Nathan Bransford, Author

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What Are Your Pet Peeves as a Reader?

If you're reading this blog you have an intimate familiarity with the tendencies, biases, and at times irrational peeves that swim around in my head. My condolences.

But what turns you off as a reader? When you're reading a book, what drives you up the wall?


KingM said...

Poor writing drives me crazy. I don't mean weak plots or inadequately drawn characters, I mean bad writing on a sentence by sentence basis.

So many published books--bestsellers, even--sound like they were written by a high school kid. Ludlum is wretched this way.

Jana Lubina said...

Oh god, this could be quite the list! But if I were to choosejust one: knowing exactly where the plot is going. Predictability is DULL! Then again, so is going so far outside the box that you're not even making sense anymore in terms of events and characters.

Oh and stock characters. Hate 'em.

eric-paul said...

I really hate when an author uses a ten dollar word like strabismic and then two pages later uses it again. Once is enough, and in some cases more than enough. I can just see them sitting there having just perused their thesaurus, thinking, "Oooooo, I love this word, it's so shiny and new, I just have to use it." And then an hour later, "Once more won't hurt." Yes. Yes it does. Just say squint.

Kathleen said...

I've said this before, but my pet peeve is found in the romance that I would otherwise love. I HATE it when a hero makes a resolve not to you-know-what the heroine... and then can't find the strength to stick to it. It's supposedly because the passion is so great and all that, but it just makes the "hero" look totally weak in my opinion. If there's ANYTHING a hero should have the strength to stand by, it should be his own resolves! Come on!!!

The other thing that gets me is the reversed sentences. Such as, "Gazing at her, he thought..." It has its place, but I find who paragraphs where the vast majority of the sentences are written like that! It makes me feel like I've got to do hopscotch to keep track of what's happening when!

Lauren said...

I can't deal with style-less prose. "Workmanlike prose," as I've seen it called in some places. It moves the story along, gets the job done, but doesn't wow you. Or me. Or anyone. I love language, and I read as much (or more) for knock-me-over sentences and surprising word choices and painstakingly constructed character voices as I do for story. If I pick up a book and am not hooked by the narrative style within the first few chapters, it's unlikely I'll finish it.

Similarly, I don't like it when characters don't have individual voices. Everybody has verbal tics and pet phrases and strange ways of speaking. Those should absolutely be reflected in literature. One instance of "holy crow" doesn't count. Ahem.

A much pettier one: I can't stand it when a main character is mentioned as having a pet or pets, and then those animals have almost no role in the character's life or story. Like, a dog comes bounding down the stairs in the first chapter, and then we never hear from him again. Feed and play with your dogs, o characters of the world!

LeeAnn Flowers said...

Inconsistency bothers me. Changing the spelling of names between books in a series, forgetting dates, dates that don't add up, these are my pet peeves.

Kiersten said...

Imprecise language use. Words are your tools, make sure you use them well. If you're not sure a word means exactly what you think it does, LOOK IT UP. Or just don't use it.

I also hate repetitive metaphors or descriptions. We get that the love interest is amazingly good looking. You don't have to mention it every other sentence.

Anonymous said...

What about when a character does something ridiculous, inexplicable, or just plain indefensible because the plot requires him to? Stop him! He wouldn't do that! That doesn't make sense! That and bad writing, always.

Anonymous said...

"Sure enough"

I don't know why it bugs me, but it does.

spyscribbler said...

Starting a sentence with "for." I HATE it, irrationally despise it. I have no idea why, but it absolutely irks the crap out of me.

Ex: "For John was quirky fellow who liked to eat apples dipped in guacamole.

It's the only nit-picky pet peeve I have. I'm almost embarrassed to admit.

Lehcarjt said...

Being preached to drives me crazy. And it doesn't matter if the subject of the preaching is something I personally agree with or not. The moment a writer takes a fiction novel and uses it to promote a belief/judgment/etc, I am done. (I'm reading a book now that is anti-organized religion. I read one recently that was using the story to teach the author's personal religion. Lately I've seen pro-gay marriage and pro-changing the legal age of drinking.)

Anonymous said...

Characters who take a beating or a bullet (often detectives) and then refuse pain medication. This nonsense shows up even in otherwise very good books.
Give me an effin break. People in pain generally take the pills.

ORION said...

I love being fooled but I hate being set up...i.e. the long lost cousin nobody knew about ending up being the murderer...
other than that I can be amused for hours reading the backs of cereal boxes...
Oh the pain of all those carbs, sodium levels and daily minimum requirements.

Susan said...

Exclamation points! Especially after sentence fragments! Or two at a time!! Like this!!

They distract me right out of the story.

I'm always amazed when I see it again, which is usually in a thriller or romance story. If I could be a fairy or demon for just one night, I swear I'd visit all the printing machines of the world and destroy their exclamation-ability.

I mean, !!!!!!!

Joanne said...

Repeatedly using "said" in a dialogue. We know they're talking, don't need to be told in every sentence. It strikes me as very amateur. Just let the conversation flow uninterrupted.

Travis Erwin said...

This list has changed since I started writing and now it ticks me off when I see lazy writing that got published. Stuff like characters looking into a mirror and describing themselves, dialogue that is serves as an info dump, glaring holes or errors in the plot, ...

Lil said...

not to get too technical, but I get annoyed when there's little control over psychic distance.

I figure I can read an essay if I'm looking to have something explained to me. I'll read the newspaper for an objective summary of events, but I want to be captured by a story.

Precie said...

--Info dumps
--Mr/Ms Exposition (i.e., characters who exist mainly for info dumps)
--Blatant authorial manipulation of the reader
--"He saw his own {emotion} reflected in her expression." I cry "Foul!" at twist on telling vs showing and have begun to see it far too often.

Not so much a pet peeve as just something I'm seeing more often that disappoints me...Books that don't seem to fulfill the promise of their early chapters. They start out wonderfully written but then fizzle out toward the end with something trite or predictable.

(You can probably guess I'm not a HEA kinda girl.)

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Stilted dialogue and too much telling of the backstory. I'm reading one right now that has both and I'm ready to throw it across the room.

And yep, you guessed it: it's a best-selling author who's well-regarded.

Scott said...

Final chapters that wrap everything up in a neat little package can destroy a book for me. Not many years ago, I read a successful novel by a prize-winning author (I won't mention his name because of your rule against that kind of thing when the author is alive). I enjoyed the book quite a bit, despite some factual errors about some settings near where I lived. I could deal with those errors. But the final chapter wrapped everything up too neatly, epilogue-style.

I've never read anything else by him, including the award-winning novels.

Eric said...

Flawless characters.

Annalee said...

Describing sequential actions as simultaneous: "Putting his bike against the wall, he ran across the junkyard and dived behind the car." It makes me go "wait--how long are his arms?"

Also head-hopping. The Alex Rider books do both of these a lot, unfortunately. Which is sad, because they're otherwise good cracktastic fun.

Dave F. said...

Sections of the story that don't advance the plot. I'm thinking of long, deep character studies that masquerade as excitement. I feel cheated when I get to the end of the novel and find out that whole sections could be reduced because one of the characters is a minor participant or nearly non-essential. I've read too many chapters outlining current personal difficulties that begin in never revealed "deep, dark pasts" but cause irrelevant struggles between two characters only to find out that the plot doesn't need one of those characters to reach its climax. That's wasting my time.

