Table Talk 411: What makes a bad story?

I’m bad at reviewing stuff. Well, I think I’m okay, but I know that to others I’m probably bad because my reviews tend to lean more towards the positive, 4-5 star spectrum. Apparently, the awesome-to-horrible ratio of my reviews may tend to discredit me as a “good/fair” reviewer. And I wouldn’t blame them. I give plenty of leeway to the material I’m reviewing.

Why? Why do you do that?

Simply put, I have never written a novel nor directed a movie or anything like that. I am merely a fan of entertainment and I can’t just harp on some author’s accomplishment simply because I don’t like it. They have an advantage over me. They wrote and published a book. In my book, that’s awesome in and of itself.

In addition to that reason, everyone has their own level of creativeness. Telling a story, whether on screen or in a book, is an art form and just because one artist is good at portraits and another is good at abstract does not make them terrible artist. I take into consideration when I go through my review.

And, regarding book reviews, I don’t shave off points because of grammatical or spelling errors unless they completely distract me from the story. Why? Because no one is perfect. And as long as I get the main idea or the general gist of the story, your good.

So, considering all this, it takes a lot for me to give three-star and below review, which is why I don’t use that system.

Which brings me to this topic: What makes my review drop to the average-to-bad scale?

The first thing that drops points in my book is if the story starts to lag. And I mean, really lag.

Example: In Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong Finger by Beth Harbinson the story started to lag when four chapters in I’m still reading about Quinn’s past relationship with Burke. I get that we want to make sure we’re seeing why it was so hard for Quinn when she found out Burke cheated on her, but I felt Harbinson spent a little too much time on that. It got just a little redundant, even if the story was punctuated with the little tasks Glenn gave her to get out of her shell. I felt that she could have focused a little more on why Quinn ended up running away with Frank.

Example 2: In Lincoln Lawyer I just felt they spent way too much time to get to the point and when they got to it, it wasn’t as epic as it should have been. I remember thinking, “Okay, you’re starting to loose me.” And even now, I can’t remember what the point was.

The second thing is I can’t stand it when the story keeps hinting at you in one direction and then does a complete 180 for no reason! And I’m not talk about plot twists. Plot twists work because even though the story hinted at one direction, the story also gave just enough hints in the other direction to make you question it, especially after the big reveal. Plot twists don’t make you go “what the heck?” when they do the big reveal. I’m talking about those stories where the twists just don’t make any sense, no matter how you try to piece it together.

Example: The Sookie Stackhouse Series

Example 2: Actually, I can’t think of a movie that did this to me.

And lastly, when the story gets way too senseless. Pointless swearing, tasteless nudity and sex, heavy violence, and just stupid humor tends to shake me. And I know this borderlines personal issues, but keep in mind that I’m fan of the Boondocks Saints franchise, the Clerks franchise, and Lucky Number Slevin. To add to that, I enjoyed reading The Last Don, love Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series, and enjoy some of the romance series floating around out there. So, it takes a lot for me to reach that point. For instance, I like the story of Blood In, Blood Out, but I’ve watched it only once because I can’t stand all the violence and swearing in the movie. And that’s partially the reason I couldn’t read Shopaholic (though I’m considering a second try at it).

So, I know it’s not an extensive list, but those are key points that turn me off to a good story. At any rate, entertainment is entertainment. There’s not just one form of it, which is what makes the industry so alluring, and addictive. Everyone needs a break from reality now and then, no matter which poison you pick.



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