Thursday, February 3, 2011

These are a few of my favorite peeves... (when I read)

Hi all! I now have the entire February booked. Remember to drop by tomorrow to meet the first brave soul. :-)

I still have all the Fridays after the 4th of March open, so if you are following the blog and want to post, please contact me at (mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com).  

On to the post...

I can forgive a writer anything if he does it well, but if he/she doesn't, I am not responsible for my words and actions. 

If you do number one, rather stay very far away from me.

And no, number one cannot be done well. Trust me.

5) Changing perspective in the course of a book.

This one should be easy. If you start in first person past tense, don't switch to third person past (or worse present) tense unless (maybe) if the view point characters differ.

I understand the logic behind going to third person if the view point character isn't the MC, but there is also a massive flaw to this logic:

Yes, the MC is technically telling us what the other guy or gal experienced. But who died and made the MC omniscient? 

In my opinion, the writer's skill did.

4) Popping a surprise on me from nowhere.

Everyone loves a twist, right?

Oh yes. I adore twists. I love to have picked up on the clues and that I was right about the ending. What I love more is when the twist happens and I can see that the clues were there and I missed them.

What I don't love is when there's a twist and there was no clue whatsoever that this was even possible.

A particular pet peeve: Deus Ex Machina.

If you want to throw in an unpredictable twist, please be so kind as to explain how it happened.

I think the writers think that writers think that they can do anything without the reader noticing. I now advise those writers to see number 1e.

3) Character growth issues. 

As in: There isn't any. 

Call me selfish, but I don't want to spend hours reading about how perfect a character is. 

I want flaws. Many of them.

And don't make things easy for the character. Make him fight for what he wants or believes in. 

I want to be assured that I can do anything if I set my mind to it. 

So no tripping over the switch that turns off the nuke unless it's a comedy please.

2) Unnecessary cruelty to characters.

Ah yes... This almost made number one.

I know that I said that I want to see characters in difficult situations, but there is a line. Pure out torture does not a developed character make.

So... no killing of families and/or friends unless it is what is driving the story forward... And even then, be very careful.

If you do decide to kill families and friends, don't kill his pet gerbil too.

Seriously. There is a line. Don't go there.

1) If the writer underestimates my intelligence.

This had to be number one. After all, it happens in so many situations and in so many forms.

But reading wise, these are a few of my favorite peeves...

a) Dumbing down the dialogue. If your character is supposed to be smart, don't make him/her say something stupid. Because no character will look remotely as stupid as the writer will.
b) This is especially for MG and YA writers. Don't write down to readers, now! You will one day learn that patronizing children is a very silly thing to do. After all, you do want them to buy your book, right? And what would you be if they don't?
c) Connected to the above, don't beat people over the head with the moral of the story. If people don't figure the moral out on their own, they won't care.
d) Narrators that have to explain every. single. thing. It's OK... I think I can keep up.
e) Doing things that you think no one will notice. Guess what. We do.

In fact I can say that e goes above the term peeve straight into something that will make me spit on the writer's name...  

So what makes your blood pressure rise when you read?


  1. Number one is definitely a pet peeve while I read. Three is critical. No one wants perfect unless we're reading them realizing how IMPERFECT they are. Five just shouldn't happen. Ever, in my opinion.

    I can agree with not wanting unnecessary cruelty to characters, but I don't think killing friends/family of the MC is completely bad as long as it serves a purpose in the long run.

    I think now days the most annoying thing to happen while reading besides the author treating me like I'm 5 and don't know English would be bad dialogue. Just can't stand it.

  2. Number three drives me nuts. My least favourite literary archetype is the Mary Sue (and many thanks to the world of fanfic for giving us a fun, concise way to refer to the idealised author stand-in).

    For hours of fun (although I take no responsibility for what happens to your blood pressure), I recommend:

  3. POV shifts in the middle of a paragraph or a chapter without scene breaks drive me nuts because I am so careful not to do that.

    Ugh! I missed you Misha, my apologies. You are a favorite new follower. And I found that award. I will head back over to my blog and add you as a recipient and in a couple weeks I will showcase the award. Sooooo...sorry. I used the Google friend to find the new followers thinking everyone new would be in front. Obviously not.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  4. An editor once told me, "I got it the first time you wrote it." Yes, I now respect that readers, "get it" right away. Duh!

