1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

What are your pet peeves as a reader?

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by Black Dragon, Feb 6, 2019.

  1. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

    What are your pet peeves when reading a novel? What are some of the bad storytelling (or writing) practices that irk you the most?
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  2. Hmmm...this is a tough one for sure, as it's hard for me to pin down specific things that bug me. I'll have to think about it.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I'm not sure if I have peeves, but if I did, I wouldn't keep them as pets. To put it differently, I have a rather large pile of DNFs. I've never taken the time to figure out if there are aspects common to them that caused me to put them aside.

    A story is a communication, speaker and listener (author and reader, whatever). The story stays the same, but the reader changes over the years. What failed to connect when I was twenty might connect when I'm sixty (oh to be young again). Even the circumstances matter: did I read that book as a teen over a lazy summer, or did I grab it like a quick lunch between work and family? Some books just need the right setting.

    But here's one as grist. I read Dune when I was a teen. Loved it. Early in our marriage (BK, Before Kids), I would read books to my wife. We read War and Peace that way, The Once and Future King, Martian Chronicles, and others. And Dune. It went just fine, except for this one thing.


    I never noticed it when I read it the first time, but reading it aloud brought it out. People barked orders. They barked at each other. "Blah, blah, blah," he barked. That sort of thing. It got to the point where I was editing Herbert on the fly, substituting "said" because all the damned barking was driving me barking mad.

    I still don't think I'd put the book down because of that, but gosh golly it was annoying. Woof.
    S.T. Ockenner and Jordan like this.
  4. Gray-Hand

    Gray-Hand Minstrel

    I hate it when characters act inconsistently with their established personalities because the plot requires it. It feels contrived.

    The Harry Potter books were guilty of this, likely because Rowling was writing to pretty tight deadlines and didn’t have time to work out how to make everything consistent. Smart characters suddenly acted dumb, friends started acted like arseholes to each other, people failed to disclose important information for no reason etc
  5. Ban

    Ban Troglodytic Trouvère Article Team

    A protagonist who's incapable of logical decision-making, for no well written reason. Probably less of a pet peeve than a common fiction nuisance.
  6. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

    Perfect, virtuous, beautiful, can-do-no-wrong heroines. I just stopped reading a book because of this and I'm disappointed that it could have been so much better if the heroine hadn't been a Mary Sue. Gets on my nerves.
  7. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    Totally irrational, but my current pet peeve is the word "which" when used in descriptions to tack on additional information to something.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  8. Voydemain

    Voydemain Acolyte

    Said. It is redundant. Any word that describes that someone is speaking really, whether it be said, asked, yelled, barked whispered, etc. There is no reason for it for them what so ever. That is what quotation marks are for. Just remove them out altogether. Kill them with a burning passion. How will get the reader to understand who is speaking? You may wonder. Well, my good writers, that is what creativity is all about. Here is an example.

    "He loves me." Juliet plucked a petal from the rose. "He loves me not."

    Giving the character action, other than the accursed 'said' gives the scene more immersion. By putting who is talking immediately after the quotation it makes it clear who is speaking without using the word said. Yeah, I really don't like that word. Its a four letter word of writing as far as I am concerned.

    Oh and don't think that was all either. I also have issues with onesided narratives, two-dimensional characters, and (wish I could come up a three pun here somewhere) poorly contrived societies. This may all be because I studied psychology so I could write better stories. So lazy written story elements stick out to me.
  9. pmmg

    pmmg Istar

    I don't know that I can agree with this. I don't think it is always clear who is actually speaking and said would seem to serve that purpose. Further, and just as an offhand thought, but sometimes words are needed or not needed to keep a certain type of flow. Further, I do think it is important at time to add the extra bit of description, such as barked or yelled, or just plain said.
  10. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    It's the kind of thing that varies from person to person. :)

    I currently have an aversion to which, but that does't mean it's wrong to use it. It's just a matter of style. Some writers use more beats. Some use tags. What matter is if it works or not. Nothing's going to work for everyone.

    I use said when I need to pick up the pace of a conversation and if it needs to be even quicker I drop tags and beats completely, but not for long.

