Saturday, February 22, 2014

Guest Post: Story Pet Peeves

We all have story pet peeves: things in a story that irritate us, be it writing style or love triangles or unnecessary violence. We Readers probably have more story pet peeves than bookish pet peeves. My three bookish friends, Katherine, Hazel, and Kel have joined The Reading Hedgehog again to share some of their story pet peeves!

Katherine's Story Pet Peeves

- Poor World Building. This is becoming an ever increasing problem in YA literature. If you are going to create a new and fantastical world, you need to be thorough when describing it, and make it semi-realistic. Take Divergent (by Veronica Roth), for example. Realistically, everyone is divergent. You aren't just selfless and not just kind; you are a combination of personality traits. World building should be set up in the first book and fleshed out more as the series progresses.
- Unnecessary Love Triangles. I don't mind all love triangles, but there is a time and a place for them, and sometimes it's just not necessary. If the two love interests aren't even essential to the plot line, it's even worse. In Delirium (by Lauren Oliver), the MC just uses one to make the other one jealous; there was no romantic attachment at all.
- Insta-Love. I absolutely cannot stand insta-love, no matter what the scenario. And in most cases, it comes off as more like insta-lust. Then we have the wonderful added bonus of having to hear about that person's hair, abs, eyes, et cetera over and over and over again. Ugh!!
- Third Wheel Characters. Sometimes, i have no idea why an author created some characters. Maybe they do it because it provides comic relief, or maybe they realize that it will aggravate the reader to no end, so they create a character that has nothing to do with the plot line. Sarcasm included.
- Boring/Whiny Main Characters. I don't like to read about fusspots. I also don't want to read about a character so boring that it puts me to sleep (:cough cough: Bella Swan :cough:). I want to be invested in the characters, worry about their safety, cheer their successes, cry at their failures, and when they don't do anything but fuss and complain . . . . it makes it hard for me to like them.
- Gory Violence. I can stomach a fair amount of violence. We read mythology in school, after all! But if the violence turns so gory that I turn green in the face, feel nauseous, and have to put the book down, that is never a good sign.
- Graphic Sexual Content. Look, I took sex ed three times in my life. I know how the birds and the bees work. I don't need a play-by-play of how the characters' tongues are touching in a ritual dance and how they are experiencing this sexual awakening. No, just no! I have absolutely no problem with love scenes and kissing itself if it is done in a tasteful manner. If they go all Fifty Shades of Gray on us, then I have to put it down.
- Inaccurate Historical Facts. This is my inner history buff talking here, but I don't like it when a historical fiction book has inaccurate facts. Granted, I don't know every single detail about all the time periods of the world, but when I catch one, I rage.
- Repetitive Language. You know how if you listen to a broken record often enough, you start to become extremely irritated? That's why happens when I have to read the same phrase that is repeated over and over again. These make me want to start a drinking game with myself, but I don't want to have a massive hangover (not to mention I don't drink . . . .)

