I've recently read several books with glaring plot issues. As an author and editor, it drives me nuts. But even as a reader, I hate it when writers get lazy and create flawed stories. These are very basic issues and should never happen. Unfortunately they do, and far too often, particularly today when so many writers self-publish their own books without the services of a good content editor.
So, if you care about good quality writing, please bear with me while I rant.
This is especially abhorrent in mysteries, but can occur in other genres as well.
The book ends without resolution to issues raised during the story leaving the reader to ask, "But, what happened after (insert subplot)?" "Whatever happened to (fill in the blank)?" Often a character simply disappears halfway through the story, never to reappear. I don't expect all relationships to be completely tied up in neat bows. As in real life, some will continue to be difficult in the future. Some will irrevocably be rent asunder. And sometimes it's okay not to know what the people will do going forward. But to drop them in the middle of the story is annoying, especially if the reader has developed an interested in them. This applies even to minor plot points.
Which brings me to the next one…
These are like the cast of thousands in the old historical dramas whose only purpose is to hold the spears and establish the size of the crowd. They don't contribute anything to the plot.
A rule of thumb is: If you name a character, be sure they serve a purpose and move the story along. If they don't, leave them out!
If the author shows the reader a gun, it had better be used before the end of the book! If the author hints at the presence of a stalker, that person had better appear somewhere in the story or be explained in another way.
Mysteries depend on multiple suspects with motive and opportunity. Sometimes they're 'red herrings,' but even those must be explained by the end of the book. Just finding the perpetrator is not enough. There must be some explanation for the other characters' actions.
LAST-MINUTE REVELATION OF CLUES
This is when the sleuth (professional or amateur) explains how they discovered the villain with clues that were never included earlier in the story. This is a blatant cheat and a particular personal gripe.
Part of the fun of reading mysteries is trying to figure out who-done-it along with the protagonist. You can only do this if you have all the evidence.
UNEXPLAINED CHARACTER KNOWLEDGE
This is when a character suddenly has information, the source of which is never explained. As a reader, you agree to take a journey with the author. It is jarring when a character suddenly knows something without any explanation of how they learned it.
For our first mystery, we created a huge spreadsheet on which we charted the timeline of the story (some of which was in five-minute increments). Then we listed the characters and color-coded where each was at the time. In that way, we knew who had specific knowledge of events and who was not in the area.
People read historical novels because they enjoy the time period. Many are steeped in the era. One mistake, and the author may lose that reader. I read one book where the characters used current terms in dialogue supposedly from the 1800s. Not good!
In another, items and concepts that did not appear until the twentieth century were used in a novel set in the nineteenth. Also, unacceptable.
We are currently writing an historical novel set in a nearby town in between 1820 and 1890. Because San Juan Capistrano is a mission city, much has been written about it. However, many of the available books, articles, etc. differ in the specifics of dates and events. We are fortunate that the official historian for San Juan has agreed to read the draft and check for inaccuracies. She has also recommended what she considers the best resources.
The one thing the author gets wrong may be the only thing the reader will remember.
STARTING THE NEXT BOOK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CURRENT ONE
Authors should write one book at a time! Period. Each should be complete in itself. Even if the intention is to create a series, each book MUST stand alone. If the author wants to let the reader know there will be additional books, a sample chapter can be added at the end of the current book to entice the reader. But to leave the reader wanting resolution to the story because the author wants them to read the next book is cheating. It's a technique I refuse to buy into. When I run across one of these, I refuse to read the author again.
There are probably other issues that turn off and alienate readers. What are your pet peeves?