Reader beware: slight ASOIAF spoilers in an image below.
I didn’t read any of the Harry Potter books until after the whole dang series was released.
Well, scratch that – I tried to read the first one in middle school (I believe only two had been released at that point), and I really couldn’t stand the opening chapter. It was boring and banal, and I get now that it was supposed to be – but in my youth, I foolishly thought if a book couldn’t capture my interest by the end of the first chapter then it was terrible.
My friends, meanwhile, raved about the books. Dragged me to the films (which I enjoyed, much to my surprise). Went to midnight showings of the films. Went to midnight release parties for the books.
The last book of the series came out when I was in college, and my college friends went to midnight release parties. Okay, one of them stumbled upon a release party while drunk, but still.
The last films came out after I graduated, and I knew grown-ass adults who went to midnight showings.
From my tween years to my early twenties, Harry Potter served as a cultural litmus test.
Despite being an avid reader, I seem to miss the boat on the next big franchise. I’m always volunteering for the fandom well into the series, usually after I catch a trailer for the adaptation and and I’m like
The latest, of course, is A Song of Ice and Fire. And if you didn’t know that already, you should get yourself more acquainted with my blog.
I spend a fair amount of my (limited) free time lurking on r/asoiaf, and a past post caught my attention.
I’m not sure if there’s anything that would make me stop reading – even if something horrific happened to a favorite character, there are so many other elements of the epic series to keep me interested. And most of the responses to this thread fall into the same category: if X bad thing happened to Y character, I’d be pissed/irritated/sad, but I’d still keep reading.
So what does it take to lose the readers’ interest? What will make us throw the book in the donate pile? How does this stop happening?
I have abandoned two book series. I tried to give them a chance, but they stopped delivering.
The first was a long-time favorite, the Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell. I was a huge Cornwell fan from high school. Her series about medical examiner Kay Scarpetta was well-written and surprising. Bad things happened to good people. Good people made bad decisions. Characters changed. Actions had consequences.
And then, it just got boring. Maybe I didn’t grow with the series. Maybe it will appeal to me more when I’m older, when I’m experiencing my next big identity crisis. I just had no interest reading about unhappy characters who somehow stopped learning from their mistakes. Goodbye, Kay. I’ll remember the good times.
The second was a more recent discovery. Kind of. I loved Cassandra Clare’s Very Secret Diaries in high school. I enjoyed her blog but then she kind of fell off my radar. I ended up finding her Tumblr and seeing her many posts about her YA series, The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices. I decided to give the first TMI book a try this summer and really enjoyed it. I ended up buying all the books on my Kindle, speed-reading the first three and just slogging through the fourth and fifth. There seemed to be a disturbing trend from character development to “the characters need to do something, so maybe they should just change their minds a lot?”
What can an author do to shift the trend from engaged fans to disinterested readers?
- Sacrifice story for shock value.
- Abandon character development for the cheap twist.
- Lower the stakes.
Add your own experiences and “don’ts” in the comments. We can get through this together, people.