Re: Signs a story is going to be bad.

#1
What do you look for when deciding on what to read? What do you see as a giant red flag saying "run away!"?

For most people it's usually the grammar in the synopsis, at least that's what i assume. But what about other tell tale signs? 

For example a story that has an MC with no emotions (there are a surprising number of those), to me that screams "The author doesn't know how to do dialog, and chose a cheep crutch" It's easy to write an emotionless character, you don't have to empathize with them, the downside is neither does your readers.

Re: Signs a story is going to be bad.

#2
First, I think there is a distinction between "story that isn't good" and "story I personally have no interest in reading", but it can be tempting to lump those two things together.

In terms of immediate alerts that a story is bad, here are a few:

  • Grammatical errors in the synopsis, as you said, or in the first few paragraphs of the first chapter. Some of the most common ones include inconsistent tense, comma mistakes, and wrong dialogue tags.

  • An opening scene that is hard to follow due to poor description.

  • An opening line that has nothing to do with what follows it, and was clearly only put there because the author thought it would be cool.

  • Unrealistic or confusing dialogue, often combined with overuse of strange dialogue tags.

  • Janky formatting

  • It's obvious that the author is attempting to copy someone else's popularity/writing style/story

  • The author clearly went through and used a thesaurus to cram as many 50 cent words in as humanly possible in order to sound impressive

And things that are perhaps valid artistic choices that still will make me drop the story like a hot potato

  • Main character is /clearly/ an author mouthpiece and/or authorial wish fulfillment (see: every OP protag pretty much)

  • Author's weird political opinions show up immediately, and are also terrible.

  • Like, if I get the sense while reading the story that if I met the author we would hate eachother, I'm gonna have to put the story down.

  • Oh, this story is going to be 50% sex scenes. No thanks.

  • Narrative voice that makes me angry.

  • Plot that I don't like.

Clearly "things I just plain don't like" is a much more undefinable category haha.

Re: Signs a story is going to be bad.

#4

OHornswallow Wrote: If the story is full of moe antics right off the bat, there's often no depth to it other than "look how cute these girls are, now watch the boobies bounce." It makes me feel like the author hopes I won't be able to see past my libido and realize how flat the characters are. A character can be cute or attractive without being two-dimensional.


Definitely. A proper character needs actual curves =P

For me a turn off would be an immediate focus on cheap action bait, like a lot of fight scenes, torture, sadism, death, cliffhangers, OP power-ups that let them fight people who are supposed to be antagonists. I’ve already seen all the easy tricks to play with the readers emotions by killing characters or upturning the plot, it mostly just annoys me at this point.

The issue is that they try to hit you with conflict and loss before you’ve gotten invested in the things being fought over. And since I already know this game it takes longer for me to get invested, since I need to check if you’re introducing puppy face #7 as an actual character or as a cheap death inciting incident. It’s fine to use triggers like these at the beginning as lomg as they’re framed like a prologue and have a little dissonance instead of acting like it’s the most terrible thing ever before I’ve even started to care about the book. Don’t overdramaticise stuff, and don’t use it to fuel too much of the plot, it’s just exhausting to read through.

Adding suffering to your story isn’t inherently engaging by itself. When I feel like the plot has been unturned by a case of random and arbitrary feeling suffering I feel like the author doesn’t know what they’re doing anymore, and is trying to destroy the story in order to try and sell me a completely new one, which is a massive turn off. There needs to be a cause behind every bad event, and the suffering involved should not be disproportionate. If you’re too obvious about just adding suffering because of how you think it will effect the readers instead of it being necessary for the story then I will start caring less instead of more. If you kill my puppies I won’t feel sad, I’ll feel angry, angry at you. Those puppies ere way more interesting than this melodrama edgy nonsense that comes after.

Basically, the author doesn’t know what readers actually care about, and doesn’t know how to properly build expectations and investment from the reader.

Re: Signs a story is going to be bad.

#5
You can usually tell what's gonna be a clunker based on the way the first chapter is written, but other than that:


  • A long prologue or first chapter that has almost nothing to do with the rest of the story, or dumps a bunch of info that won't be relevant to readers for many chapters.


  • A really good first chapter... and then it flashes back to the past, or to a different POV, and immediately becomes a a generic romp going through all the motions.


  • Going through the motions in the beginning because apparently the story thinks that it's important to cover the exact same stuff every other story of the same genre does. In this case, this would mean the Isekai genre, where we spend the first 5-10 chapters of almost every single story on the exact same content, from the useless backstory that never appears again, the to the video game tutorial you have to read, and so on.