I also don't care for tedious detail. It usually happens in historical novels where the writer is obsessed with painting a scene and forgets to write an engaging story. Details of houses, furnishings, geegaws, tea sets, manners and all that get out of hand.
This also happens in Sci-Fi where whole chapters can be devoted to scientific trivia - an example might be the collapse of a sun into a neutron star or white dwarf. The effects of this was an entire chapter in one of my recent books. Like Gee Whizzies, I wanna be a scientist, so teach me...
(take note, I am a scientist. I can teach you.)

In romance, I hate when the two son-to-be lovers procrastinate like silly children with never-ending excuses for not getting together. The premise of "When Harry Met Sally" was cute. It made a good story, but not everyone goes years and years before they realize the person they keep seeing is their mate. not everyone has episodes of "self-doubt" that prevents them from making a life time decision. Our divorce and remarriage statistics argue for my side of this arguement.

Laurel Amberdine said...

Interesting peeves people have.

Mine (I'll stick to things I find in published novels):

- Artificial tension created by hiding from the reader important information which is known to the POV character.

- Blatant emotional manipulation. (I always fall for it, but I'm ticked-off afterwards.)

- Concluding a novel, then tacking a chapter on which is the start of the sequel.

- Rape scenes.

- Lame science in SF, especially if it's dealing with quantum mechanics. Man, does that ever tick me off. GRRR. (How's that for a personal peeve?)

- Immature, irresponsible, stupid characters, especially if they're supposed to be the good guys.

Amy Nathan said...

I hate when subplots are dropped, never seen or heard from again.

It bothers me on two levels: 1) I'm vested in the storyline and want it played out, and 2) How could something like that slide past everyone involved in having a book published?

moonrat said...

-"creative" dialogue tags
-narratives that rotate from third to first person to present to past tense


Kristi said...

Dialogue that a real person would never say outloud. The written word and the spoken word are very different, and if an actor in the (potential) movie version of the book couldn't deliver the line effectively, then it shouldn't be in quotes.

nomadshan said...

When a character is "surprised" something has happened, when that something was obviously created by the author to direct the plot, as in:

John was surprised to have encountered a hurricane in Kansas.

Yeah, me too, John.

Dan said...

I liked the quote I heard on a commercial for Lewis Black's Root of all Evil where one of the comedians says, 'blogging is to literacy as Facebook is to fornication' (my euphemism).

This is not to say all blogs are terrible - some can be very funny, satisfy voyeuristic tendencies, or provide insider information. Or in your case, all three.

My biggest turn offs as a reader are when the author fumbles over words enough that you have to reread a sentence 3 times to make sure you're *not* the stupid one.

I don't mind reading that I'm stupid - I've grown quite used to it. However, I hate discovering that I'm reading something someone stupid has written!

Julia said...

Historical inaccuracies. Oh, how I hate that.

Or geographical inaccuracy. Or embarrassing inaccuracies relating to science, the arts, cooking, name it.

In deference to your "de vivis nihil nisi bonum" policy, I'll name two Old Hollywood chestnuts: the movie Krakatoa, East of Java (not unless you sail around the world first) and all of Joan Crawford's lines from the godawful proto-cougar epic Humoresque, where she plays a patroness of the arts who, when asked what music she most enjoys, says, "Symphonies, mostly. Or any type of concerto."

JES said...

I'm with Lehcarjt (@10:59), I think. In my case, it's not just overt preaching (some of that I don't mind, if it's well-written enough). I really don't like passages in which the author -- not even a character -- goes on for whole chapters at a time with a sort of heavy-handed oracular voice, as though s/he imagines speaking on the stage following the presentation ceremony at Stockholm.

Anonymous said...

Sick sadistic authors who dream-up sick sadistic sh*t for their sick sadistic characters to do to other characters, likely providing inspiration for real-life sick sadistic dullards who can't satisfy their sick sadistic tendencies by writing sick sadistic books.

I am so disgusted with authors trying to outdo one another in this vile filth.

Joshua Skurtu said...

Internal monologues.

Josh thought, (Italics here...)I sure hate it when people do this stuff. It's a cheap way of hiding telling in the story and passing it off as a character's thoughts.

Hate hate HATE it.


Tannat Madiran - The Darkest Grape said...

In no particular order, since you asked:

• He said she said dialogue. I don’t mean I need “he quipped” or “she stammered through her mouthful of undercooked rice” but when it becomes as monotonous as a marathon ping pong match, no thanks.

• New York, it’s as if the only city in the literary world is zip code 10001, same holds true for Los Angeles in film. This is why I love a crazed man like Cormac, who chooses to live in the godforsaken butt-crack of America that is El Paso. Go there and you will never be at a loss for real characters, not the “subway tokens” that populate the pages of 80% of what I am told to read.

• Lack of authority. I don’t need limp wristed unsure characters (unless this leads to something better) but the lukewarm caught in the middle “Woody Allen Impotence” types are getting crowded in my head. Stop!

• Great premises with poor writing. I know Dan Brown is an easy target, but good grief, if you were submit random chapters to a 6th grade English teacher, you’d be there a few years until you got it right. I’d love for someone with care for craft versus product to rewrite that entire book. What a waste.

• The trend towards smaller books, same price. I’m not asking for Pynchon, but when I see a book that’s under 200 pages, I’m thinking, would I still pay ten bucks to see a 45 minute movie? You can’t tell me anymore about your life story or greatest work than that? And before you start with “but the bookstores are asking for smaller spines…” bull. If it rocks, it stocks. Period.

• What I call “The Andromeda Strain” ending – the dues ex machine effect, whatever, the oh so simple and fortunate ending to what was, up until about the last ten pages, was an elevated heart rate ride. I also hate that these books tend to be heavy, and will often dent my drywall as I heave them across the room. These should be jacketed in bubble wrap or something from the Nickelodeon labs. It’s just responsible marketing.

• Cover art that leaves you wondering what the..? I know it isn’t why you buy the book, but it is. First impressions and all. I like subtle, I don’t need a color coded flow chart on the cover telling me the plot twist begins on page 72, but sometimes I wonder these days…

• The words “now a major motion picture” in the title. I’m pretty sure we all know by now that a book and the film version share precious little. All that tells me is that this guy/gal has a damn good agent or some movie star’s personal phone number.

• Black Slave Ghosts or any derivative thereof. They are the new vampires.

• Writers who think that the economy of words equals the economy of syllables or the use of a smaller thesaurus. Use the whole language, I bet if you explore the whole universe that is English, you will learn an entirely new definition of economy and minimalism. Thank God for Amy Hempel.

• Hourglass books. They are built like a Monroe or Mansfield, and just as vacuous. Great promise up front, you think to yourself, this is going to be good, turn off the phone! Then you hit the sahara straddling the continent. Pages upon pages of dialogue, flashback (yikes) and other thinly supportive narrative. This kills books for me, and they often rarely get to show me the bottom half of the figure. They become dents in the wall. From a book perspective, I need a book built like the proverbial brickhouse. Solid.

