A Novel Disappointment: Dialogue, Context, and Mechanics.

I went to Borders with my friends last week and picked up a few books. One I grabbed without paying attention and the other I grabbed because I had the author’s debut novel and want to see the follow up. I started reading one this morning (prolonging my little game of Procrastination), but was thoroughly disappointed. Not with the plot or the characters because to be honest, I didn’t get that far into the story. The dialogue is what is annoying me. (I can’t bash the book, and wouldn’t want to, because it was published for a reason and at least five people had to have loved it before it hit print.)

However, this book showcased almost everything I hate in the technical aspects gone wrong:

– I hate when there’s dialogue with an end quote (…”), but no beginning quote. This pulls me out of the story because I was reading the sentence as the character’s thoughts only to discover it was a conversation. THEN, I have to go hunt down the missing quote.

– I hate repetitive dialogue.

“Priscilla Shay, why don’t you bring that bag over here. Priscilla Shay are you coming? Priscilla Shay, would you hurry up!”

There’s no need to repeat the first and last name of a character like that once they’re introduced. There’s also no need to repeat the character’s name once it’s clear who the character is speaking to.

“How did you find me?”

“Priscilla Shay, your secretary, Jane Smith, shared your schedule and that is how I was able to find you.”

Again, no need to state the character’s name. I’m also fairly certain the character knows the name of their secretary. I understand this is probably for the benefit of the reader who DOESN’T know the name of the secretary, but I don’t need to know the name of the secretary because the secretary isn’t an important character. (Did you like all my repetition there??) Thirdly, is it really necessary to repeat the question in the answer when the question is printed two centimeters above?

This next one is similar, but it still annoys me.

“Priscilla Shay, your father, Mr. Shay, the owner of the local bookstore…” (page 247 of a 300 page book)

This is repetitive. It’s an info dump. And it smacks of reader stupidity. The reader was introduced to the character’s father previously, and yet the author is compelled to repeat  – a THOROUGH – introduction, to the character (of all people) about their own father.

There were any instances of this throughout the novel, causing me to become bored and skip ahead, scanning the pages.

Is there anything in a novel you really dislike? I’m not telling you to name these novels, simply is there an element that would cause you to stop reading?


12 thoughts on “A Novel Disappointment: Dialogue, Context, and Mechanics.

  1. What always turns me off is when a story delves too much into “Telling”. I like to see things for themselves and not through info dump or imposed perspective (this supposedly applies for all readers in general). I still do it in my writing from time to time though, and it’s one thing i DEFINITELY have to change.

    And also, bad prose in general. I like it when words have rhythm, shape, and so forth – especially in dialogue- so insensitive writing can bug me too.

    I’m also bugged when characters conflict against their environment for the sake of just being “difficult”, without having real reasons or credibility to ground this conflict. eg. a historical character who managed to “modern”, and conflicts with his/her surroundings for the sake of breaking a mould – which is an “excuset” for creating conflict.

    • * eg. a historical character who is somehow “modern”, and conflicts with his/her surroundings for the sake of breaking his/her historical context – an “excuse” for creating conflict.

  2. That book sounds horrible (and funny).
    I read a book a few months ago that really irked me because the narrator was so hard on himself. He kept on stating things he thought, and then how stupid that was to think them.

    Books like this that are published make me feel like I have a chance too!

    • *sigh* I don’t think it was MEANT to be funny lol which makes it more horrible.

      But, that kind of writing might have more to do with the character’s voice. Although, I would dislike said character (and real people).

      *looks down* ^_^! That’s what Rika Ashton said too.

      Btw, welcome 🙂

  3. Wow, that just sounds like a mess. It sounds like the sort of thing you’d expect in a first draft, not in a published book.

    And the kind of things I hate reading in novels? Mainly where the author gets something tragically wrong, whether it be something that should be common sense, or is just scientifically wrong.

    I read in one book where the main character said something along the lines of “20:40 (ie, 24 hour time), oh that’s 4:40pm! *acts all smug and think she’s smart*” when, clearly the time was just wrong. How could the author and editors overlook something like that?!?! *facepalm*

    • I knew it was there..er..well, discovered it randomly a few months back. But, I didn’t know about the bigger/smaller thing.

      It just sits there…staring at me

  4. Seems like the author had a terrible editor. But on the other hand, if he/she could get published, my own chances are looking good as well. 🙂

    You seem really disappointed. 😦 I’m wondering what novel this is. (Can you PM me the title on FB? I don’t want you to get into trouble for posting it here.)

    -Rika Ashton

    • LOL, that’s what I was thinking..but she’s not that popular

      I am/was. I was looking forward to the plot because I never read one with that particular occupation.

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