Speaking as a Reader: Top 5 Fiction Pet Peeves.

Maybe I’m evoking some controversy here. I am sure that I will…I am sure I may strike a nerve of some of my fellow authors. But I do not mean to offend. These are things that bug me personally as a reader, and are mostly subjective. I’m sure some will agree with me; while others disagree. A lot of very popular titles (both commercially published and indie) have one or more of the following cringe-worthy elements. Which leads me to wonder if it’s just me that runs screaming from books with cookie-cutter protagonists, slow plots, etc…obviously somebody out there loves this stuff. After all, some titles with these elements are really popular.

Anyhow, here are my biggest pet peeves…

1. Mary Sue/Gary Stu main characters. NOTHING annoys me more than perfect, beautiful, smart, graceful barbie doll heroines who every character just ADORES! Except of course for the antagonist in most cases (However, if the antagonist is of the opposite sex there’s a secret crush/lust hidden beneath the animosity. If it’s a foe of the same sex, of course they’re almost always motivated by envy.) Please, people! Show some originality.
2. Nothing really significant happens within the first 3-5 chapters. Sorry, for me the good story starts with the plot moving forward Do NOT waste 1-2 chapters describing your main character’s physical appearance, and then by chapter three you’re drowning me in “info dumps” about the character’s back story. I stop reading by chapter 5 if there’s no plot…
3. When the dialogue reads like TV Commercials. You know what I mean? Dialogue should sound like real conversation and not like 2 “Stepford wives” discussing Tide. “said” is not the only tag that you can use for dialogue. People’s facial expressions should change with the mood. Something should be important about the conversations–or else it shouldn’t be in the book at all.
I like to think of it theatrically. If I were a producer/director of a play and this was a dress rehearsal, how would I want my characters to sound, to look…what would their body language be like? And, then I incorporate that into my writing–as if I was coaching my actors in how to portray that scene.
4. When 2 or more characters have similar names. This is especially annoying in fantasy. And, it’s confusing for the reader. yet, some very popular commercially published fantasy. Sadder still, in a lot of the classic fantasy some that I love…
Yet, sometimes I understand the logic behind this though. It may be showing how a group of characters are from the same culture, or family…part of the world the author created. However it still gets annoying and confusing when one character is named (for example) Ryan Rogers, and his co-conspirator/neighbor across the street/romantic rival is named Roger Ryan. ;) hehe
5. Referring to an incident that wound up on the “editing room floor” in an off-hand fashion. …as if we read it. Look, I realize a lot gets cut out, chopped off, omitted in the editing process. But please, in final edits don’t treat references to the chopped-out material as off-hand. This happened in a Trad Pub title I read last year where the main character killed 2 pedophies, and toward the end of the book it was referenced in such a was as if it was assumed we (the readers) already knew what the cop in the story was talking about when he mentioned it.

There are a lot more annoying, peevish things that I can think of. But, these are the ones I consider most irritating.

Feel free to comment, and share your own…

~K. Crumley

1 Comment

Filed under creativity, writing

One response to “Speaking as a Reader: Top 5 Fiction Pet Peeves.

  1. A nice list you have here! I totally agree with most of your points, it really annoys me! I don’t think Mary-Sues/Gary-Stu’s are that bad if you ask the writer to tone their characters down. I also guess in a fiction piece, the storyline should move along smoothly but also to engage the reader quickly into the story so they stay hooked, it’s hard to maintain that though.

    I wrote a post about my own fiction pet peeves, it includes some additional ones that you may not have talked about but I hope you will read, comment and tell me what you think :) http://nynyonlinex.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/fiction-pet-peeves/

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