• Any children’s book that deals with magic. It seems that is all that kids are told to read. Not to be confused with imagination, mind you. But outright magic. Call it a preference, again though, the new vampires. Show them there is more instead of grooming them for Anne Rice reprints or else they may wither and die in a life without Harry. Think of the clinics across the world, little ashen faces with sunken robs of deadness looking up at the librarian, “I need a book about sorcery…anything man, anything, you got Puff the Magic Dragon on dvd? What’s a Newberry Award?”

MH said...

- Shallowness in general; characters who act and never think, especially when it feels like the author wrote the book that way to keep the reader interested

- Too much showing and not enough telling; it gets exhausting. Use both.

- So much fear that backstory will slow the novel that the author fails to include any backstory, so the characters appear to have no history at all
Backstory is good when it's woven in; a character's past says a lot about her

- The belief that good description means describing fluffy clouds and sunbeams (this is only excusable if the author is on LSD)

- "Likeable" characters
Nobody is that good. And if we were that good, everyone else would hate us.

- Characters in YA novels who seem like the embodiment of one giant teen cliche, spewing every contemporary slang term the 40-year-old author could overhear at her daughter's cheerleading contest. That might be fine for one character, but not all of them in the same book.

TALON said...

It's amazing what a difference there is between a book that is written well and one that is full of glaring problems. With one you simply read and enjoy, with the other you become distracted by all sorts of things.

My number one pet peeve is when I'm reading a book and I think I know what's going to happen (though the idea I have is improbable and ridiculous and totally out of character) and, low and behold, it happens. The best fiction writing, in my opinion, rings true. It's the false notes in poorly written books that trip me up.

Oh...and I detest typos in books. Not only are they distracting, but unprofessional.

MH said...

tannat made me think of another one:

YA novels set in Seattle. I know many authors live in Seattle, but I feel like I've seen enough of the place and I've never even been there. Move the setting somewhere else!

Diana said...

Poor editing. There have been more than a couple of books I've read during the past few years that were full of misspelled words. I am not the best speller in the universe, but when my eyes hit "consceince" or "wich" (two of which I've seen recently), it feels like I've been driving along a road (the story) and suddenly slammed into a brick wall.

When writers from California forget that most people outside of California do NOT refer to a highway as "the (insert number or name)." For example, if you drive around L.A., it's "the 405," "the Santa Monica Freeway," and "the 110." If you're driving around Kansas, it's just "I-35," "I-70," or "U.S. 50." (Exception: The Turnpike.) So when I was reading a book set in Minnesota, and the narrator kept throwing "the" in front of every road, I lost that sense of setting. I thought, this writer must be from California. And indeed, she was.

When a comedy writer feels like every sentence has to be a punchline. This one is definitely a personal preference. I love fun and funny writing, but when every single line is a joke, and there isn't even a lead-up to it, it wears me out as the reader.

Erik said...

Anytime I suspect that the writer believes he or she is more important than their story, I simply stop reading.

There are many reasons I reach this conclusion, including but not limited to: preaching, big words, distorted sentence structure, purple prose, characters built to sneer at, and inappropriate use of French.

I firmly believe that a writer is only as good as their ability to communicate, ideally through the heart and brain both. Writers who are "too cool for the room" need to find another room as far as I'm concerned.

Erik said...

Sick sadistic authors who dream-up sick sadistic sh*t for their sick sadistic characters to do to other characters ...

May I also add that I wish I had said this first? Thanks, anon.

the Amateur Book Blogger said...

Annalee' comment - yes, that kills me too - I recently reviewed something that had a line "he began by making five rows of tiny cuts all over his upper torso” - his upper torso must be really small to be able to cover it all over in just five tiny rows… -

Similes that don’t really work - "palpable enough to be breathed in like a floral arrangement..” (he had reaaallly big nostrils.)

Mixed metaphors.

Worse still, is when I am editing and find I have made these mistakes in my own writing in moments when I'm not paying enough attention....

Kristin Laughtin said...

Inconsistent characterization. It drives me up the wall when an author sets up a character's personality in a certain way over a book (or two or three), only to have them act or think completely the opposite in some situation for no good reason. They don't act contrarily because they're under duress, or have had a change of heart, or something explainable, but only because it suits the author's purpose.

Sam Hranac said...

Great stuff already mentioned. I'll go with one I didn't notice on the list already. Too much "ly."

She smiled knowingly.

He drank noisily.

The rat swam vigorously through water running rapidly over chillingly high falls.

I see this more in British authored stories than US. Guess I'm just a product of my environment, not surprisingly.

LisaC said...

I hate the phrase "more than a little," as in "she was more than a little scared." Applying the laws of math, "more than a little scared" just equals "scared," which isn't that interesting. Just show me what scared looks like instead.

Ken said...

I've seen perfect prose, fantastically realized characters, heavy plotting and heavy petting, sometimes at the same time, and still I've been turned off for one simple reason: the story isn't king. Folks, we sometimes forget, don't we? In our efforts to juggle the myriad elements of style, cultivate substance or indulge in deliberate substance abuse, all the things we worry about, if I'm not caught up in the story, I'm done. Ahh, for a strong story I'd tolerate many literary sins.

R.J. Keller said...

Overly descriptive passages. I usually skip 'em. Tell me basically what your character looks like, basically where they live, and let me fill the rest in for myself.

Jared X said...

I'm with Julia. Factual inaccuracies make me want to put a book down faster than anything else. Authors owe their readers research.

Recent example: in a commercially successful political satire by a major author, a character who was a member of the House of Representatives recalled something he had said in a filibuster. Only Senators can filibuster.

Don't draw me in with a promise of biting political satire and then botch a fact taught in high school civics classes.

Anonymous said...

Any book wherein a character "nurses" another character "back to health."


Margaret Yang said...

Books written in present tense.

Just, yuck. I refuse to read them. Sometimes I can make it through an entire short story in present tense, but not 400 pages of a novel. The narrative always sounds like stage directions and the description sounds stupid.

Past tense is the natural method of storytelling.

Furious D said...

Writers who know that they're important, and hit you with it on every page. Especially be editing out all humour, even true to life humour, because they fear it might dull their importance.

abc said...

Precocious young adult narrators.

Tom Burchfield said...

A lack of care and interest. That sense I sometimes get where the writer is "typing" it in and not even going over what they've written to see what they've done, or standing back and asking themselves those important questions? Patricia Cornwall started typing it in after her second novel and by the fifth I'd had way enough.

Successful genre writers fall into this trap often; but even a hack, as Bram Stoker proved, can write an entertaining absorbing book, so long as they are truly interested and care about they're doing. Their passion and dedication can override considerations of style.

Not everyone can be Shakespeare or Nabokov nor should they be. I'm sure as hell not! But I still work to make sure every word, every detail, every sentence, the plot, the story and the setting are the best I can give.

Caroline Steele said...

I hate, with the concentrated hatred of a thousand hate-filled suns, characters who have purple eyes. Or Mary Sues of any kind.

Also I hate inaccuracies (authors shouldn't leave me thinking, 'this shouldn't be happening, they should have died fifty pages ago!'). Another pet peeve is ignorance of scientific laws covered up by "magic," and ignorance of historical trends covered up by "it's a different world." An example of the latter is an extremely tolerant society that resembles in all other ways medieval or Renaissance Europe, except for the social progress of, say, modern days.

