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Don’t Annoy Your Readers. Pt. 1.

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

I don’t know how many times a reader will give an author a chance, in general. I can’t find reliable statistics on it. I will tell you about my circle of friends and family. The answer is once. You get one time to impress the reader base, gain a fan, and keep them. If you fail… they are gone, probably for good. I once asked my sister, "Did you ever read author XYZ?" To which she replied “Oh yeah, I tried XYZ a few years ago. Hated it.” That was the end of that.

Cringeworthy books

Let me throw a caveat up here. Every book and short story you write will not be a 10/10 for your skill level. That’s not the focus. I am also not talking about an existing fan who reads your work already and thinks you have a slump in your writing for a book, or even a series compared to another series. That’s different too.

I am talking about the 2/10, bad time, nobody liked it, and readers get alienated.

The next series of postings we will embark on will talk through things we can do to get our readers on board, and keep them there. But first let’s get a fact out of the way early.

You can not please all of the people all of the time.

Please all the people all the time

Old fashion phrase, right? I’m going to give you a specific example.


Force unimaginable for such a small frame accompanied the sound and jolted Alex from his sleep. Lani’s knees impacted his spine by way of his stomach, and the vaguely awake consciousness came to sharp stabbing attention with the need to pee.

“Good morning daddy. Morning. Morning. Morning. Mooooorning.”

He cracked open both eyes and looked at her as she contemplated the covers over his prone body on the couch after he didn’t answer her. Slow at first and then with acceleration he reached out and grabbed her sides and began to tickle her ferociously, raising the decibels with the sound of laughter.

“Stop! Stop!”

He continued to tickle her knowing that like many mornings stop meant “Don’t.” A half empty toothed grin and tears of laughter told the same story. Another thirty seconds of morning rough housing finished before he freed her.

“Go find mommy, you need to get breakfast in you.”


When my beta readers encountered this short piece of a morning interaction inside a bigger piece, I received two stand out comments and a smattering of neutral commentary. One person said “This is not germane to the story but this creeps me out. When a girl or a woman says "stop", men and boys should stop. Period.” One person said. “I love this interaction. I brought me back to my childhood.”

What do you do as a writer? I am telling you not to alienate your audience, but one person is creeped out by the same scene which another person finds endearing.

First you have to make a decision. Will you bend to every person who is offended by anything? I feel bad for the first reader who went somewhere with the story that was not in any way intended or implied. They understood as much by saying it wasn’t germane. But the other side of this is what we have been subtly saying all along. Don’t alienate your audience. Not the wider audience. You will not appeal to everyone all the time. You don’t have to.

Know your audience
Who is your audience?

In my case readers who are easily offended aren’t going to last long anyway as I write dark fantasy and dystopian science fiction. I know who my targets are.

Once you know who you want your audience to be, the key is don’t annoy them at first read. Here are some of the topics we will talk about that readers absolutely notice and will find annoying.

Don’t slip out of the intended genre. Don’t use plot armor in obvious and annoying ways. Don’t leave unresolved threads (accidently). Don’t nerf (depower) a character or make them suddenly look foolish or incapable to protect villains or plot. Don’t allow instant deep relationships, we all know it isn’t how real life works. Gross repetition, for example if one character explains a portion of the book to another character. Lastly, especially for science fiction and fantasy, never break your own rules, readers will know it.

We will be talking about all these and more in the series to come. As a first step, ask yourself the questions, “Who is my audience?” “Who do I want reading what I write?” “What genre am I?”

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