It is often said that "a writer is a reader first, then a writer next."

Therefore, I think it is important to know: what makes a novel boring? What are the biggest turn-offs for readers that don't let them finish reading a novel to its completion?

  • 1
    What are the reasons you've stopped reading a novel before the end? Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 8:28
  • How about you edit the question and ask what makes a novel interesting? Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 18:55
  • Being "a reader first" involves paying attention to what you read and discovering for yourself what you find works and doesn't work. What you find boring comes from and determines your own writing style. (So there's no objective answer to this question.) Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 13:40

4 Answers 4


"What makes a novel boring" is definitely the wrong question.

The spackle on the ceiling above me is not very interesting. Why? There isn't a reason. There's an infinity of subtly different possible arrangements of spackle specks or streaks or textures. But none of them mean anything, and no obviously random, empty arrangement could be very interesting.

The spackle on the ceiling would be interesting, though, if it made a picture or a pattern. It would be more interesting if it was a meaningful, expressive pattern. It would be profound if it was.. the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

No single thing makes novels interesting (unless maybe that thing is "novel"ty). But what makes them uninteresting is what makes a spackled ceiling uninteresting - there's just nothing in the particulars that matters to the observer.

If you want people to be engaged, you have to persuade them to care about something. To persuade them to care about something you have to... Well, that depends.


The lack of two things in the book: surprises and humor (in reasonable quantities). Sometimes books are carried away from the very beginning, if not, then I read until about the middle, if nothing happens or the language of the narrative remains sluggish and gray, then in order to make sure finally that there is no need to read further, I scroll diagonally and that's it. Most of all, I am bored, it is a spill-over from empty to empty. Then I just can't read. Most often, everything is individual and depends only on the author (or translator)! I am of the opinion that a book should be interesting and exciting not only in the middle or at the end, but from the very beginning. After all, you can quit without reading it. A bright, catchy opening will ensure the reader's attention.


There can be a multitude of reasons why a novel might be reviewed as "boring" or "bland." In particular, this happens a lot with older books and literary classics, which sometimes are written in a way that modern audiences would consider boring - lots of exposition dumps, for example, and overly complex paragraph structures and florid language that can make your eyes glaze over.

I'll summarize a few of the most common sources of boredom in contemporary books:

Nothing exciting happens until many chapters in, and there's a lot of talking and not much doing.

Characters talk to each other blandly about uninteresting topics, move from place to place without much happening in between, and there's a lot of exposition, verbally explaining each person and their pasts, and long dumps of history and backstory. When something exciting finally does happen, it takes a hundred pages to get there, and then the characters spend a long time discussing the exciting thing and dissecting it instead of, you know, doing interesting things in response to the thing. If your novel has a lot of long, droning dialogue and characters sitting around doing nothing, it may start to drag and take on that unique tinge of boring.

In particular, be wary of the "worldbuilder's disease" trap that can cause you to spout paragraphs of useless exposition and accidentally bore your reader to death.

This particular plant, F. pylori, was very well known for its sap, which had powerful medicinal properties to the extent of aiding in cardiovascular disease and reversing the negative effects of aging. It sold for about fifty gold in this particular marketplace...

You can just feel the boredom seeping in, can't you? It's like reading a textbook. Don't write like a textbook. If you start to feel like a professor lecturing a student on the topic, cut down your exposition to the absolute minimum required for the story to move forward, and leave it there. Don't ramble on and make your readers fall asleep.

The characters aren't interesting, complex, sympathetic, or otherwise exciting to watch.

They might be cardboard cutouts without emotions or feelings, they might be completely unrelatable to the reader and stiff as a plank, or they might simply be unlikable and grating and otherwise incredibly annoying to read about. Either way, reading about a flat, two-dimensional and unlikable character isn't much fun, and after a while you don't really want to follow their adventures - you just want to put the book down.

The writing style itself isn't very interesting, or it's overly florid and pretentious.

If the writing style simply describes things that are happening with a bland, uninterested tone - or, alternatively, gushes in excessive detail about every miniscule thing - it's not much fun to read. Both cases can cause a novel to be perceived as boring.

In other words, you shouldn't write like this:

The sun rose. It was a pleasant day. The cicadas buzzed. Georgina went for a walk.

But also, please don't write like this:

The soft, glowing, gentle sunset over the family farm that had so recently passed into Georgina's possession seeped and oozed slowly and beautifully over the emerald-green horizon like a warm and luciferous eggshell breaking across the heavens, gazing upon itself...

You can write as many passionate paragraphs of purple prose as you like about a sunset, but at the end of the day, it's just a bloody sunset. Move on.

In short, to summarize all of this advice: Don't write like you're writing a book report about the interesting things that are happening. Write about the interesting things that are happening. That's the only surefire way to engage your reader and keep yourself from being boring.


A boring book is one where the characters don't have needs and desires that they are pursuing.

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