Hazel's Story Pet Peeves

- Female Protagonists With An Attitude. This is definitely a top pet peeve, maybe even the one that bothers me most, and certainly the one I come across most often. For some reason a lot of YA authors think it's cute to have a leading lady with an attitude. Like, "Oh, I'm so much better because I'm a woman" and "I can do it myself" and typical man-hater attitudes. But they are usually so hypocritical because once they fall in love with their love interest (who is usually a jerk and they are often only attracted to them on outward appearance - more on that later), they turn into a puddle of emotions and can't seem to do anything anymore. I can never sympathize with these girls, because usually they're just stupid or make the wrong decisions just to prove a point that ends up getting them into even more trouble. Heroines don't have to have an attitude to be strong and capable characters, and that's why this bothers me so much.
- Randomly Gay Characters. I'm not a fan of reading about gay characters anyway (unless it's for extra creeper points to already-creepy characters), but when you go through a whole series of books - and I have a couple in mind - and find out that one of the characters who you never expected to be gay randomly is . . . . that's just wrong and jarring. Especially when there's no reason for it. If it does not further the plot in some way, I will not even tolerate it, because you know the author is just doing it to prove a point, which gets me to my next pet peeve. . . .
- Preachy Authors. Okay, first let me say that I love books that explore two different cultures by throwing unlikely characters together who become friends when they would normally be enemies. It's one of the main reasons I love Rosemary Sutcliff's books so much, and I guess you could say it's "technically" racial nondiscrimination, but it's not like when authors totally throw stuff at you. Like randomly gay characters or feminism and stuff like that. Then, when you read war fiction, you might get one very biased telling like someone saying that all the Southerners were monsters in the American Civil War. I'll admit, my ancestors were Yankees, and yep, slavery is horrible, but at the heart of that war were brothers killing each other and that's never okay. And in WWI, no one even knew why they were fighting, so why make the Germans out as monsters? They were no different from Americans and the British and even they realized that! (Okay, sorry for the rant, back on subject. . . .) I just hate seeing bias and preachy-ness in books, especially historical fiction, though there's plenty of it in contemporary, too, if not more. My favorite books are those which explore both sides of whatever story is going on because oftentimes there is good and bad on both sides, whatever it is.
- Insta-Love, Lust, and Weird Romantic Fads. I'm not a huge fan of romance as it is. I do like it on occasion if it's done well, and I really care about the characters and am invested in their relationship. But insta-love and other things like that I have no patience for. The other thing that bothers me is when the characters only care about each other in a physical level. Seriously. So many times these air-headed girl characters are all like "He's so mean to me, but he's so hot, so how can I hate him?" Blurg. And even if he two-times her or betrays her, she still doesn't care because - oh yeah, he's hot. That instantly makes me lose respect for the heroine. And then there's these weird things that all romances have. Maybe I'm not a romantic, and I honestly don't care about these things being mentioned a little bit; just not SO overdone as they always are. Here's a few: his smell, his lips, his eyes (that one is more understandable), the way his muscles move under his shirt, how he looks when he sleeps. And it just goes on and on through the entirety of books that are like that. WE GET IT!!
- Love Triangles. This gets one all by itself. I don't think there is a love triangle I have ever been invested in. They just cause way too many problems, break friendships, start fights (or not, if you're reading Twilight, which is actually even worse), and take way too much time away from whatever other plot might be in the book at all. The only time it's remotely okay is when two guys like the same girl, but one is obviously evil, and she doesn't like him. Or is this even a love triangle? And then most of the time, the girl ends up playing both the guys and I just feel sorry for them, and I hate to see them have to put up with that and get their hearts broken, even though, at the same time, I lose a little respect for the guy, because he shouldn't even be with a girl like that anyway! And that's why love triangles annoy me so much.
- Not Being In On the Action. This is a minor pet peeve, but still one that bothers me. I hate it when the story sets up to have a major action scene in the end, and it either falls through and never happens, or you end up not getting to see it, like if it's first person and they aren't there. Or you don't get to see the fight scene or (as bad as this sounds) the torture scene . . . . Yeah, I sound sadistic, but torture scenes (done right) are usually awesome because you can learn so much about the hero and villain and they are character-building moments. :-) And I feel cheated when I don't get to see it. There's nothing I hate more than having another character relay all the awesome stuff that happened to them. I want to BE THERE, even if they aren't the main characters. Some things just don't have as much impact in telling as they do in showing.

