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Literary Pet Peeves

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This week’s question:

What are your literary “pet peeves”?

1. Too many characters. If I can’t even keep track with a glossary, it’s too annoying, especially characters whose life I can’t even recall.
2. Self-deprecation. Unless you write like Jonathan Tropper, please avid trampling a character. An occasional one-liner is fine, but a self-deprecating narrative throughout a book is annoying. Also, why is every woman in contemporary literature not happy with her physical appearance?
3. Excessive physical description. I have read enough food labels at the grocery store, so please just make a long story short.
4. Excessive length. It’s exactly what the “How to Say Nothing in 500 Words” handout warned us back in 9th grade writing. Check out my review of Birdsong for a solid example.
5. “Shoehorning”. Ever felt like an author is trying to fit every bit of information researched into a novel that has nothing to do with the story?
6. Open jaw. Finish what you started, don’t leave bundles untied.
7. Cliché, cliché, cliché. Why does almost every modern fiction revolve around drug/drug abuse and alcoholism? This is the reason why I stopped reading Bret Ellis Easton after Less Than Zero? Same old stories with different settings and same annoying, immature, obnoxious, self-entitled rich young kids.
8. Spin-off. How many Jane Austen sequels do we need? That whole Darcy business has been explored to death. Even from the perspective of a monster. Have we not had enough?
9. Name dropping. It’s just so out of place.
10. Unreal dialogues. This is what distinguishes bad fiction from great literature. We unconsciously filter out the crap in people’s speech to refine sense and meaning. What we’re left with is a type of distilled speech far removed from the realism of what we hear and, crucially, we rarely notice this until we see it with our own eyes, while reading a transcript of what someone said.

7 Responses

  1. I’ve got one to add:

    When a novelist’s personal philosophy gets in the way of the story. I don’t mind a little philosophizin’ but not at the expense of plot development.

  2. Great list! I agree with every point. And to go along with #1, how about characters with similar names? You’ve got thousands of names to choose from, why make them all sound the same? You’re just asking for confusion.

  3. Amen to that. Cliches drive me crazy. My biggest pet peeve not on your list is didactism. It drives me crazy. I don’t need to be preached to, and the world is more complicated than simple morality tales. Ugh!

  4. I have to agree with the Darcy spinoff stuff, though I can think of a few people that may be uspet by it.

  5. I totally agree with boston bibliophile, what I hate most is that a book is used to preach. Great list by the way! Number 8 is a great one too. How I disliked (and still do) all the Harry Potter spin offs.
    Another personal dislike: when the author starts the novel with a description of the weather conditions.

  6. brilliant list! agree whole heartedly with every point. Add to this my own peevish hatred of mary sues/gary stus and self insertions.

  7. I share many of these same pet peeves. I especially hate the spin-offs and agree that we don’t need more books about Darcy!

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