Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Writer (and Reader!) Wednesday - Peeves and Quirks

I have a simple topic for Writer Wednesday today, and I'm hoping those of you who are readers only will add your opinion. We writers need all the help we can get!

First, as a reader (and all writers must be readers as well as writers), what are your pet peeves--things that writers do that annoy you? Is it grammar and punctuation? How about certain dialog techniques? Authorial pet phrases?

And if you are a writer, what are your writing quirks? Things you do unconsciously and know you must edit for afterward?

I'll post my own answers in the comments.


Tia Nevitt said...

As a reader, my pet peeve is authorial pet phrases. For example, in one of my favorite series, the author has the following pet phrase, "She gave him a pitying look." It pops up at least once or twice per book, and by now (six books in the series), I roll my eyes every time I see it.

As a writer, I must severely edit myself for excessive "thats" and "howevers". I'll stick "that" in sentences where they absolutely don't belong, and I use "however" way too often. I always do a final sweep for those words.

Your turn!

A. Grey said...

As a reader, I get annoyed when writers spend a prolonged time describing something - anything - in their story. I think there's an art form to getting your point across and making a lasting impression within only a few sentences. I'm not claiming to be adept at this, but it's something I strive for.

As a writer, I have comma finger. Meaning that commas simply appear in my typing, even when there are no commas in the long hand version. Also I use antiquated terms, along the lines of 'lament' and such. I PREFER to read stories that have a variety of such less-used words. But when someone reads my manusripts, I often get feedback suggesting that I use 'more common' words.

My problem with this is nine times out of ten when I ask the reason behind this suggestion, the reader says that they understand what I'm saying but that 'nowadays no one uses those words so they sound weird.' I don't want my stories to sound like two guys talking at a bus stop. They don't take place in this world, they're in a fantasy setting, not a modern one, so within reason, I see no point in trying to fill them with 'commonly used' words. Am I fixated on my own personal wants?

T.D. Newton said...

I notice quite a bit when authors repeat themselves, reminding us of the same plot points over and over. Gets under my skin, because it's like "they" think we're not paying attention.

Oh, and severe overuse of the word wry.

Kimber An said...

As a reader, I hate stereotype characters, but I don't blame the authors for this anymore. The agents and editors are just as responsible. Paranormal Romance as their Kick-Butt Heroines who always bare their belly buttons, weild weaponry, and never get knocked up. (As a former nanny, I've known REAL kick-butt heroines) Young Adult has their self-centered, cynical, smart Heroine clones who only change clothes for each book. (I know lots of REAL teenage girls and none of them are like this.) Drives me batty. (don't even get me started on the Bella clones)

As a writer, I notice I make the same mistakes over and over again. I know I make them, but I can't stop! One simple one is using the words 'just' and 'that.' I just cannot not use that word or that one either! Why can't I grow beyond this? Why? It's just that that it drives me batty!

Chicory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chicory said...

Arrg! Read over my comment. I sound like I have no intention of editing. What I meant is that I can see how easy contradicting oneself in a series would be, and I should be more forgiving in case I ever need forgiveness. (But blue eyes in one book and gray in another still sets my teeth on edge.)

Tia Nevitt said...

I keep looking for this Stephen King article on read on Descriptions recently--but I can't find it! It will be a Writer Wednesday topic when I do!

Grey, I would discard any suggestiosn that don't work for your story.

TD, maybe the authors are reminding themselves! I don't know how many times I've thought, "Have I already mentioned that?" followed by a furious search through pages I've already written.

Kimber, your mistakes sound a lot like mine! And I do like reading about a character that is out of stereotype. However, such characters have got to be difficult to find the right home.

Chicory, I do just the opposite. I write disconnected scenes and I worry about connecting them later.

Lea said...

I get pretty tetchy when authors have pet words or pet phrases. Sure, it's good to have a consistent register, especially in fantasy, but overuse of the same words and phrases is boring, especially when no synonyms are ever used.

The first Kushiel trilogy suffered pretty badly from this. "Dissemble" is the one I remember best, but there were others. I still roll my eyes at "somewhat" instead of "something". I once read a story where every character expressed every emotion by pursing their lips. That's just not right.

I still tend to do this, although I usually catch it in my first editing, or sometimes even as I write. My banter is still pretty weak, though.

FaerieMajikk said...

I agree with A.Grey, I hate reading something were the writer is too flowery with their descriptions, making them too long makes me lose interest very quickly and very unlikely to read any more. I am not a writer so I am taking this from a readers point of view.

One other thing is I am not too into books written in the first person either.

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin said...

I'm not sure if this is exactly a pet peeve. It might be more of a reader hang up. {smile}

I don't like main characters who have a lot of unpleasant motives and attitudes. I understand this is not a sign of a badly written book. Such characters may be very realistically portrayed. I still don't enjoy reading about them. I'll usually skip their passages, or find a book more to my taste if that makes it too hard to follow the story. {small smile}

As for my own writing, the main recurring complaint is that "all Anne's characters talk the same." I'm still trying to figure out how to make different characters talk distinctively without the conversation going stilted on me, and without odd spellings and over-used catch phrases. I tend to think those problems are worse than having characters who talk too much like each other. {Smile}

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

Tia Nevitt said...

I had an internet glitch last night and was unable to participate in my own blog conversation!

I am going to have to redouble my efforts to find that Stephen King article on descriptions, because I think a lot of you would get as much out of it as I did.

