Tag Archives: pet peeves

More Pet Peeves

Check out the original list. Evidently I’m not done yet. Here are some more tips for writers who want to avoid irritating me their readers:

  • Avoid repetitive statements. He shrugged his shoulders. What else, pray tell, can one shrug?
  • Give your characters distinct names. I don’t mean unusual, necessarily, just noticeably different from each other. Once I had to quit a book after only a few chapters because I couldn’t keep Johnny, Jack, Jackie, Jerry, and Jimmy straight in my head. (No, I’m not making that up.)
  • Be consistent with your names. It’s fine to refer to Jack Smith as either “Jack” or as “Smith”. You can even call him “Smith” in the narration and “Jack” in the dialog from time to time. Just don’t switch back and forth constantly. Pick one and stick with it.
  • Have someone read your book aloud to you, preferably someone who’s never seen it before. Make notes while you listen, but don’t read along. Realize that this monotone is how every reader will “hear” your book in their head.
  • Careful with description. If the clouds around the mountain have nothing to do with moving the story forward, don’t spend three paragraphs on them. Readers don’t want to be stuck in a white room, but we also don’t care about the cuckoo clock’s personal history unless it becomes important later.
  • If you want to write a movie, write a movie. Don’t write a book. I cannot stress this enough.

Any more I’m forgetting?

Pet Peeves

Everyone has little things in books that bug them, ranging in reaction from minor irritation to a full-on “if this is there I will stop reading immediately.” Here are some of mine, in no particular order:

  • A man falling in love with a prostitute (a.k.a. the hooker with the heart of gold). It’s been done, people. Done to death.
  • Conflict/drama caused entirely by people not telling each other things. This drives me insane. Yes, I get that people have secrets, but too often characters hold back because (1) they have a martyrdom complex and don’t want to burden anyone with their problems, or (2) they think people just wouldn’t understand, and don’t even give them the chance to decide. It’s dumb, and it’s even worse when it’s the entire reason pretty much everything in the plot happens. If I can read a book and think “if they’d only told each other everything from the start, we could have avoided pretty much the entire story,” it really irritates me, and it’s a sign of weak writing.
  • Large amounts of foreign language. I was going to say it only bugs me when it’s not translated, but it also bothers me when people say things in a foreign language and it’s immediately translated into English. The occasional word is fine, but paragraphs or entire conversations get very tiresome. It’s a great word-padding trick for NaNoWriMo but I’d rather it were left out of published novels.
  • Conversations that are described instead of printed. Jane Austen was particularly bad about this, but she’s far from the only offender. The only exception to this is if the information would be a repeat of what the reader already knows.
  • Stories that don’t end. Now, I don’t need all the loose ends to be tied up, but I do need a story to have a satisfying (though not necessarily happy) ending. When it just stops and it’s left totally up to the reader to decide what happens (such as in The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber), I feel like I’ve completely wasted my time reading it. If I wanted to write my own ending, I would have written my own story. Finish what you start!
  • Authors that don’t do basic research. I’m not talking about little anachronisms in historical fiction; I mean truly basic information that anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the topic would know. James Patterson is a good example. He sets many of his novels in the DC metro area (which happens to be where I live) and then makes such glaring mistakes as inventing a mysterious city in Virginia called Church Falls and asserting that locals refer to the Smithsonian Institution as “The Smithy”. (We don’t. Seriously, nobody says that.) If you want to make up stuff, don’t set it in a real place. All you’re doing is irritating the natives.

I’m sure there are more I’m not thinking of. What are your pet peeves in books?

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