  5. Haha, I was going through the list thinking 'I hope I didn't do any of these.' I didn't--I might come close to #2, but there's a distinction between 'cruel' and 'unnecessarily cruel', and I don't think I've quite crossed the line. All that crud I put my characters through does have a purpose, somewhere. =) I think #1 is definitely my all-time biggest pet peeve out there. Don't underestimate intelligence! It ticks everyone off! That's it. =)

  6. Number one is a pet peeve, definitely! I hate being talked down to! Worse? I hate when writers over explain. I'm wondering what books you read that got you started on this I can stay away from them! Dare to Follow Your Heart

  7. Devin, I can see that we are completely in the same boat. I agree that killing family members isn't always bad. It's just if the family gets killed... the person goes on in the story and gets another person killed... etc. There has to be somewhere where the author stops the carnage.

    Btw. Bad dialogue is number seven in my list. ;-)

    Yes! Ellen, I have always hoped to find another tv-troper. I am nuts about that wiki. It can actually be a good inspiration, because I get to read a wide variety of tropes so that I can flip them on their heads. :-D But yes. I HATE Mary Sue.

    I totally agree with POV shifts in paragraph, Nancy. They always make me wonder how the auther even got an agent, let alone got published. It only narrowly missed the list. I was going to do a top ten, but thought that the post would be too long.

    Aw! Thank you for your wonderful complement! :-) You have one of my favorite blogs.

    Em, it must have been harsh to be told that to your face. It was lesson number one tought to me by my gran when I started to write at school. Maybe that's why it is the pet peeve above all pet peeves for me. :-)

  8. Amanda, I know what you mean about #2. I am cruel to my characters, but not to the point where it will annoy readers. Even then, I make sure that the cruelty has a reason in the story and a legit motivation. :-)

    Samantha, the worst is that most of these have come from some of my favorite authors. Some of their other books are so good that I can't tell anyone to avoid the authors. Maybe there is a lesson in that: that even the best of us can make some whopping mistakes. :-)

  9. Great post! Yes, sloppy POV switches drive me nuts, and I'm merciless about it when I beta read. I also despise "smart" characters doing stupid things, as well as a character being oblivious about something (or in denial) simply because it's convenient for the writer.

  10. Sudden change in perspective is a killer. It throws the reader completely out of the story world. Grrr.

  11. I agree. And #1 makes me crazy-- it's one reason I don't like Christian literature, because those tend to have all five. :(

    Bad dialog really irks me. I'll stop reading if the characters all sound the same, or say things that should be out of character.

  12. Thanks Sarah. Ah I characters missing obvious clues should also have gone into the understating intelligence peeves. I mean... did the author really think we'd miss them?

    Thanks for dropping by! :-)

    That's so true, Helen. Anything that throws me out of the book's world annoys me beyond what I can describe. Unfortunately, I pick up on those things really fast since I have started to pay attention to how I write. :-)

    Su, bad dialogue kills my enjoyment of what I'm reading. If I was doing a top ten list, bad dialogue would be number 8. :-)

  13. Well said, Misha!
    I can't think of anything else to add. I agree with #2. Unless the torturing of the character or family member (let alone the pet!) will move the story along or change the charcter, I think this course of action is not necessary. But I do agree with all your points. Ah pet peeves!

  14. Great list! It particularly bothers me when writers explain every little thing or even describe every little thing. If you mention the character has blond hair or brown eyes, I think I can remember. Or if the scene is in a room, I don't need to know every little item there. Less can be more.

  15. Great list of pet peeves--I agree about #1.

  16. I would say #3 in that there is no character growth because the character is a two-dimensional archetype. You get that a lot in romance. Hey, I actually read for the story and to connect to the characters. If the character is not real, the book is useless no matter how passionate the sex scenes are.
    I also agree with #1. When an author frequently and unnecessarily recaps, I add an imaginary parenthetical insertion (for the dumb people).

  17. BTW, I responded to your comment. I was not sure if you were actually agreeing with me or being sarcastic. :)

  18. Can the prologue have a different perspective from the rest of the book?

  19. I agree with this entire post. I feel character growth is very important and talking down to children is an absolute no-no. Thanks for the reminder about these peeves which we tend to overlook.

  20. First, let me say that I used to love the YA genre. There were books with so many different ideas and a lot of them had fantasy elements and I thought they were good. But then I noticed something. These have become some of my pet peeves:

    1. The story is about something else but in the end it's all about a girl and a guy. Wasn't there something else going on? What happened to the plot?

    2. The world feels too flat and fake. I've read way too many books where the world is just unbelievable because they don't explore it or anything, just stay in a small scope what they know. And that has killed books for me.

    I agree with the ones you listed, especially #1. When someone commits #1 I wonder if they wanted very young children to read it instead.

    Good post, I enjoyed it!

