When it comes to writing fiction, most gurus advise knowing your audience and delivering what they want. I take a different approach. I write stories I would want to read. (That’s not as simple as it sounds, and it’s certainly not a solo exercise. Achieving something I’d want to read requires many hours spent learning the craft and listening to feedback from others.) And I’m not tone deaf to readers’ preferences and complaints, which they sometimes address by leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites.
I think a writer can learn more from the one- , two-. and three-star reviews than from the glowing four- and five-star reviews. So, for this post, I cruised Amazon reviews, and here’s a sampling of what readers didn’t like:
“The main characters were not believable and I felt nothing for them but disgust.”
“I cannot understand the overwhelming, unmitigated praise for what seems an almost (“almost” because I hate to say it) cliched novel with stock characters . . . contained in an outlandish plot that defies all credibility. Long on meaningless detail (let no research go unpublished) but short on character development. I could hardly make it to the end. I felt like one of the characters lost at sea for days on end without a credible character in sight.”
“This book was nothing but contrived situations with PC caricatures.”
“I did not feel anything for the characters.”
“Really wanted to like this but had to put it away after a few chapters. Contrived is the best word to describe her writing and the story.”