Anonymous said...

Wow - I'm scoring with Erik!

That's the second post of mine you've approved of. (Other was Mayan Calendar).

Apropos of the Sick Sadistic Sh*t-heads, allow me to add - when authors make you care about characters and then do weird terrible things to them for no particular reason except to ramp up the sensationalism.

Also, books with Bears on Unicycles. I can think of one author who has committed both of these sacrileges.

Jael said...

Awkward introductory or expository material for the sake of familiarizing the reader with something the character already knows.

To wit: "I walked down the smooth sidewalks of the Grosse Pointe suburb of Detroit, a part of town particularly known for its residents' wealth."

AGH! Just have the character walk through Grosse Pointe. I'll figure the rest out from context. If you don't suck as a writer.

Leatherdykeuk said...

Deus ex machina endings and
Very. Short. Sentences.

Anonymous said...

I think dream sequences are often a cheap way to "show not tell," but it's not realistic. My dreams are a mish-mash potpourri of things that have happened recently, not a clean, recurring storyline in which I face or avoid a confrontation that is tormenting me in real life.

And I agree with Caroline on the eyes thing: Unless they're wearing tinted contacts, no one in real life has emerald green eyes. No one. Grayish-green or hazel? Sure. Emerald green? Nope.

A Paperback Writer said...

Incorrect use of commas.

Joe Iriarte said...

Grammatically or syntactically incorrect use of Spanish in an English-language work. Seriously, can't these big publishing houses afford one person on staff to check the Spanish? And no, just because the author thinks he knows Spanish pretty well because he served a mission in BRAZIL does not make it true.

Transparent political soapboxing.

Deliberate obfuscation.


Tone in Spanish dialogue that is inconsistent with the tone in the English dialogue. Like there is no cursing in English the book, but the bilingual characters drop cabrón and cojones as if it were nothing.

Anonymous said...

Will someone please explain what "head-jumping" is? Thanks.

Lupina said...

I agree with Eric-Paul on overuse of unusual words, but they don't have to be the ten-cent variety. One of my fave authors used the word "clot" in a non-medical way four or five times in the same book, and every time the irritation multiplied exponentially.

Poor proofreading is also tops on my list, along with cutesy names, obvious factual errors, continual passive sentences and a patronizing tone in exposition.

Anonymous said...


ICQB said...


Just_Me said...

The Plot-From-A-Box.... this happens usually with over-published writers. The first few you read are great. Then, around book three, you realize the author is recycling the same plot and changing names. I'll put down the book and stop buying the author.

Stupid Characters.......... When the character does something mind-numbingly dumb for the sake of the plot or because the author can't think of anything else to do, I throw the book at the wall.

Excessive typos and errors....... I know the final write-up of books gets farmed out for printing. But a misplaced typo ruins a book, and I blame the publisher.

Historical errors............ If I read something in a historical setting I want the facts to be right. I want the characters to be believable in the setting, even if it means they all go to one church and kneel before a king or worship Diana and enjoy chariot races. There is no excuse for getting it wrong.

Crusaders....... Don't preach to me. I have my beliefs, I don't read to have an author change them (at least not fiction). Religious themed books set my teeth on edge, the ones that are anti-religous and overly liberal are worse.

Cursing........ I do not need a profanity eevry three words. Thanks!

Sotck characters and cliches...... yeah... just don't. Do us all a favor and erase any mention of heaving bossom/this brushing that/bitter old man/dazzling blonde cheerleader from your writing. I want real characters to know and love, not cardboard cutouts.

Okay, excessive list. Sorry! I'm having trouble finding a good book I can get lost in this week. Anyone have some suggestions?

Joe Iriarte said...

Head-jumping is when a tight-third person narration switches from focusing on one character to another without any sort of a section break.

Jim watched his wife walk across the patio and grinned at her receding back. She didn't suspect a thing. Just another month before the insurance policy vested, and he could do away with her and be a rich man.

She had everything now, didn't she? A successful career as a real estate novelist, a beautiful house, three cats, and, finally, someone to share it all with. So why wasn't she happy? Susan dug through the assortment of beers and sodas in the cooler until she found what she was looking for. Ah, Coors. She was about to pull the can out when she froze. Something was wrong. She could feel it.

In 3rd person limited you're supposed to be getting the story from one character's perspective, so you should not be privy to thoughts or actions that that character cannot observe.

LitWitch said...

So many already spoken for... but I'll add a few:

- cliches or over-used phrases. (You're a writer, aren't you? Use some creative words of your own!)

- inconsistencies in the character, narration, voice or rules of the world. (This is YOUR story -- you should know it inside & out!)

- fantasy-narrative, by which I do not mean the genre, but any story where the author is CLEARLY writing about a person, dialogue, circumstance, setting, etc. that is their own, personal fantasy-come-to-life and expect me to swallow it. (I have my own kinks, thank you.)

SideKick said...

Dropping me off in a brand new world at the start of the story, and then proceeding to give me ten million made up words without explaining any of them.

I prefer to wade in.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I hate verb-based fragments, especially when used in a series.

He wouldn't walk. Wouldn't talk. Wouldn't eat. Wouldn't sing.

I wouldn't read on.

Anonymous said...

Too much description.

I find myself skipping over all the "flowery" description just to get to the plot of the story.

I don't want to know how the wind was lightly blowing across your shoulders as you walked ever so slowly through the forest, gazing up at the ominous clouds overhead. I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!

Am I the only one that is bothered by this?

Bernita said...

A heart specialist in a hospital near me has emerald green eyes. Sorry,Anon, they do exist.

cc said...

On the other hand...

I find that I'm more generous with authors now that I am a writer. The stuff that used to tick me off -- like many of the things listed above -- I now overlook. Who knows how an editor has urged the writer to change, this, this, and that... and how much of it had to be done on a tight DEADLINE? How much of it had to be plugged in to make sense of a new ending or a new plot point?

If I don't like a book in the first 25 pags I simply stop reading, wish that author well, and move on to a different book.

Skinny Monkey said...

I'd have to say not allowing the character to tell the story. For instance, Laurrell K. Hamilton has a bad habit in her Anita Blake series of narrating out a specific point, immediately before she has the characters indulge in dialogue about - wasting time and space with repetition without moving the story along. BIG pet peeve.

AstonWest said...

Not getting my money's worth...

Cam said...

Bad editing. About 18 years ago, fresh out of college with a degree in English and Communications, I was trying to enjoy my last free summer month reading a book by a famous mystery writer who shall remain unnamed... I finally took a red pen to the pages and scratched out several grammatical, spelling and typographical errors. I didn't bother to finish the book and I mailed it to the publisher.

Also, lack of diaglogue puts me to sleep.

Katzie said...

Poor grammar and typos. I mean, I understand that everyone makes mistakes, but these are professionally edited pieces of art. When I see a typo or bad grammar, sometimes it's the only thing I see on the page.

Ruth said...

Overly sentimentalised sex scenes, or sex scenes just for the sake of HAVING sex scenes. If it doesn't add anything to the story or character development - or if it's full of "her eyes were pools of desire" wishwash - it just irritates me.