  21. A very good list - most of these peeve me, too! Especially #2...I'm still lamenting the death of an HP character (or two or three). And obvious predictability annoys. Oh! And when the story builds you up to something potentially great, and then cops out and doesn't deliver!! (I'm looking at a certain 4th vampire book here...) Still - reading all of it is a continual lesson in what works and what doesn't. :)

  22. First of all, thanks for stopping by my blog the other day! So sorry it's taken me so long to return the favor!

    I LOVE this post! I laughed out loud at number 3 and number 2. Yes, characters HAVE to be flawed. I need to believe they're as human as I am. And I really do enjoy being cruel to my characters but I'd never, ever, kill off someone's pet gerbil. Ferrets are another story entirely...


  23. I agree with you completely on 1-4, and agree 5 needs a REASON... I think in the Book Thief, for instance, it was done really well (and I can believe Death would know Leisel's story. My book that's in ABNA right now has 3 narrators--one is 1st, 2 are 3rd... intentionally... it is Helen's book, but the other two are important. I change PoV though by chapter, so I don't think it's confusing.

  24. Great list! *cowers behind keyboard*

  25. Ultimate I will throw the book and the wall and never resume reading peeve - set up some computer genius character that does things you just can't do. A little research NOT from a movie or tv would have told Dear Author can't be done but instead it screams cop out to me.

    Other than my peeve, that list is exhaustively spot on.

  26. I completely agree with this list! Especially #4--I read a book that had a Deus ex Machina-style ending, and I was amazingly frustrated by it.

  27. Pet peeves whilst reading... I think mismatched dialogue with the MCs personality gets my goat at times, also when the author's own views come through a little too strongly. Totally agree on treating the reader with intelligence, let them figure things out themselves.

  28. Wow really good stuff here! a through e, excellent!

  29. This is a great list. And I love the part about not dumbing down the dialogue. It does happen a lot in YA. It's so annoying. Kids are a lot smarter than ppl give them credit for.

  30. Claudia, I believe that #2 falls under the "everything in moderation" rule. Torture can be done, but it must never be over the top. :-)

    I agree, Cherie. Our writing should guide the reader's imagination, not replace it. :-)

    Thanks LBD, #1 is actually a thing for me. It was the first thing that my gran taught me not to do when I started to write. :-)

    Oooh Erin I hate romances that are more about sex scenes than story or character. It always feels like the writer is thinking... "If I insert five sex scenes through the story, no one will realize how pathetic my storyline is..."

    And yes, I did agree with you. It's a sad truth about me that sarcasm and irony is my life's blood. But if I had disagreed, I would be very clear about it. Promise. :-D

    Michael... that's tricky. I wouldn't do it, since the change of POV can rip the reader right out of the story as soon as chapter one starts. I have, however, read books that manage it. But it's too risky for me to try. :-)

    Thanks Rachna. I'm glad you liked the post. :-)

    Book Owl, those two made me cringe to think of. They're definitely somewhere in the top ten. I think that your #2 had a lot to do with #1. If the book is secretly a boy meets girl story, exploring the world isn't exactly high priority. :-)

  31. Bahahaha Donea I was thinking of a certain 4th vampire book too... It did break more than a few of my rules... Thinking of the twist with no clues part, in particular.

    I despise obvious predictability, as it falls under peeve 1 for me. Unfortunately, I have this knack for knowing what the end will be...

    By the way, I really respect you for being brace enough to kill off a character. I think that will be one hell of a shocker. ^_^

    Lol you are right, Jen. Ferrets are just creepy and deserve to die. ;-P Thanks for the visit.

    Hart, that sounds like a very interesting concept. I agree with you totally. #5 I can tolerate as well as #2 as long as I can see a reasoning behind it. I have, apparently become a very analytical reader... Sad, really. ;-)

    Lol thanks, E.J.

    Ooooh *cringe* I hate that one, SM. Particularly in historical/period stories. I mean... how did gunslinger extraordinaire shoot someone with a double action Colt when said gun was invented ten years later... It's another one that falls under my #1. The writer thought that no one would notice... And... we... did... Another one close to this is where fantasy writers think they can do anything, and so break the rules of the world that THEY created. Epic Fail. :-)

    Golden, I know what you mean. Especially after everything is so tricky in the book and I'm looking forward to see how the characters (and the author) got out of it... :-)

    Talei, I also hate when that happens. If the reader can see the author behind the work, I think the author and/or the editor didn't do his job right. :-)

    Thanks Christina. I'm glad you enjoyed it. :-)

    I agree with you Beth, especially given that most teens are out to prove how smart and wise they are (thinking back to my teenage years). They really won't appreciate being treated like idiots. I know I didn't. :-)


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