Does this sound familiar? You’re deep in a book, tuning out all of the sounds around you – kids, TV, Starbucks chatter – and all of the sudden, riiiip (that’s the sound of the needle bringing the record to a halt): you’re pulled out of your happy reading place. The cause could be a misplaced apostrophe, a typo, a poorly constructed sentence that forces you to re-read once, maybe even twice. While grammar errors are the most annoying, in my opinion, there are other things that can pull me out of a book:
- Oft-repeated words or phrases
- Odd phrases such as “she pressed her lips together” or “he took a long pull on his beer.”
- Oft-repeated odd phrases. A book I read recently had every other character pressing their lips together. Do people really do this? In another book, the characters were staring at each others lips when they wanted to kiss them.
- Product placement
I think that after grammar errors, it’s the last one that bothers me the most. I find myself judging the characters for their brand name accessories – would I feel differently about a character who carries a Kate Spade diaper bag and drives a Lexus, from one who pushes a dollar-store umbrella stroller? You bet I would. Maybe this is intentional by the author, maybe not. But I found I was grateful to the author of a recent book whose character was talking on his smart phone, not his iPhone or Blackberry. It’s just enough information without using a brand name.
I also think that such product placement will cause a book to become dated much faster. Jennifer Crusie’s latest book, Maybe This Time, was set in the early 80s, and in the foreword she stated the reason for this was “just because.” But I think it would have been a completely different book with today’s technology, and I think she realized that. In order for a book to be timeless, it needs to have very few things that tie it to a specific time.
So readers, what pulls you out of a book? Do you think the recent abundance of product placement is lowering the quality of the books being written?
Nancy writes about her boys, books and life in Colorado at Life With My Boys and Books.