Other Lisa said...

Oh, so many pet peeves...

Undisciplined writing that shouts "Look at me! Look at me! I'm so clever!" is high on my list.

Gawain said...

This somewhat echoes what's been said but:

It is very frustrating to read unpolished writing in print. As writers, many of us face rejections almost daily. We familiarize ourselves with the rules: no passive language, no negative language, show don't tell, no adverbs and adjectives, etc. We go over our manuscript dozens of times searching for these flaws and chopping away at it for months. Then it gets rejected on the basis of some missed detail or hasty judgment. Usually it's something that makes us think, "but didn't you read page TWO?"

And then we pick up the latest Huge International Bestseller and find elementary, amateurish writing that doesn't even appear to have been edited.

I'm not saying it's all that way, but it happens. Not every bestselling book is the work of a great writer. Industry is about making money; fame is unfortunately more important than talent or polish. That is what frustrates me most.

Ryan Field said...

Anything too cute.

deannachase said...

When the writer has the protag or any other character constantly correcting the other characters grammar.

Come on already. I am not reading this fiction novel for a grammar lesson. Move on.

Kimber An said...

Book Covers.
1) Ones which misrepresent the book's content.
2) Sexually graphic ones, especially if it's not Erotica. A naked guy on the cover makes me think it's porn. It does not make me think it's going to be a darn good story with a riveting plot and multi-dimensional characters.
3) Endless Parade of Sameness. Every other Romance novel has a naked male chest on it and many of those pictures are of the same cover model. Sure, he's hot, but let's hear it for variety!
Unbelievable Heroes. Puh-leeze. I've been married a long time to a real man whom I adore. I know the difference!
Dark & Gritty. That's probably not a pet peeve. I'm just sick of it and ready for some fun and adventure in my reading.
The segregation of African American authors in bookstores.

Lynne said...

Omniscient POV. Major heading-hopping all throughout book; sometimes a sentences has to be analyzed to see what the heck is going on. Then, after a preposterous game, & zipping through the book, everything is wrapped up in a THE final chapter.
No clue as to *how* it happened. I think in one book, a heroine ended up marrying a cousin from the past. Oh, charming. Not. Solution: fling book against a wall and let it lie in shame.

Nanette said...

boring writing style

boring description

uninteresting or unreal characters - when you can tell that they aren't from the location the author says they are from

short books that still cost $25

memoirs that aren't original

memoirs that don't explain how they went from a drug -parented childhood, did drugs themselves and end up with a great job in a field they didn't study - in other words, the most important and interesting part of memoir is left out.

R. Daley said...

Fabricated twists are one of my biggest pet peeves. I love a good twist, mind you. The bigger the surprise, the redder the herring you were certtain you had pinned, the more enjoyable the payoff is.

But when the twist makes no logical sense, and is only thrown in as an absurdity to be damn sure you couldn't guess it...that's a let down. Especially if it's at the end of a really long novel.

gem said...

Two expressions that former bosses used to use in their writing: "point with pride" and "at first blush." Irrationally reactive to these two phrases

GA coast said...

First, deus ex machina -
Next, poor English usage and blantantly inappropriate word choice, such as "in lieu of" when "in view of" is meant.

joemedic said...

Technical details that are outright wrong. There is no safety on a Glock to take off, the smell of Cordite is interesting, but it hasn't been used in small arms ammunition for 50 years. It doesn't take much effort to do technically oriented research, why can't even best selling authors do it?

maniacscribbler said...

Bad copyediting. I want to be a copyeditor as my day job, and all the mistakes in the books drive me absolutely nuts!!
Also, the voice of the story being really young. I'm in danger of getting a lot of this, because I read mostly YA. But, there's some that I read for teens that sounds like it's written for a ten year old. That drives me nuts, too.
ManiacScribbler =^..^=

DeborahBrent said...

Repetitions. If you've already told me the hero is grieving over a lost love so he won't let himself love again, don't tell me on every other page.

clindsay said...

Anon -

Actually I have one friend who has emerald green eyes, and another who has nearly neon green eyes. They're striking, and they are 100% real. I have a friend with amber eyes as well. It's rare but it happens.

sesgaia said...

Stereotypes. The "strong" character has a "strong chin." The "weak" character has a "weak chin." The overweight woman is unhappy and sexless; the tall, slender woman is brilliant and sexy. Freckles equal mischievous and not attractive or sexy. Red hair means a temper and/or meanness or sluttiness, esp. in a girl. A short man is aggressive and defensive, and so on. These kinds of assumptions are akin to discrimination, IMO.

Adaora A. said...

When YA books (which I do read a lot of, amongst other things) use the so called 'typical' teen speech too much. Like it's a cruch their leaning on.



I do genuinely skip past the dialogue.

Anonymous said...

Information dumps disguised as dialogue.

I am currently reading a work of historical fiction that repeatedly has 4-5 pages of "dialogue" with no other purpose than to fill the reader in on action that took place in an interlude. That just tells me one thing: the writer bit off more than he can chew in this particular work. Break it up! Write a series. Or solve the problem in some other way. But to put all this historical information in a "conversation" is just plain unbelievable.

austexgrl said...

Bad writing! Today I was reading a mystery by a well known author, a best selling top ten author. The writing was so bad.. alliteration all over the place..what was he thinking? where was the editor..please! I can understand poor plots, or slow plots..but poor sentences, over and over?? ..and then some agent wants to reject a query because a new author uses a well-worn phrase. Kinda messes with the credibility.

Marge said...

What drives me nuts is to read hack phrases and words that I've been told are not to be used, because they're a) overused; b) hackneyed; and/or c) all of the above.

Kimmie S. said...

What really, truly irks me is bad editing. Typos, run-on sentences, incorrect punctuation...I've even come across major characters' names being wrong (ie Aunt Nora in Chapter 1, then Aunt Norma in Chapter 6). I even find these things in the paperback edition. Why can't the publisher hire a good copy editor?

Serena said...

Mundane details that don't do anything for the story.

She grated the carrots, cut them up, and put them in the pot. Next, she dumped the potatoes onto the counter and began peeling them. Her eyes watered as she sliced the onions. Once the water was boiling, etc. etc. etc.

B - O - R - I - N - G !!! For crying out loud, get to the good part!

Maris Bosquet said...

Ohmy, I'm late to this party! So far, everybody has expressed many of my own pet peeves.

I'd like to add: Anything written by a celebrity.

Other than that, my biggest PPs are historical inaccuracies, anachronisms, shallow characters and gratuitous sex.

Bea said...

Pages of unrelenting dialogue with too few details about action, setting, speaker's reactions. Makes me feel that I'm floating in a cloud of boring, busy, buzzy insects.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Mine is weird, but it's the problem story with just enough characters to solve the problem. There comes a point when I can sit back and assign all the roles in the solution to the folks on the page.

On the other hand, I love it when I do that but turn out to be wrong. Give me the real twist ending every time.

cate said...

Too much back story in the beginning. It's irritating because writers are discouraged at every turn not to do this, yet I find it in published books all the time.

Sheryl said...

I can't stand repetive story points... where the author keeps telling us something and telling us the same thing again... okay... I get it, the character is obsessed. Now MOVE ON!