    Another pet peeve of mine is characters who take the time to explain things to the main character, even though those things really should be obvious to anyone living in the world. Favourite (not) example from something I read recently was someone who got attacked by some monster in the forest. The monster paused and explained to the character who they were and what they did, and then proceeded with the fight.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  11. Alora pendrak

    Alora pendrak Scribe

  12. ScorpionWoman

    ScorpionWoman Dreamer

    Too much use if the same word. I'm not talking just words like said, very, whisphered and such. It gets redundant when the same descriptors keep popping up in one piece of work. It starts to ruin the images and pull me out of the story.
  13. Hir i-Chorvath

    Hir i-Chorvath Auror

    It really gets on my nerves when the kids are the heroes of the story and then all of the sudden the adults are incompetent. I don't mind kid heroes but when the adults are constantly getting stuck in situations where they can't do anything, it bugs me. The adults know more than the kids and are more experienced and should act like it but, no can do, it is always the kids who frequently don't even know what they are doing and are relying heavily on luck that save the day.
    Also, fight scenes, most of the time no one gets hurt and definitely no one dies, no one important anyway. I want the characters to get hurt because it adds some real tension to the fight. If you know that they won't get hurt then you can just skip the fight scene and assume that they get all the highwaymen, orcs, or whatever they are, doing cool moves and so on. I want to feel like they really have a chance of dying and for the fight to be at least semi-realistic concerning that.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  14. Rkcapps

    Rkcapps Sage

    Yes, maid and butler type scenarios. Oh please, beat me silly if I do that! But, in first drafts, it's useful, but the job of a writer is to turn the vomit-on-the-page into something readable.

    My pet peeve on a line-by-line level is "was ... ing" i.e. was running, was hitting etc. Why can't authors make it active!

    On a big picture scale, it's lack of agency. After the debate scene, the character must have agency. Until then, it's ok for them to react, IMHO.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  15. briar_rose

    briar_rose Acolyte

    My pet peeve is when the whole premise of a book is driven by things happening to the characters, as opposed to them driving it forward by their own actions or decisions.
    S.T. Ockenner and Steerpike like this.
  16. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Of all the pets I've had, my peeves are my favorites. They're easily trained, ever faithful, and are great fun at parties.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  17. Depends on the genre. With YA, I am weary of the characters who, dwelling in what is supposed to be a world so different from ours, act exactly like their age appropriate counterparts from our world. Especially the teens and parents, though I understand this is important in some cases to keep teen readers interested and I often forgive it as long as it does not dominate or steer the story arc. But it never rings true when a teen Queen from another world is all agog over what inevitably turns out to be the most handsome boy/man/prince she has ever seen or is so concerned about her own looks. Is every world dominated by vanity and rampant hormones? It seems we give younger readers (middle grade etc) the benefit of the doubt that they can handle broader stories and dark horror but by the time they are teens we are trying to put them into a reader box and play on their stereotypical hormones instead of giving them the chance to expand their worlds and find true heroes. This has been changing of late and the teens I know and discuss stories with are so grateful for it.

    Adult Fantasy: Poorly done/unbelievable magic systems and, in worlds that are beset by an abundance of violence, heroes who are never truly in danger or injured in a way that makes me feel they are at risk. I suppose it's why I am a big fan of third person POV in fantasy. What first person character is going to be in any true danger of meeting their demise before the end of the story?

    Writing in general: Formulaic work. I agree there are requirements and promises to fulfill in writing but I appreciate when I cannot see them from a mile away. I think a lot of writing advice fails to convey the fact that you can hit subtle points, turns and goals in a book with as much power as large ones. I never tear a book apart when reading but I like when I have to really hunt for the formula in a chapter or overall story arc.

    And, of course, the formulaic in structure. Oh yes, I rebel! One of the best stories I've read of late was "A Green and Ancient Light" by Frederic Durbin. Cannot say enough about it but I didn't realize until after I finished it that it's a three hundred page book without a single chapter break. I have no idea why the author went that route but it was both refreshing and enlightening to see it done and (not self) published and that it wasn't even an issue, or noted, as I read. I fall in love with characters and stories, not the formula and standard of how a book is presented or put together.

    See also books like The Night Circus or Darker Shade of Magic or The Witches of New York. Each of these runs astray from the norm in novel format in one way or another but tells the most wonderful of stories and all are on my top twenty books list. And then there's Brandon Sanderson's (was it SIX in one book?) prologue fetish. Lovely! :)
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  18. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    I've been trying to think of my peeves are [pet or otherwise] and I don't think I have any. As long as it is a good tale, well told I'll put up with just about anything. I read Hammett, Dickens, Lovecraft, Tolkien, Pratchett, Steinbeck, Hillerman and more, so I think I'll take anything I like... [though I'm still baulking at Cervantes a bit - that is one huge tale]
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  19. Zander Willmore

    Zander Willmore Minstrel

    I really dont like first person books. When I read I like to know what people are thinking. I also hate the whole farm boy destined for greatness plot line. It has been over done.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  20. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    The more good-vs-evil a story is the worse I think of it.

    That's why I loved GRRM back in the day and now have mostly lost faith in him.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.

Share This Page