I sat all day and ruminated on this topic. I contemplated all of the various reasons why I stop reading a book: plot, characters, pacing, sett--forget it, nevermind.
I can't lie. I didn't even realize it was Tuesday until about five minutes ago. My brain doth be fried. It's after five pm, and my house is a disaster thanks to a toddler with Godzilla-like destruction powers, dinner is still in the freezer, my dog is whining to go out, my son is bouncing a basketball against our glass patio door, and I still have about 1500 words to type today to reach my word count goal. (Which is, in case you're wondering, um, 1500 words a day.) The past few weeks have been the I-can-barely-keep-my-head-above-water variety. So, I guess I'll have to invoke a good ole cliche here: better late than never, right?
Anyway, time to address the topic at hand! There's really no one reason I stop reading a book, other than a missing connection with the main character. As a reader, I can forgive a lot. Bad decisions, whiny behavior, clearly putting one's self in danger a la a horror movie. But that's only if I truly, genuinely like the main character. If she or he is someone relatable, who makes me laugh, and who I emotionally connect with. Of course, there's no one way to achieve that connection, but as a writer, I just want something, anything that I can grasp.
Otherwise, I'll be shouting at the pages when she breaks up with her boyfriend, or have the sudden urge to slap her when she whines about her job. Truth is, we all do those things. But there has to be enough there for me to forgive those flaws...which brings me to another point. The main character has to understand that she/he has flaws. There's nothing worse than reading a book wherein the main character is so, so shocked when he/she discovers that there is still Work To Do, emotionally. Especially when we as readers are screaming, "DUH!"
So, for me, as a writer, the way this all translates into my books is that I must, must, must intimately know my characters. And often, my books begin with just a character. The rest all happens later.
Speaking of happening later, if I don't get this dinner started, we will all be eating around 10pm. Until next week!