  • Writing your prose in such broad strokes that you're practically writing a plot summary of any event that isn't dialogue or fighting. You would be surprised and worried to see how many stories do this.


javert Wrote:

  • Author's weird political opinions show up immediately, and are also terrible.


It's not "isekai litrpg harem" if it's not "traditional values from the 1950s"! 

Re: Signs a story is going to be bad.

#6
For me, it's a story which tells you everything that's going on in the world right off the bat. "My name is X and I live in a world where Y is happening all the time. Most people can do Z, but I cannot. My girlfriend's name is Q, and she has huge breasts..." A little bit of that to start is fine, but too many stories start with full paragraphs of just exposition.

Then again, it appears that some of the stories which are "trending" and quite popular on this site are among them. Maybe I've lost touch with what readers want these days.

Re: Signs a story is going to be bad.

#9
-Anything descriptive in the title.  (There's a reason they called the movie "Home Alone" rather than "I got stranded at home and robbers came, time to make traps". The ladder of those would send me running and screaming in terror.)

-Using asian names despite the fact that you're directly writing a story for an english speaking audience.  I can tolerate that in a chinese novel that was translated over, but not when the novel was custom written for english speakers.  

-Synopsis that tell me literally nothing about the plot.  When you spend entire paragraphs describing the technology levels of the world and other bland info dumps.

-Cheap cover images.  I also don't like real world cover images.  I'd rather you just not have a cover than a half assed one.  

-Self congratulating synopsis.  Don't tell me your story is amazing unless it's a 4th wall break type of story.  

-Too much description.  You want to let your readers imagination carry them into the story.  So just tell them enough to get them thinking.  If you explain too much, their imagination stops working in your favor.  

-Don't ask cliche questions like "will he succeed?"

-Bad grammar in synopsis, title, first chapter.  If you can't even be arsed to read over your own synopsis for spelling, you obviously aren't even paying attention to grammar in the first place.  

Re: Signs a story is going to be bad.

#10
Hmm . . . Many have put up great pointers. Here are some of mine:

  • Premise that doesn't have much potential as a novel. Those kind of premise that make you ask, how can you make a 300+ chapters out of this? If the premise isn't fitting for very long works then most likely it isn't going to work.

  • Stories build around concepts. This stories tend to actually start great, but since the story is driven by a concept rather than a story, it would soon run out of steam. You can easily identify this when the story description/synopsis talks more about their awesome ideas (commonly in the form of info dumping) rather than the story itself. The author come up with a great idea but can't build a story around of it.

  • First chapters that doesn't start at the beginning (Prologue, Flashbacks, In Medias Res) to hide the fact that they are having trouble of how to start their stories. You will soon go to the actual start of the story and see how lackluster it actual is, if their openings aren't even worse. If they can't start their story properly, then most likely they can't write their story properly.

Re: Signs a story is going to be bad.

#11
I tend to disagree with Prologues. A Prologue isn't a sign of a story being bad.

There's two cases where you want to use a prologue.

The first is if you use a book-format rather than an open-ended serial; the prologue of each book is the place where you summarize "what's gone in the previous book" to remind people of the story or introduce "what happened to the side between the ending of the previous book and the start of this one".

The second is when you need to introduce some mechanics/rules/social mores used in the first MC scene, a slightly exotic setting or future characters, and you do not want to infodump, or parachute a character out of nowhere. You use a short prologue to set up the mood. In this case, unlike the previous prologue form, what's important is that your prologue isn't about your character, or your character's background, or his immediate sidekicks. The prologue is about stuff that the MC must already know or absolutely can't know, but that the reader needs to know before the first appearance of the MC.

The thing is, you must write the story beginning first, then figure out if you need a prologue. Starting your writing with a prologue means you're doing it wrong.

Re: Signs a story is going to be bad.

#12
Wrote: I tend to disagree with Prologues. A Prologue isn't a sign of a story being bad.

There's two cases where you want to use a prologue.

The first is if you use a book-format rather than an open-ended serial; the prologue of each book is the place where you summarize "what's gone in the previous book" to remind people of the story or introduce "what happened to the side between the ending of the previous book and the start of this one".

The second is when you need to introduce some mechanics/rules/social mores used in the first MC scene, a slightly exotic setting or future characters, and you do not want to infodump, or parachute a character out of nowhere. You use a short prologue to set up the mood. In this case, unlike the previous prologue form, what's important is that your prologue isn't about your character, or your character's background, or his immediate sidekicks. The prologue is about stuff that the MC must already know or absolutely can't know, but that the reader needs to know before the first appearance of the MC.

