What's your knee-jerk element?

Sunday, January 30, 2005

I just came from a message board where one poster was a bit indignant about the latest release by Rachel Gibson.

She was pissed off because the h, who had been a PI, had helped a man find his wife and kids. Later on that man murdered his family, and the heroine, suffering from guilt because she'd helped him locate them, quit the private eye business.

I'm not sure if the reader stopped reading at that point, but another poster commented that she had been thinking about buying the book and now she won't because that issue would tick her off also. While there's been a lot of buzz about this book--most of it favorable--I hadn't heard this aspect brought up before.

The thing that struck me, and strikes me every single time I see it, is how one little detail can unequivocally deter someone from *ever* buying/reading a book. Even it's by a favorite author. The 'execution of' matters naught. Just the fact that the element exists in plot/story makes the book an automatic 'write off'. And it could be anything, from a character having the same name as a family member or ex, or hair color, to some unpalatable aspect in a character's dark past (like in the RG example), or the dreaded contemporary 30 yr virgin.

It sort of strikes me as, uhm, interesting, because not much, by way of subject matter, is outside of my reading boundaries. Of course there are certain things or details that I would be more amendable to reading in some genres while not in others. But, again, I know that execution plays a big part in that, so I reserve judgment until the actual reading.

I totally understand that real life experiences will color one's reactions if similar circumstances, events or elements are reflected in a story's unfolding--particularly a in romance novel where reader empathy is key; but a lot of times I don't get the feeling this is what influences these readers.

So, what's your knee-jerk element? One that would only take 'hearing' it's in a book, to have you totally 'X' that book from your list.

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Anonymous said...

Any hint, whisper, or thought about cheating/having an affair and I am gone. I write off the book and the author. Sad...yet true.

McVane said...

Easy: child abduction. Too close to home for me. As for the rest, it'd take a lot of trusted recommendations to get me to read a contemporary romance that involves the h/h marrying for the sake of an orphaned child, e.g. a child's uncle marrying a child's school teacher. I just don't find it believeable. That's it, really. :)

Sasha White said...

I'll read anything if I feel like it. But alot depends on mood. I fI feel tolerant or adventurous, or just want to sit with a book that I know will make me feel a certain way.

Sela Carsen said...

I'm fairly open minded about sex, but I have to insist on only 2 people. Really. I read a LKH Anita Blake novella in an anthology that had not only a 3some, but they did it in public. Funny thing was, nobody took their clothes off. But I was so creeped out, I'll never read another LKH book.

Amie Stuart said...

First, I can't believe that Rachel Gibson's storyline would be THAT objectionable! After doing so many adoption searches, "playing God" is something that worried me often so I can actually sympathise with the heroine.

Second, what's the name of the book. I wanna get it.

Third, I guess the one thing that really turns me off is Billionaires. It's WAYYYYYYYY too fantasy for me.

Julie said...

Nothing. I'll read anything, as long as it looks like I'll like the voice. Execution is so much more interesting than plot elements, for me.

And as someone who's written a virgin heroine, and a heroine who is stricken by guilt for allowing a disaster to happen, and (currently) an anorexic heroine, I hope not all readers will judge books by basic, knee-jerk moral or pre-formed judgements.

ma said...

If I have reason to believe a book is good, I won't likely be put off. Though I assume we're talking about romance and women's fiction here. I can't read much horror; I can get really scared and it's not actually too healthy.

I also am not keen on romance where the children of the hero or heroine are hurt or (in one case I read of but didn't read) raped. I'm not saying it can't be done, but I think the weight of a tragedy can be difficult to carry except in the hands of someone very talented.

I have peeves, too. But that means I'm not likely to pick up a book on whim, but would on a recommendation. My latest peeve is the premise where the hero is on the job (police, military) and falls for the heroine, thus distracting himself from what he's supposed to be doing. I want my heros to do their job right! (That said, I just read and loved Hot Target so there you go.)

Jaye said...

Interesting stuff. I think I fall in line with Julie's thinking-- voice and execution are the deal killers for me, rather than plot elements. And like Sasha, my mood plays into this, but only so far as to say, I'm not in the right frame of mind to read this at the moment. Susan, I think I read that same LKH short story and had the same reaction, not because of the multiple partners, but just because there was no emotion or meaning to the acts. (Sasha did an excellent blog on the emotions in erotic, earlier this week, btw) That scene felt very much 'and then this happened' just not interesting, to me. :-P

Jaye said...

oops, sorry, Cece. The title is: The Trouble with Valentine's Day

Anna Lucia said...

*sigh* I think I must be dense, because I'm not getting what people are objecting to in the RG story? Is it the, "she made a mistake, and people died" thing, because I don't get that at all. :-/

I'm not making a point, I'm honestly confused!

Having said that, I don't THINK I have many knee-jerk elements. I have story preferences - I'm not big on city millionaire heroes, but that's not really what you mean.

I struggle with paranormals sometimes, because my suspension-of-disbelief faints in the presence of rotting-blood-breath in a love scene. But I'll still buy on recommendation, or from a trusted author.

I'm sure I'll remember some real knee-jerk issues for me as soon as I .... ah yes. I remember.

Jingoism. In-your-face flag waving, from any nationality. The most reliable source of book-induced nausea for me.

Larissa said...

Secret babies. I hate 'em! *g*

Amie Stuart said...

Hey Hey Larissa..what about gun waving secret babies? LOL

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