Adaora A. said...

austexgrl said...
Bad writing! Today I was reading a mystery by a well known author, a best selling top ten author. The writing was so bad.. alliteration all over the place..what was he thinking? where was the editor..please! I can understand poor plots, or slow plots..but poor sentences, over and over?? ..and then some agent wants to reject a query because a new author uses a well-worn phrase. Kinda messes with the credibility

I think we've all learned that we've got to produce the best work possible in order to get to the point where 'allowances' can be made for us. Now this is not me trying to be arrogant or anything, but seriously, it's the only time any writer is going to be able to get away with less then they can do. I respect your decision to not name any names. I probably wouldn't either. It's just my opinion - the opinion of an unpublished writer.

Maggie said...

I read a lot of music-influenced fiction (as this is what I write). I really hate it when writers don't really know their shit about music. I read a novel where a guy is supposed to be a super-popular indie rocker, but then he's covering John Mayer at a show? Come on!
There's a certain show culture within indie music, and I like it when writers do it right (ie Nick Hornby), but most of them don't.

Maggie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maggie said...

Oh yeah. I also really hate long, elaborate flashbacks.

A flashback can be a few paragraphs, I don't mind if there's a particular purpose for it. But when it lasts pages and goes on about crap that isn't even that important to the main story (eg, it's a subplot that really doesn't need that much time), it gets frustrating and I start skipping pages.

I use flashbacks in my writing, and I don't necessarily knock them, but I think they should be short and sweet.

I also hate shock writers. I mean, they always tend to be way popular with college students and young adults, but I feel like it's a cheap form of getting readers.
"Sick sadistic authors who dream-up sick sadistic sh*t for their sick sadistic characters to do to other characters, likely providing inspiration for real-life sick sadistic dullards who can't satisfy their sick sadistic tendencies by writing sick sadistic books."
Perhaps a better way of describing shock writers.... And though he's an excellent writer, I think everyone knows whom I'm referring too.

Arwen said...

* The word preternatural. Ever, in any context. Yes, I know, this is irrational of me.

* Suddenly limiting an omniscient pov in order to manufacture suspense.

* An author writing themselves into a fictional plot-line.

Elizabeth Aston said...

I detest novels written in the present tense. It might have been experimental thirty years ago, it isn't now. Do writers think it adds a 'literary' gloss to their book? Or immediacy?
It doesn't.
Leave the historic present to the historians: "Richard's cavalry advances on the left flank" works for them, but how it irritates me in fiction.

janeyolen said...

In no special order:

*Poor writing (well, actually, that is my top!)

*Info dumps

*People on the same horses for days on end who do not pee and do not have a horse founder under them

*Climactic scene shown off stage

*Someone badly wounded or roundly beaten up who immediately gets up and finishes sleuthing, riding for days (see above) or even talking naturally and making sense

*Endless numbers of adverbs

*Poor writing

Jane Yolen

Elizabeth said...

Novels written in the present tense. If I pick one up by accident in a bookstore, I put it right back down again. The only book I like that's in the present tense is Ida Vos, *Anna is Still Here,* and I forgive it because the book is translated from the Dutch and Dutch writers all use the present tense.

Anachronisms in historical novels. Not so much details of setting or clothing or whatever, but anachronistic attitudes and frames of reference.

Limited third-person viewpoint in long, long books. It gets very tiresome. I name no names but after SEVEN long, long books you just want to scream, "enough already! Can't we just have the scene from that other person's viewpoint, instead of an account overheard from under the bloody invisibility cloak?"

Ultra-catchy opening lines that were clearly crafted to grab an agent or publisher's eye, followed by an ordinary or even mediocre story.

Whirlochre said...

Sentences that clunk as if they've been mixed and matched and chipped and chopped into eezeereader soundbites. Yuck.

Mary said...

I will put up with quite a lot, but TOO many mistakes and inconsistencies drive me nuts. I read a story last week where the protagonist’s dead son was later referred to as his daughter. Ugh!
But I still like the author and will read more of his work.

Anonymous said...

Getting the details wrong. If the character is an expert in something the author is not, the author needs to get the details right, because a reader will spot the mistake. I no longer buy a certain best-selling author because one of his main characters gets facts/methods so wrong!

The Wannabe Scribe said...

I'll overlook most stuff but I the one thing that can jar me out a book is an inappropriate or silly simile.

One well know author of a Mars trilogy compared someone or something (I can't quite remember what, but I'm sure it was someone) to a toilet.


'Nuff said.

Julie Weathers said...

5. A writer who latches on to an odd word, "roiling" I'm looking at you here, and uses it at every opportunity in every book. Or unique descriptions of a person and referring to him or her as that over and over. It's all right to use him or her.

4. The writer who invariable winds up with his heroines fighting naked and then glaring if anyone looks at them. You just fought off twenty armored men with your bosom heaving and doing heaven knows what while you wielded sword and sorcery with skill and aplomb. I gave that one three chances before I realized it was his standard formula. The good bits interspersed with the naked warriors and sorceresses weren't worth it.

3. Inserting chapters of boring backstory. George R.R. Martin can insert backstory and make me ask for more, but most authors simply aren't that skilled.

2. Inserting gratuitous sex, violence and language just for the shock value. Yes, it's wonderful you learned how to spell *insert four letter word of choice*, but do you have to use it in every sentence?

1. *drum roll* Characters who miraculously come up with abilities never hinted at before just in time to save the day.

"Sick sadistic authors who dream-up sick sadistic sh*t for their sick sadistic characters to do to other characters, likely providing inspiration for real-life sick sadistic dullards who can't satisfy their sick sadistic tendencies by writing sick sadistic books."

Yep. I detest this and won't even give them a chance.

Anonymous said...

Minute details that sound good, but in actuality don't fit in the story.

For example, (this is pretty nit-picky, but it drove me nuts) there's a book I read a few months back by a woman who uses a beautiful writing voice.

But in her book, that took place in the springtime, had cicadas singing and hurricane warnings in May. As far as I know, that stuff doesn't happen at that time of the year, and it really bothered me.

cc said...

Adaora (5:51)--

You said it Gets. On. Your. Last. Nerve.

Uh, I just turned in a YA ms to my agent and I was writing certain sentence In. This. Manner. To. Make. Several. Points. And she said, THAT was getting on her last nerve! :)

Maniacscribbler (5:11) How cool is it that you want to be a copyeditor! Honestly, I'd rather go to the dentist, but that strikes me as such a talent, that inbred attention to detail. I think it'd be a harder job than writing, really. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Misused or misspelled words! I just came upon this twice last week, and it was the SAME WORD - once in a magazine and once in a novel.

In the magazine, the article was about gourmet foods, and where they meant palate, they put pallet. Then just a day or two later I was reading a novel, and where the character was thinking about colors and thought palette, guess what the word in the book was? You guessed it, pallet.

It drove me up the wall.

Other pet peeves - your and you're, misused apostrophes, and the new favorite lose and loose.

Head hopping and mundane action (a half page of the heroine walking down the hall with a cup of coffee and setting it on the counter before she got into the shower - this is first-draft stuff that NEEDS TO BE CUT)

Julie Weathers said...