Kel's Story Pet Peeves

- First Person POV Narration. It's not always problematic. In fact, I came across a number of first person POV titles last year that I loved; but I remain wary of stories told in first person because there are a lot of writing pitfalls that are, in my opinion, easier to fall into when writing in first person. The chief offender: telling instead of showing.
- Romance In The Foreground. I'm not a big romance reader. I like good, realistic, slow burn romances, but I almost never read a "romance" book. A love story is fine, but if there is anything even remotely important going on in the characters' lives, the romance should take backseat. Also, if you have a love triangle, one of the parties involved better be a lovable golden retriever who keeps stealing the love interest's attention for a game of fetch. NO love triangles. With very rare exceptions, they just wind up making everyone looking foolish.
- Wimpy, Whiny, Unproductive Main Characters. Get over it, take responsibility for your choices, and move along.
- Cardboard Cut-Out Characters, Main Or Secondary. Characters are people. Give them some depth.
- Being Blindsided By Sudden Sexuality "Reveals." I've come across a number of books in the last few months that suddenly throw in a line of scene revealing that a character is gay. The information comes out of the blue with no hints or anything beforehand. It's jarring, it pulls me out of the story, and it often feels like a last minute "politically correct quota" add-in and/or lazy writing.

The Reading Hedgehog's Story Pet Peeves

There's almost no point in my listing my pet peeves, everyone else has hit the mark on this topic so thoroughly. So I shall try and be a little original, but there will probably be repeats:

