Recently me and some friends outside of the publishing business were talking about the things that annoy them in books. I thought, for the sake of both readers and writers, I’d recount some of them here.
- Head hopping – Even the most well-known and beloved writers (I’m looking at you, Nora Roberts) are guilty of this.
- Rapid point of view changes – Not the same thing as head hopping. This is when the POV obviously changes (like with scene breaks) but only for a few paragraphs.
- Unlikable characters – Sometimes characters have to unlikable for the sake of the plot, but if a hero or heroine is unlikable, that’s not good.
- Plot holes – Getting to the end of a book and asking, “What happened with/to [insert element]?” is a downer.
- Impossible body positioning – If the hero would topple over in bed, or if the heroine suddenly has to be double-jointed, the scene just doesn’t flow like it should.
- Out of character dialogue – A little kid shouldn’t talk like an adult, and a high-school educated cowboy shouldn’t sound like a PhD candidate.
- Jumping tenses – The narration is in the past tense, but the dialogue is in the present tense. Oops.
- Lengthy flashbacks – Pages and pages of flashbacks, or many flashbacks over the course of the book (when it’s not part of the literal telling of the story) just makes it seem like the writer can’t figure out how to get the backstory in.
- Dream sequences – These are so hated that you don’t see them too much anymore, but when my friends do, they instantly groan.
- Bad editing – This isn’t always the writer’s fault, but readers notice it and are annoyed by it.
- Out of character actions – Just like dialogue, when a character does something that makes you shake your head, like something really bitchy or heartless, it makes my friends feel like it’s being done as a plot device. And readers don’t like to feel manipulated.
- Shifting locations – When a character is home and then suddenly not without a scene change indicator, readers wonder if the character was beamed up like on Star Trek. How did they get to the bar two seconds after getting off the phone?
- Bad/nonexistent research – Readers seem to see this more with either erotic novels or historicals. They talked about seeing words that weren’t used in Regency times (awesome, anyone?) to a Dominant who breaks all the rules in a BDSM story. Doesn’t matter what the problem is, when an author has obviously not done their research, readers get pretty annoyed.
What did I miss? What are your pet peeves?
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