SE’s 10 DNF Red Flags

Featuring SE, being a Judgy McJudgypants. I’ve been alive for thirty-three years now, and a bookworm for roughly twenty-three of those years. TWENTY-THREE YEARS, friends. By now I know what I like. And, inversely, what I do not like.

game of thrones gif
*guy in the middle sits silently judging* Also, what I DO NOT like is Brienne not giving Tormund the time of day, DAMMIT Game of Thrones writers.

Any book gets at least a fair try, no matter what, but I admit to being a mood reader who will yeet straight to DNF if I’m not feeling it. And there are a few things which pretty much guarantee I will not be feeling what the author is dishing out

∼Let’s note this list mostly has to do with romance genre, since that’s what I read.

  • Plot dragging characters along

I am a character driven reader. It’s all about those lovely fictional people. Obvs, yes, I do need there to be at least some plot happening. But I will forgive a lot as long as I care about those kooky kids running around on the pages. Also the characters must be *doing* things within their plot, not sitting back and having everything *done to* them. Character introduction, growth, and agency is everything this bookworm needs.

  • COMMUNICATE people OMFG put us all out of our misery

This one’s pretty romance specific but there is NOTHING I hate more than two characters who simply refuse to clear up a huge misunderstanding/lie/obstacle/problem by talking. Just open your mouth! And let! The words! Come out!! It reads as pure, stubborn, pride keeping our two protagonists apart and it screeches nails right up my chalkboard. Is feeling a tad uncomfortable, or refusing to humble yourself, really a good enough reason to sink you and your beloved in a sea of unrequited love and agony for the rest of your lives? NO. No, it is not. Get over yourselves already.

  • The Old Skool Female™

Again a romance trope. It goes something like this: everyone knows the female of the species is irrational, emotional, and prone to changing her mind. So during every argument the heroine will rage, cry, rage-cry, scream, sputter, be unreasonably accusatory, probably smack the hero’s shoulder/chest, and then melt into the hero’s arms when he uses his [manly scent? strong arms? erect penis? I don’t fucking know] to calm her. Fortunately this is only sporadically present in old school romance (1970-2000ish), and although it does show up in modern books it is still pretty rare. Because, yes, hello, actual women write romance and we know this is a misconception. I blame internalized misogyny for this, DNF the book, and move on.

  • Crazy Ex be Crazy because; plot complications

If the ex has some depth, motivation, and more of a morally grey standpoint I will absolutely buy into this device getting in the way of our happily ever after. But do not bring back one of the protagonist’s ex lovers, out of nowhere, for no other reason than the being the catty, take-me-back, no-one-else-plays-with-my-toys plot device. A) it’s super obvious and therefore obnoxious and B) just don’t do it.

  • Angst. Angst. Angst.

angst

This is how I feel reading super drama filled books. I like pure, unadulterated, escapist fluff, thank you so much, next. Dark romance is a HARD sell for this reason, although I have found a few (Annika Martin! Skye Warren!) I do enjoy.

  • Giant, gaping, nonsensical plot holes

My bar for this one is set exceptionally low, but I do have one. Look, I read alien romance. I will accept the Mysterious Plague™ which wiped out all their females and makes earth girls appear super deliciously breed-able. I will read and enjoy fur, feathers, scales, whatever the hell Susan Trombley is dishing out now, and tentacles. I will accept time traveling, wormholes, magic, identical twins, evil twins, hidden Dukes, secret heirs, rags to riches, and amnesia. An author has to work pretty damn hard to throw me out of my usual suspension of disbelief, but it has happened.

  • Love triangles

kill it with fire gif

Nope. Nope, nope, nope. I will remind you that poly romance, reverse harem, and ménage are all readily available, and then go read one of those instead.

  • A character is doing all the relationshiping alone

When one character is in love and doesn’t bother trying to hide it, while the other one takes all of their feelings, locks them in a box, buries the box deep in a peat bog, pretends there are no ripples, and then denies the existence of such concepts as love. Similarly, one character might be willing to bend until they break, while the other one refuses any form of compromise. 0_0 I start thinking of that character as a self-centered meanie, and then I have lost all interest in their happily ever after.

  • Offensive or damaging content

Trigger warnings are a thing. In my opinion, they are a necessary thing. Mentally prepared I can read and handle pretty much anything, but when one of my triggers leaps out at me unexpectedly the results are not fun.

  • Writing style

Sometimes the writer’s brush strokes and I do not mesh and I fail to ‘see’ the picture they’re painting. It’s not the author’s fault and objectively the book is still a great read. Just not a great read for me.

6 thoughts on “SE’s 10 DNF Red Flags

  1. I have a feeling we DNF similar books. LOL I was nodding my head at all of those. I would only add Secret Baby trope. I love when authors or publishers warn me so I can say thanks and wait for the next release.

    1. Yes, secret baby is also a very hard sell for me. I got pregnant with my son when I was 18 and pretty much nothing about my situation was anything like a romance. So I tend to avoid those ones! I might devote an entire post to why secret baby trope just doesn’t work for me.

    1. I am sorry, yet simultaneously hopeful George will correct this error in the last book. But, wait, what am I thinking? This is George RR Martin and he doesn’t do HEA. Brienne will probably kill Tormund after doing the deed, like a badass praying mantis, and he’ll die happy in the knowledge that his fierce lady stayed fiery until the end.

  2. Crazy ex is pretty damaging, in my opinion. It reinforces a worldview where women don’t support each other and can’t trust each other. I’d love to see a romance where the ex is like: Yeah, he’s a great guy, and I’m sure he’s perfect for someone, but not for me. And the women become good friends when they get to know each other.

    1. Right? They could have coffee together and trade “beard hair in the sink” stories, and the ex could leave her with a sincere wish for their relationship working out.

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