"Do I Love Stalker #1 Or Stalker #2 More?"
Pet Peeve #1, unsurprisingly: the love triangle. My reasons for disliking it are the same as my fellow reading buddies'. They get in the way of a good adventure, they're always silly, they end up making everyone look petulant and therefore stupid, and they never serve any good purpose except to make the female look flaky. If a love triangle is done right - and I have a read a few that were (can't think of any off the top of my head) - they can be a terrific twist to the plot. But normally, they aren't done well, and worse - they are so overdone that they make even the well-done ones annoying.
"John Is Gay?!"
Pet Peeve #2: randomly gay characters. If there is a logical reason for a character to be gay; if, in other words, it somehow propels the plot - if it is important to what happens in the story, than I can accept a character being gay. If a character is made gay simply to make a statement - and worse, if a character who has never been gay, but suddenly is - that makes me so angry. Stop shoving agendas down my throat, please. Fiction is not the place for that.
"The Great White Elephant Moves Slowly Forward"
Pet Peeve #3: present tense narration. I really don't like present tense. It's so movie-ish and modern and lacks poetic rhythm or appeal. There is only one Author who has ever pulled present tense off successfully, and that's Victoria Schwab. Her present tense narrations are beautiful; they have a very poetic cadence, and I often even forget that they're in present tense.
"He's A Man, Therefore I Must Love Him"
Pet Peeve #4: Chicks always fall in love. They do? Because last time I checked, I was a chick and . . . . I haven't fallen in love with any of my guy friends. No, I'm not into girls, either (I know someone out there is probably thinking that). Contrary to popular belief, it is possible for a girl and a guy to be good friends - especially if you've grown up with each other - and not fall in love. Why is it that girl protagonists always have to have a love interest? There's a lot of guy protagonists, too, but it seems to be much more prominent if the protagonist is a girl.
"The Clothes Are Coming Off"
Pet Peeve #5: Unnecessary sexual content. This is not due to any sort of queamishness; this is totally due to propriety. I have absolutely no desire to read about people - fictional or otherwise - doing it. Such an act is a private thing, even in fiction, that should not be shared with a viewing/reading audience. It is never necessary to a plot to share a bedroom scene with the Reader.
"Well, You Can *beep* Off, You *bleep-bleep* Jerk!"
Pet Peeve #6: Excessive profanity. I've heard the excuse, "But sometimes you have a character that just uses that kind of profanity. It fits their personality." I don't care. I have read plenty of books where there has been a bad-mouthed character and the Author never once actually used foul words (by the way, when I say foul words, I'm referring to strong language, like the f-word or g-damn). It is well within a Reader's abilities to imagine what sort of four-letter words that character might be spewing.
"The Single Black Hair In The Middle Of Her Mole Filled My Vision"
Pet Peeve #7: Microscopic details. Lip licking! Knuckle cracking! Dandruff! Dried spittle! Alarming red-veined eyes! Flared nostrils! The aftertaste of vomit! The word "vomit." Tongues darting over teeth! Tongues in general (because they're usually involved in kissing scenes)! Cracked, encrusted finger (or toe) nails! Hairy moles! Flatulence! Burping! These are just a few details I've often encountered in books that I just cannot do. Suddenly that thing is magnified by a thousand and fills my entire mental eyesight. Oh, the horrors! We really don't need to know how gross people are; that's why we read fiction. So we can forget all the gross things about real people.
"Men Are So Stupid!"
Pet Peeve #8: Female protagonists with Attitude. When I say "attitude," I mean a girl with a major chip on her shoulder, who wants to be treated like "one of the guys," but snaps and bitches whenever they actually are treated like one of the guys. A girl who pouts and seethes because while she's disguised as a boy, she doesn't understand why no one says she's pretty (and then gets mad when someone actually does notice her). A girl who tries to be all bad-ass by wearing tight leather trousers and a tight leather bra, but can't do anything. A girl who is always shooting off little sarcastic quips against men (which usually take on the form of, "Men are so stupid!" "Men!" or "I rolled my eyes; he was such an idiot.") A girl who has a feminist attitude, who is a man-hater, who tries to be tough, but is just a big flirt. Who thinks she can fight, but can't protect herself to literally save her life, and who gets mad when a man gives her a helping hand. A girl who is constantly storming off in a huff. In short, 95% of the female protagonists in today's YA literature. I say again: what has happened to The Practical Female?
"Global Warming Caused It!"
Pet Peeve #9: Preachiness in novels. This also extends to random gay characters, but I hate it when Authors take some natural disaster like global warming or an ice age and use it as the catalyst for their world building. Whatever your view is on global warming or ice ages, using this in your post-apocalyptic novel will always make it seem like you're peddling an agenda. It will always be preachy and ridiculous and silly. I hate preachiness.
"The Roman Legionnaire Pulled On His Sneakers And Got Ready To March"
Pet Peeve #10: historical inaccuracies. I'm a real stickler for accurate historical details. If you're writing historical fiction, research it. Make yourself sick on it. You're the Author; this is your job. I hate, simply hate, to read a historical fiction novel and discover - oh, I don't know, that they're using iodine several centuries before it was actually discovered (yes, that's pulled from a real book).
"This Corset Is Killing Me!!!!"
Pet Peeve #11: Those dratted skirts and those murderous corsets. Yes, Victorian fashion could and often was quite silly. Yes, corsets were uncomfortable and did kill a lot of young women. But I am so sick of reading Victorian novels and having the protagonist griping about their heavy skirts, their restrictive corsets, their ridiculous bustles. The corset seems to have gotten this mythical power of tightening of its own accord until it killed young women. Just looking at a corset will kill you! Correction: only girls of high society wore their corsets that tight. The average girl wore it about as tight as we women wear our brassieres. In fact, that's what a corset was - an early brassier. The corset cannot kill you unless you tighten it. And you know what - girls who are raised wearing dresses and bustles and corsets aren't going to take on this modern mindset that so many of the protagonists have. Not saying there weren't girls who didn't like skirts and corsets - I mean, something made the corset and skirts go out of fashion. But the protagonists always have an extremely modern (as in 21st-century) view on Victorian fashion. And also, whining about one's dress only makes one seem, well, whiny.


  1. Thanks for doing another guest post, Mara, I always enjoy these. I love how we all seem to have a lot in common with our dislikes ;P

    1. Somehow it doesn't surprise me. :) I think a lot of Readers have these dislikes. Despite what the publishing industry thinks, critics are getting tired of love triangles!

  2. I second the graphic sexual content and repetitive words/phrases! I knew I was missing a couple of big ones when I made my list.

    1. Between us four, I think we hit all the big ones. ;)


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