Ward Six writer J. Robert Lennon recently posted a list of what makes fiction bad (in his opinion) and invited others to share their complaints. I tried coming up with my own list of complaints, but could only think of one:
Fiction that puts artiface or style over the story. There’s a book I started reading recently that had an unusual narrator. That part didn’t bother me, but this narrator was frequently interrupted by vague poetic observations that were usually written in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. These observations were so intrusive, they kept pulling me out of the world of the story and reminding me that the author was trying something very clever. I hate that. I like to be lost in a story. I like to forget that a novel even has an author, so if the story is mainly a conduit for the style (instead of vice versa) it’s going to leave me cold.
Anyway, I encourage both readers and writers to check out the original list and the discussion that follows. I think we can all benefit from being able to talk about why we don’t like a novel or story instead of simply saying that we didn’t like it.