Proper gammar, sentence structure, and typography. If the author doesn’t care enough to put the work into their work, I’m certainly not going to as a reader to make up for their lack of professionalism in their chosen craft.
It needs some kind of hook (like humor, or a plot, or ideas, or characters, or nice words), and can’t have disqualifying features, like agonizingly simple prose. I’ve also quit a book before because I hated every character. Not usually a fan of grim tales of nothing good ever happening, either (looking at you, A Song of Head Choppy and Eventual Dragons).
@InnocuousFarmer Harlan Ellison! That’s the author I couldn’t remember – wrote the other book I can remember putting down early. It was, just… extremely hypothetical torture porn, I guess. Not my thing, apparently.
It should have a good beginning sentence/paragraph that interests me. If it doesn’t pull me in with that, I probably won’t read it. At least, not voluntarily.
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
“Tonight we are going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man.” The guy who said that was a sergeant who didn’t look five years older than me. So if he’d ever killed a man in combat, silently or otherwise, he’d done it as an infant. I already knew eighty ways to kill people, but most of them were pretty noisy.
I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was lying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his dome-like brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes.
It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.
Lest anyone should suppose that I am a cuckoo’s child, got on the wrong side of the blanket by lusty peasant stock and sold into indenture in a shortfallen season, I may say that I am House-born and reared in the Night Court proper, for all the good it did me. It is hard for me to resent my parents, although I envy them their naivete. No one even told them, when I was born, that they gifted me with an ill-luck name. Phedre, they called me, neither one knowing that it is a Hellene name, and cursed.