"Will someone please explain what "head-jumping" is? Thanks."

Might have been answered and I missed it.

That is point of view switching, frequently.

You see something happen from one person's perspective and then immediately jump into someone else's thoughts or perceptions.

Re the emerald green eyes, my brother and son both have them. My mother has very odd, bright blue, almost sapphire eyes. They don't always come with contacts.

Irrational ability to control pain? It depends. Some people are just tough.

Keri Ford said...

*Reading a scene in one characters view, and then we turn the page and read the SAME DARN scene in a different character's pov.

-keri, who has one of those odd eye colors-amber. And they are best described as honey.

Vieva said...

a story that has, at the end, the random romance happy ending.

early Heinlein was famous for this, but I've even seen it in "romance" novels and other places where you just scratch your head.

Just because you have a male and a female character does NOT mean at the end of the book they're going to suddenly randomly agree to marry out of nowhere. PLEASE.

Anonymous said...

When the writer assumes the reader shares their back agenda -political or prejudice or soapbox anything.
Go write articles, please, run for office, but unless it is part of the plot, don't think to assume I share your agenda.
I read an otherwise good book by a certain class of author that throughout the book was smug that her body, clothes, intelligence, man-appeal, and so on just put another certain class of author in her place. Can you spell chip-on-her-shoulder? It wasn't a book about that kind of tension either. It was a chic lit novel.

Violence. Don't.
Gratuitous Graphic sex or violence.

Author fantasy (not the genre). I know this obnoxious guy who writes himself into relationships with all these women who wouldn't date him.

I have a lot of patience with writers figuring out how to write, though. I am trying to figure that out myself.
I really enjoyed how JK Rowlings became better and better with each book. I liked watching her grow. I also love writers who experiment and, yes, sometimes it doesn't work, but I appreciate the boldness of it.

Anonymous said...

I just finished a book that was a true page-turner, but felt completely cheated when I reached the climax. The resolution was so wildly improbable that it spoiled my enjoyment of the rest of the book. (I mean, even the characters talked about it being a miracle...) I love plot twists, but don't make it one that would never, in a million years, actually happen.

abc said...

Jane Yolen? The Jane Yolen? Just wondering, cause I love to read Jane Yolen books to my youngin.

My new pet peeve in writing (which mostly seems to happen in blog writing) is overuse of cutesy words like charming and smitten.

Anonymous said...

My husband and my border collie both have amber colored brown eyes.

I think I would be suspicious of anyone describing someone else's eyes as amber or emerald other than a familiar though.

Amie Stuart said...

Being beaten over the head with a) description--please do NOT tell me how hot/fine/gorgeous your characters are ten million times and don't continually remind me about their washboard abs and beefy forearms. Once is plenty.
b) do NOT beat me over the head with conflict/character issues.

And last but not least, stories whose first 50 pages are loaded with info-dumps. Yes, in published novels. Most particularly (lately for me anyway) urban fantasy. *sigh*

Kate H said...

Mostly bad editing. Continuity problems. Typos. Poor grammar, especially misuse of who/whom, nominative-case pronouns used in plural objects, and misplaced modifiers.

And, of course, sloppy writing, shallow characters, plots that have gaping holes, anything that breaks the willing suspension of disbelief.

Last but not least, prejudice or lack of homework done on the part of the author, especially when it relates to things I know a lot about. I just finished a Jodi Picoult book that is all about religion and she made some real howlers about Christianity. That really bugged me. I probably won't read her again.

Elmore Hammes said...

Book one of a trilogy that doesn't stand alone, when books two and three may never be released. Unless it's LOTR, it needs to have a satisfying conclusion versus simply stopping because you ran out of pages.

Bethanne said...

Ludlum is wonderful, btw.

Mostly, I hate books with too many words. If it can be said in 3, why use 6?

Just sayin'

adlarrow said...

What drives me crazy are type-o's. It messes with the flow of the story and make my fingers itch to grab the red pen and fix them.

sleary said...

Headhopping. Using a comma where a semicolon ought to be. Typos in the main characters' names. (Harlequin, I am looking at you.)

Prologues of the serial killer's tortured childhood. Or really, almost any prologue.... most of them don't deserve to exist. Epilogues, too.

Cover art that makes me embarrassed to be seen with the book in public. (Saturn's Children is a current example.)

B.J. Anderson said...

A few have already said it, but I don't like it when an author puts in too much of a good thing. Mainly, descriptions. I love descriptions, but when I put the book down and move on to another because it's going on and on and on. . . well, that's bad, and I probably won't read books from that author again. I like to READ! I want to get through the book! I want to disregard everything I have planned because the book is so good that I have to finish reading it now!

Jabez said...

Writers who write almost exclusively about characters who are writers.

K.S. Clay said...

Inconsistent characters. This is the worst for me. I can't stand it when a writer takes a character and has them do something that they just wouldn't do.

My second major pet peeve is experimental writing. I hate when authors throw out convential writing styles without any reason except to confuse the reader. I read a book that was enjoyable up until a chapter when the author decided to throw out convention and write in stream of consciousness from an unidentified character's point of view where the character continually made references to things that I didn't understand (and no, these did not become any clearer when I finished the book)

Anonymous said...

Plots where it turns out its all a dream, like "Zeroville".

Anonymous said...

Caroline Steele- How about Titus Groan from Gormenghast? (
Reading Gormenghast is the only time I've ever not gotten fed up a character with violet eyes, probably because everyone found the color creepy rather than omg so beeutiful.

Pet peeve:
When the good people are hot and the bad people are ugly.

Joe Iriarte said...

Where are you people finding all these books that are so badly edited? I mean, I find typos from time to time, but you're/your confusion? In a published book? Seriously?!


Elizabeth, I haven't yet read any books that involve cloaks of invisibility, though some are on my to-be-read shelf, but I would wonder if the problem there isn't the limited third person, but the fact that we never change *which* person we're looking at. I love limited third person, and can't stand omniscient narrators. But in most books I read, there will be an occasional scene that is still limited third person, but that focuses on a different person.

Erik said...

Wow. I've learned a lot by reading this list, it's very good.

I think my saying about stocks also applied to writing: it's much easier to know what's crap than what's good. Like stocks, however, that's still very useful information when it comes to making something good because you simply leave out the bad. A decent plot will carry itself as long as you don't do something stupid, as far as I know.

Oh, and anon of the Maya calendar and the riff against "sick sadistic sh*t", I hope you're not amused that I liked yer stuff just because I'm an impossible to please asshole. I mean ... well, I am, but that's entirely beside the point (unless you live with me, at which point it becomes an ongoing issue).

Seriously, I like you guys. Well, 90% of you, at least. I learn a lot here; I make my case directly and love it when you do, too.

Anonymous said...

superhero types that win every fight, sleep with every hot character of the opposite sex and have an all-encompasing knowledge of everything. In real life, most computer programmers are not ninja and most ninja can't make a cell phone out of a pack of cigarettes a shoe lace and some spit.

Also, why do the subject books of all of your pet peeves have to hit the wall? You can do so much with a compact bundle of wasted paper like forcing your in laws to use it as toilet paper or giving it to the dog as a chew toy.

Chumplet said...