The thing is, you must write the story beginning first, then figure out if you need a prologue. Starting your writing with a prologue means you're doing it wrong.



They aren't saying that prologues are bad, it is when they have prologues that have no relevance to the story.

And your two cases aren't what actually prologues are for. Your first case is not prologue but a recap (previously on . . .). The only reasonable use for those are in TVs (where viewers might have to wait for a long time between episode and thus might forgot things and they can't rewatch the previous episodes). They are kinda dying now now that we have internet and medias (DVD, Blue Ray) that allows you to binge watch and re watch episodes as much as you want. You shouldn't be using this in your book. In the second case, those things are the kind of stuff you would integrate into the first chapters. It is what we called introduction. You know, what a quarter/ the first act of a typical novel is devoted to?

Re: Signs a story is going to be bad.

#13
For me the sign that a story is going to be bad is when the MC is a block of wood. A character empty of motives and stakes are...bad.
Especially if they are mary sues or gary stu. Op characters are fine. But they will have to make mistakes, otherwise they're just an omnipotent character.

Also when the dialogues are as interesting as a piece of tofu. It's there, it has volume, but no taste and no calories.
Bad.

That's why I try to do the dialogues for my characters to be memorable.

Also, a characters that are always being praised by others. As if they can make no mistake. Eh, that's...uninteresting.


Re: Signs a story is going to be bad.

#14
I wouldn’t really say that a story has gone bad if I stop reading it. But sometimes my attention does wane a bit.

For me, I need a strong emotional connection with the MC. Sometimes as the story progresses this fades because things have been resolved and, yet, the story isn’t over. If there’s no tension or no challenge, what’s the point?

It’s like: Look, I know it’s great that you’ve gotten over your problems, but you’re boring now. Something else needs to go wrong in your life - not my life, your life.

Fluff is nice in the midst of the MC’s pain, but I still some agony. LOL. If my own characters aren’t suffering, then I’m not doing my job as a writer. xD

Because watching someone struggle and overcome problems is truly a wonderful thing.

Re: Signs a story is going to be bad.

#15
DarkD Wrote: -Anything descriptive in the title.  (There's a reason they called the movie "Home Alone" rather than "I got stranded at home and robbers came, time to make traps". The ladder of those would send me running and screaming in terror.)


I have to admit that those types of titles are so bad, I've never been able to bring myself to read the actual stories. I assume the stories are just as bad as the titles?

Besides that, I'd say:

1. Grammar and spelling issues in the story description and first paragraph. If I can find seven mistakes in the first two sentences, why would I subject myself to the pain of reading any further? I do feel there needs to be a mechanism for newbie authors to get criticism that will help them improve, but I've learned not to provide that criticism unless asked. (And even when asked, most authors seem to want you to do the work for them, rather than take the feedback and spend the time to learn how to make the fixes themselves.)

2. Info dumps, or telling what the story is about rather than telling the story. One bad example of this is when every conversation is summarized rather than included.


Re: Signs a story is going to be bad.

#16
Sadarsa Wrote: What do you look for when deciding on what to read? What do you see as a giant red flag saying "run away!"?

For most people it's usually the grammar in the synopsis, at least that's what i assume. But what about other tell tale signs? 

For example a story that has an MC with no emotions (there are a surprising number of those), to me that screams "The author doesn't know how to do dialog, and chose a cheep crutch" It's easy to write an emotionless character, you don't have to empathize with them, the downside is neither does your readers.



Red flags or tell tale signs that a story is going to be bad, for me are:



  1. Too many spelling and grammatical errors to be taken seriously. I know this is a usual sign but it's one that can't be overstated enough I think. I tend to rate these stories as "bad" immediately upon first glance, and find it difficult to see past the technical errors and read it anyway to find out whether the story might be any good otherwise. I sometimes may, depending on whether or not there's anything the story offers (potentially great plot, specific character interactions, for example) that might make me want to overlook the obvious errors.

  2. Synopsis and/or first chapter (if I get that far) is just plain boring (predictable plot devices, two-dimensional characters, unimaginative use of the written language, etc.). As with the spelling and grammatical errors, I may continue reading despite the initial setbacks and give the story a chance if there was something about it that drew me to it in the first place.

  3. Confusing or unclear opening paragraphs, dialogue or scenes that are disjointed or don't make much sense (usually due to a lack of good storytelling skills on the part of the author). With these stories, I usually just give up and go home.

  4. Characters are generally uninteresting, or in the case of fan fiction established characters are unconvincingly or meaninglessly OOC (out of character). Definitely a sign of "bad". Nothing else would make me run away faster, I think.