I used to be taken aback by first person stories, too. After I read a few good ones, I was cured!

Anne, I don't remember that problem when I read your story a while back.

Chris said...

As a reader my prime dislike is the odd word that 'jars' in a text of flowing prose. It destroys the mood.

As a writer - I write fantasy, (see my recent publication, Randolph's Challenge Book One - The Pendulum Swings. I am conscious of the fact that need to watch for out of era phrases or words that have a habit of creeping into dialogue. For example my recent publication is set in medieval times and I had to edit out a huge number of 'O.K's' from the dialogue. They seem to have a mind of their own!

Chris Warren
Author and Freelance Writer
Randolph's Challenge Book One - The Pendulum Swings

Merc said...

As a reader, repetition and over-stating the point (more than once) reeeeeally irks me. So does an author's need to explain (or over-explain) things to me. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with explanation. Especially when it's hard science or something overly technical that I normally wouldn't understand. My issue is when writers seem to think 'readers are stupid, we must learn 'em' and explain obvious things (sometimes more than once) so we are assured to "get it".

(I think it was Dean Koontz who really ticked me off with this. I read "Tick Tock"--don't get me started--and he explained the SIMPLEST THINGS. Like how many feet in a mile. Wow, dude. I would never have known that without you.)

I think there's a place for explaining basic things (and if you do it well or in a fun/quirky/interesting manner or have a character who happens to do this as a trait, then I can enjoy it), but as a reader, I appreciate not having my intelligence insulted, as a general rule. ;)

Also, over-used words. Now, I love the Dresden Files (and enjoy Jim's work in general). But someone needs to take the adverb "quietly" off Mr. Butcher. :P

("Blinked quietly", or something like that, was possibly my favorite wtf usage in TURN COAT.)

Random little things bug me, but those were my main ones. As a reader, I can be pretty laid back and forgive flaws and issues if the story entertains me and there's something I like about it.

Oh, but I disapprove of endings that take forever to wrap up. I read a couple of urban fantasies recently and it took 30 frickin' pages for one to conclude AFTER the climax. Way. Too. Long.

When you're done with the story, people, STOP. Seriously. For realz. Wrap it up, conclude, whatever, then STOP WRITING.

Anyway. :P


As a writer, I'm far, far too wordy, tend to over-explain, give TMI, take too long to get to the point... erm, I have many, many problems. Dunno what quirks there are, but I have to heavily edit and trim words when I finish a draft so it doesn't cause aneurysms or brainsleep (or worse) when people try to read. :P

I also like the word "dark". I may need therapy to stop using it so much.

I could go on, but yeah, maybe I should actually write now...


Tia Nevitt said...

Chris, I had to do the same thing with my ancient-world fantasy and regency fantasy. It was refreshing when I started writing my time travel historical, because the main characters are from here and now. It's also fun researching colloquialisms from times past. Older novels are a great way to get those.

I'm one of those who like long epilogues. What I don't like is when the climax is too drawn out. To illustrate: there are too types of elasticity--like rubber bands and like silly putty. Ideally, the tension should stretch like a rubber band and then snap. Sometimes, the tension stretches like silly putty . . . and then just collapses. That's what it's like for me when the tension is too drawn out.

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin said...

Tia said: "Anne, I don't remember that problem when I read your story a while back."

Thanks. Not everyone who reads my stories feels it's a problem. However, it's the common complaint I could remember today. I suspect certain teacher-types who read my stories feel they have to find some improvements to suggest, and that's the strongest they notice. {Smile}

On my good days, I take it as a compliment that they didn't find anything more major to complain about. {SMILE}

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

Anonymous said...

From a reader standpoint i don't have too many peeves that annoy me too much. I do hate it when author's use too much description, the silent badass works well in film and video games because there is a visual element, it does not work well in literary works where i can't see the person.

Well as a writer i have to stop myself from putting in a lot of description where it isn't needed.

by the way Tia, if you're still looking for the article. try this link, it might be what your looking for.

Memory said...

It bothers me when authors repeat details or plot points several times over the course of the book, even if they're dozens or even hundreds of pages apart. I can understand how this could be helpful for slower readers, but as a relatively fast reader with an excellent memory I find it annoying. I got it the first time; I don't need to hear about it again.

As a writer, I feel like I rely overmuch on one particular sentence structure: "Blah blah blah, and/but blab blab blab." I'm also overly fond of semicolons. I usually let myself indulge during the first draft, just for the sake of getting something down, then search for alternate ways to phrase things during revisions.

Tia Nevitt said...

Botched, I'm afraid that wasn't the right article. I don't think it comes from On Writing after all, because I have a copy of the book and I have combed through it.

Memory, I totally understand! I indulge myself during the first draft, but by the final draft, my novel's folder is usually filled with deleted scenes.

Raven said...

I'm not a fan of writing that stays outside the characters' heads. If all I'm getting is a play-by-play of what the characters are doing/seeing, I might as well go read a screenplay. I read novels to find out what the POV characters are thinking and who they are inside.

Poor grammar also bugs me. So does poor punctuation. So do misused words. They shake my confidence in the writer's ability to write.

In my own writing, I use the word "just" way too much. I also tend to get stuck on particular physical reactions like nodding or something and have my characters do them too much. At least I manage to avoid eye-rolling most of the time. :D

I'm pretty sure I have a bunch of other tics that I don't notice because I'm so used to them. :(