Hello friends! On today’s edition of Fiction Friday we are talking about perhaps a touchy subject for some in the reading / writing communities: DNFing.
Truthfully, I’m of the opinion that a person can (and should!) DNF for any reason they want, even if those reasons are petty or insignificant, or even not the fault of the author. In fact, given my druthers, I am one of those kinds of readers. That I have made a concerted effort to power through books that annoy me just in the name of finishing does not make the slog any less… sloggy.
So, today I thought I would talk a little bit about the various reasons why I, personally, choose to DNF a book. Your mileage may vary on many of these, and, as I said, I have done my best to get better about some of my petty reading habits, but… well, there it is.
Starting off with probably my most controversial take, the number one reason I DNF a book is that I didn’t realize when I picked it up that it’s young adult. Look, absolutely no shade to anyone who reads or writes for this age category. Any effort to entice teens to read more is a-okay in my book. But YA narratives are just not something I’m interested in. And because it is my penchant to pick up a book without even so much as glancing at the synopsis, I often accidentally get a chapter or two into a story before I realize why the writing feels so juvenile.
So, no, this one isn’t the writer’s fault at all. In fact it’s almost always mine, though sometimes marketing leads me astray. But, in all honesty, I probably wouldn’t have read the book even if I did know what I was getting to at the outset. Unless the premise is super bitchin, which, again, I usually don’t know because I try not to read synopses, I’ll be skipping YA. Sorry. Actually, no, not sorry. I’m an adult. I don’t have to apologize for not reading books about teenagers.
Also, if your book is technically adult but still reads as YA, I’m not going to finish it. The point is I want adult-sounding stories. The age of the protagonist isn’t usually at issue (His Dark Materials is an all time favorite, and Red Sister was the highest rated book I read last year), it’s the tone of the book.
Unnatural Sounding Dialogue
I just DNF’d a book yesterday at only 8% for this reason, because not a single conversation in 2.5 chapters sounded like they were being had by real people. For me, the tone of the dialogue needs to be congruent with the tone of the prose. If you’re using really beautiful, flowery language to describe the setting, the emotions of the characters, or the action, it’s going to completely throw me when the characters sound like they’re just having a conversation in a coffee shop (reminder: I read almost exclusively fantasy). This is a stylistic thing and totally subjective, but dialogue is usually my favorite part of a story so it’s easier to irritate me when the character voice doesn’t match up with the narrative voice.
The Main Character is Actively Stupid
This one I’ve gotten better about, usually because by the time it becomes a real issue I’ve already invested too much time into the book and I just want to get it over with. But, if the POV character making dumb decisions is the primary way of forwarding the plot along, then I’m sorry you’ve lost me. Like, I get it, it’s important that the plot happens because of the main character not to them, and the best way to make that happen and retain tension is if they make mistakes, but there is also a limit to how much a reader can tolerate. All things in moderation.
Also, do not tell me a character is smart in the text if you’re going to advance the plot via their completely avoidable mistakes.
The Sole Female Character Betrays Her Male Companions
I don’t care what the reason is. I don’t care if she comes back to the good side later. I don’t care if it’s all a ruse. If your cast is male-dominated and you make the choice that your only female representation is going to take the fall for doing something shitty, I will not be reading your book or probably any of your other books. Thankfully this isn’t too much of an issue with modern fantasy, but hoo boy in older titles…
I’m Just Not In the Mood For This Kind of Story
Now, to be fair, when something like this happens it’s usually more of a DNF for now kind of situation. Rarely will I cast aside an entire book just because I didn’t feel up to enjoying it at the moment. A big issue with me is, as someone with chronic depression and anxiety, I am not always in the right headspace to read something with darker themes. If the opening of a book is particularly heavy, I will often put it aside to return to when I am feeling up to it. Sometimes, I just want something light and fun, and sometimes I want something that gets really into the gritty detail. In fact, a lot of times when I DNF a book it is with the intention that I will get back to it later and try again. If I have to DNF it a second time, though, I won’t be giving it a third chance.
Time was that I would DNF for a lot more reasons than this, but I’ve gotten better about letting my nitpicks slide. Maybe sometime I’ll do a blog about fantasy pet peeves. Until next time friends!
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