"Okay, excessive list. Sorry! I'm having trouble finding a good book I can get lost in this week. Anyone have some suggestions?"

Of course you realize everyone here is going to recommend their own books.

Random Girl said...

I'm sure this has been covered, I only skimmed most of the other comments, but I can not stand when I'm reading a book and read "their" when it should be "they're", or some silly mistakes like that. Any other easy to fix errors in grammar. Inconsistencies in the story. Misspelling a character's name. All of those things make me want to put the book down and run away. Forever.

Julie Weathers said...


Of course you realize everyone here is going to recommend their own books.

I'd recommend my own, but it's having an identity crisis. I don't know what I'm going to call it so it's hard to recommend. You're safe from me.

I'm reading Game of Thrones now, when I have time. It's intriguing, but I think I may be the last fantasy fan on earth to discover it.

DreamWriter said...

Cliches. I can't stand when I get to the end of the book and guess what's going to happen, and that goes for films too. This is the reason I can't stand Romance novels!

Nicholas Tam said...

A lot of the ones that come to mind for me have already been mentioned, the most serious being internal monologue - especially italicized internal monologue. This is as much a problem with placement (usually jarring) as it is a problem with the quality of the monologues themselves. I also don't think much of the apologists for "workmanlike prose". If you're not going to demonstrate any poetic craftsmanship at all, you might as well write an essay.

Some that I might add:

- Books that present things that are relatively common knowledge (or at least easily and publicly accessible) as secret truths that are only available to the few. This is one of the biggest problems I have with Dan Brown on the rare occasion that his research is accurate.

- Some people have complained about extensive exposition. Others have complained about present tense. Neither of those alone are too intolerable for me, but what I can't stand is when a past-tense narrative steps into long passages of present-tense exposition. It's like the author is asking you to ignore the story for a minute and listen to him lecture about his made-up facts.

- Direct quotations of the author's favourite song, or whatever he/she was listening to while writing.

- Allegorical propaganda that makes no attempt to engage with alternative points of view, or sets them up as straw men at best.

- Meaningless, generic character names. I'm not saying that everyone has to use names to explicitly flag their characters like Dickens or Rowling, but some thought should go into them, at least.

- Speaking of names, this one is specific to sci-fi/fantasy: arbitrary apostrophes in names of people, places and things. "But then it sounds all foreign and made-up! Some sounds aren't representable in the English language!" Uh, yes, but given that we've already accepted a certain suspension of disbelief in that the narration and dialogue of an alternate universe are being presented in English, I think we should recognize the fact that we transliterate unpronounceable names into pronounceable spellings all the time. And it's not like punching apostrophe-shaped holes in everything is going to solve the problem.

When it comes to made-up languages and words, Tolkien's imitators are often very obviously unlike Tolkien in that they clearly have no understanding of linguistics whatsoever.

- Chapters that trail off with ellipses to keep you in suspense...

Joe Iriarte said...

If you're trying to demonstrate poetic craftsmanship, write a poem. :p

I'm generally not in the mood to read poetry; I'm in the mood to read a story. I find overly poetic prose attention-seeking.

Leslie said...

I totally agree with the others who railed against books written in the present tense. To me, it comes across as not only pretentious ("Look at me! I'm so edgy! I'm so original!") but lazy. If you're relying on the tense to convey a sense of urgency and immediacy, it means there's something lacking in the writing.

Also, I hate it when authors are too cute for their own good. You can't get a pass on an improbable plot twist just because your characters acknowledge how improbable it is.

sylvia said...

A late response but I'm just catching up.


Lately I've been beset by books which begin with women unhappy with their world. I could live with that, but they WHINE. *argh*

Actually, I've realised that I should have been more specific when I was referring to bad writing.

Grace said...

1. Protagonists named Kate or any derivation (Kat/Cat/Katie) or nu spellings (Cait/K8) of the name. No offense meant to the lovely Kate's of the world, but this "everywoman" name has been done to death in novels.

2. Characters who sigh all the time, or do everything "slowly." Slowly, Kate turned and sighed.

It's tired.

daybydaywriter said...

Weak, unimaginative writing, as in first-draft stuff like repeated words, cliche phrases, passive instead of active voice.

It's a sign of a beginner, but even with some established writers, their early work is great, but their later work, while still maybe strong in story, can be weak in the word-to-word writing.

Yes, build the story well. Yes, develop the characters well. But after all that's in place, go through the manuscript a few more times and see if the words you're using are the best words or if there are others that could be better.

I think this applies to beginners and pros -- always strive for the best, the most imaginative, not the ok.

Rachel said...

I'm a little late responding to this, owing to the fact I'm in Bangkok and out in the streets most of the time, interviewing prostitutes. But...chick lit with whiny, female characters REALLY bothers me. There's nothing so demoralizing for a woman to read about a "heroine" who hates herself and everyone else.

Anonymous said...

“Info dumping” has been mentioned several times, but a particular pet peeve of mine is what I call “grocery lists.” If your heroine has researched several herbs and potions, listing off all the different herbs she knows how to use off the top of her head whilst failing to mention what they’re for or what relevance they have to the story is really the just the author’s way of saying, “Hey, look at me! I did my homework herbs and potions! You will be quizzed later.” If I wanted to read an encyclopedia entry, I would read the encyclopedia.

Another pet peeve of mine isn’t really specific to any one book or genre, but to the American fiction market in general. And my peeve is this: Sob stories. Yes, everyone has one. But do we really need to advertise the most awful abuse or neglect our protagonists endured as a child just to elicit sympathy? If overcoming abuse and neglect is what your story is about, then fine, but otherwise I really don’t need to know that little Johnny was always picked last to join the team at basketball camp when he was ten unless it has any bearing on his current actions or decisions in the story. There is a difference between rooting for protagonists to succeed and feeling so sorry for them that you hope they catch a break. The former keeps you turning pages to see what happens next, the latter encourages you to skip ahead since you already know the ending.

Jordyn said...

I hate having the characters' looks described so obviously. By this I mean I hate when the author TAKES TIME OUT OF THE STORY to tell us what so-and-so looks like, especially when they go out of their way to think of "creative" ways to say it. I want to yell, "HER SKIN ISN'T CARAMEL MOCHA, IT'S JUST BROWN! BROWN IS AN OKAY WORD TO USE!"

Irritates me.

JRLadies said...

I hate getting involved in a story only to be dupped into one of those 'it was all a dream' or something similar endings. If it isn't real, why'd I bother?

Also, noticing a lot of poor editing lately.. misspellings, bad grammar, words that are just missing to complete the sentence. No one's perfect I know, but it's SO distracting.

Rita said...

1. Characters studying themselves in the mirror. (Though I can think of examples where this works, so if you're going to do it, justify it!!)

2. What Laurel Amberdine said above: when the author keeps information from the reader that everyone else in the story has. (Da Vinci Code)

3. Here's one that has been slowly taking over my brain the last several years, though I'm still fighting it:

When the main character, or main character's parent, is a writer.

I used to love this as a kid, since I, too, wanted to be a writer. But now I just think, can't writers think of anything else to write about??

This is my heart's one true path, but maybe we shouldn't proselytize to the youth so much. This life can be hard.

Related Posts with Thumbnails