What are your “red flags” in books?

I dislike being preached at. By this I mean a story with the obvious purpose of pushing a particular viewpoint rather than telling a story. So, you believe in such and such … wonderful … but if I want to read a social opinion piece I’ll go browse Facebook.

I don’t have a problem with a story that has a message. I object to the message being so blatant and pushy that it makes the story flat and uninteresting, or worse, a thinly veiled rant.


Phew, that’s why I leave my thoughts for authors notes! But even then, I try not to be too preachy there. I may not like an opinion, but I’ll respect it.

This kind of brings me to another point. When I’m reading and all of a sudden I see a bunch of sexist sayings from the characters about both women and guys (I see them mostly against guys nowadays). I just recently read an LGBT+ story (gxg) where the guys and girls acted the EXACT SAME, but the guys were seen as scum while the girls were perfectly pacified.

Didn’t really sit well with me. :woman_shrugging:

I fully agree with this point @DamienWinters has made. If I do not like the main character by the end of the first chapter it’s a big no from me and the book goes straight back to the shelve.

Also, I don’t like opening so like ‘The alarm clock rang…’ then the character goes through their whole morning routine. No one wants to know what moisturiser you use! It’s unnecessary and really boring in my opinion.

I’m so glad you pointed all of these points out, because I try so hard to avoid all of this. XD Except first person. Writing in first person narrative helps me a lot since I write psychological teen and mystery thrillers.

I usually avoid first person narrative. There only a few exception. 1. A cadence. Which is an infliction of the voice. Used in italics. Two keeping the story in the now through text, without the usage of “I, me” and so on.

Ah, that makes sense. I only use third person narrative with short stories, because it helps me bring out more emotion in the characters and setting since it’ll be over quick, instead of being dragged out.

I understand that. I usually stay between third and second person depending on the situation. First person narrative is strictly for a cadence.

“He or she” is used as to avoid redundancy with third person. Third person is used specifically to enforce a point, or really grab the reader. It’s a bit tricky to pull off, but doing it right can really make the events impactful.

Then I would keep the descriptive part in the now as to have the audience visualize it more clearly.

Strict first person is good for understanding the protagonist, but it really overshadows the rest of the characters unless you split them off into individual chapters, or back stories as to avoid confusion.

I like that description of it. Now, that you bring that up… I’m honestly not sure where I stand with that in a sense of writing. I’ve been told by a few people before, they like the way I stay fairly consistent with first person past tense pov, because I make it easier to read and get into the character’s head… but I don’t even know now. Making me question everything. xD

The smirk.

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Honestly I just be careful with the consistency. I try not to change back and forth too much. It changes as to create a more realistic feel, but it doesn’t change so much as to become a problem. It depends on the situation of which tense will be used. Though specifically dialogues will always end in present tense for instance. Paragraphs will be vary depending on the context, and appropriate wording. Though the context would still keep it present, but if it requires a past tense, then i’d make sure it fits correctly, or I try to do that is.

The way I choose to word certain scenes as well makes it tricky to keep consistent, but I try.

Protagonist deepest thoughts are explained with italics, and in first person. Certain characters as well will be in italics based on the scene at hand. Italics is usually an infliction of the voice, a cadence. So it can be used in several different ways. I am careful to express this. Specific inner thoughts are first person. While if a character can only hear the voice, it would be in third person.

I should also mention I would switch between 2nd and 3rd person tense at the end of a dialogue for two points. One to avoid redundancy, and two depending on the situation, this can be very impactful. I never use first unless it’s execution of action in the now. Instead of “said” I use “says” for instance.

I also choose to express thoughts in (). This is more or less action taking place in the now more specifically. It also serves not to confuse the thoughts of the protagonist, and flesh out other characters three dimensionally.

If there is one thing that makes me a bit angry is if people don’t read the author’s notes and then try to change the style of writing. I appreciate feedback based on grammar, punctuation, and so forth. Though some grammar as well is butchered intentionally to keep it realistic.

Now if it’s feedback on grammar, punctuation, reducing redundancy. etc, then that’s great, I welcome that. Since I can improve the writing, but if you try to change the style of writing, that’s an immediate barring.

I wonder.

Would you people dislike a story, that is a fantasy story in a world, where fighting is kind of important, but within the story there are barely any fights? The story of my book is mainly about the characters, that’s why there isn’t much fighting. But I feel like the story need more fights?

Sorry for my bad English, German writer here °^°

Red flags for me:

  • Bad grammar and spelling mistakes.
  • Long-winded back stories overloaded with unnecessary information that has little or no added value to character or plot development.
  • Over-use of Italics.
  • Paragraphs that are too long.
  • No character growth or development - by the end of the book, I ask “did they learn anything?”, “have they grown?”
  • Cliches are okay, but the red flag comes up when the main character uses or completely depends on another for financial reasons (in romance stories) - where it’s accepted and romanticized, and where she/he does not stand up on her/his own two feet. This, to me, is a sign of a weak character whom I cannot and will not relate to.
  • Over-use of images within the body content to describe a character, place, outfit, and very little text. Shows lack of imagination. I want to see words come to life.

I personally think that if you market the book as a world about fighting, you need fights. I find action scenes (especially fights) hard to write, but they are an important element to this type of story. (As I procrastinate writing a much-needed lightsaber battle…)

I find it annoying when the author doesn’t even try to make a good description, or when they put things like ‘read for more info.’ It also gets on my nerves when there’s a ridiculous amount of typos and grammar mistakes (the occasional typo is fine.)


Well, that’s a shame. You’re missing out. In some of the best books I read, my favorite MC didn’t even show up in the first chapter.

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Same the protagonist of the first book doesn’t show up until chapter 2, and even then you probably won’t get clear insight until chapter 4.

Personally stories that rush things like that are a turn off. There is no reason to rush when the protagonist arrive, and some of them develops through the book. Though by the fourth chapter you’d have a good idea of how they are.

I should also mention within the first three chapters is a good move to when the protagonist arrives.

Chapter one sets the stage for their arrival.

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Major red flags are grammatical errors in the first chapter. I’m not sure about you guys, but I typically read over my first chapter and edit it the most. With that in mind, if that chapter is completely full of errors then that is a complete turn off for me. Some of those things would include:

-Misspelling i and I
-Lack of commas
-you vs u
-A lack of punctuation

Other things that might get on my nerves is if the character is, well, cliche. If they throw their hair into a messy bun on the first day of school and, surprise surprise, it is their first day in a new school and they manage to find one super antisocial friend that works magically with them.

If either one of those happens then I am like, nope. I’m out.


Which one? One of mine doesn’t show up until Chapter 15. The others are around before then, however.

Don’t assume there is only one, the protagonist.

2You’re referring to main characters.

Protagonist refers to the leading character.

The leading character shows up in chapter 2.

The next main character shows up around 4.

The other last I remember shows up around 12 or so, and last around 14 or 15. Those are main characters.

The protagonist the leading character is shown in chapter 2.

This refers to book 1 by the way.

Not all books have a single leading character. Only one of mine does.

One has 4 protagonists with their own, sometime related arcs, sometimes not so related, except in the grand scheme, which is partially orchestrated by one of the antagonists (yep, I have a few of them too!). They all share the story somewhat equally and all 4 interact but are never all on the same page at the same time until the end, well, the ones that survive that long. This series is large, with almost a dozen major characters and more minor characters.

Another has 3 protagonists who act as antagonists to each other. It’s up the the reader to decide who is right or wrong, depending on which side they choose.

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