try to look over these things but you could drop the author a line. I have done that too - with diplomacy - and the author was happy to be told. Have a great rest of the week, Susanna.
Oh, Linda, I'm with you all the way on this one. "Was/were sat" and "was/were stood" are fine in dialogue, but should never be used in the narrative. It's poor English - simple as that.

Thanks for sharing your "horror mistake."
Three books I've read recently - 1 self-published, 2 traditionally published - had my horror mistake. He was sat/he was stood. In the text, not dialogue. These are non-standard constructions and although many people use them all the time, and they're fine in dialogue if it fits the character, they have no business in a neutral text. Imo. :-)
I can understand why that typo in Raving About Rhys was so upsetting for you, Jessica. I too am a careful proofreader, but I know there have been times when a mistake has slipped through.

Your comment about the change of POV made me remember a book by a favourite author, who always writes her novels from several viewpoints. In this particular book, she had all her POV characters established and the plot was moving along beautifully. Then, into one character's scene, she suddenly added a few lines of the neighbour's POV - completely inappropriate!
You have me intrigued now, but I know you're far too professional to share whose work it was! Typos also bug me and I pride myself in being a pretty good proofreader so I was mortified when I read a review of my novella, Raving About Rhys, that said the reviewer nearly gave up on my book after finding the word 'brought' used instead of 'bought' on not one, not two, but three occasions! I was mortified! And this had been professionally proofread too yet had somehow slipped through the net. Thankfully my publisher also saw the comment and rectified it for the Kindle version.

One thing that spoils a story for me is a change in a point of view a significant way through a story. I'm reading a book at the moment where the first 40% is purely in a 1st person POV and suddenly jumps to someone else's. Then a bit later, someone else appears. It completely and utterly threw me. I'm fine with more than one POV but it was the change so far through the book with which I struggled. Like you, it hasn't stopped my enjoyment of the book but it's certainly jolted me. I'm sure it wouldn't phase other people, though. We all have our own foibles!

Jessica xx