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Topic: what plot devices or writing quirks really bug you?

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Subject: what plot devices or writing quirks really bug you?
Date Posted: 12/26/2007 7:57 AM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2007
Posts: 3,326
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For me, it's names. Two main irks: unpronounceable and too much alike.  

I hate it when a book is filled with really weird names. Not ethnic names -- I can handle names common in other languages, but when they look completely made up and every name has double KK or double YY or  half of them start with Xw or Zsw  -- or early in the book the characters introduce themselves to each other and give you a clue how to pronounce their names, but it's completely the opposite of what you would think.

The other irk is when too many of the characters have similar names.  If the main good guy is Raum and the main bad guy is Raueme (for example) *and worse* if there are several other characters like Rauel and Reuna and Reoalla  it makes me want to throw the book across the room!  LOL

Date Posted: 12/26/2007 11:53 AM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2007
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Does this count? I hate it when the author makes a character act completely inappropriate for their age. If there's a reason for it that doesn't bother me but sometimes it seems as though the author hasn't spent much time around that age group and doesn't know what typical. Example V.C. Andrews characters seem way younger in all her books then they really are.

Date Posted: 12/26/2007 12:56 PM ET
Member Since: 8/23/2007
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I have the same pet peeves the 1st 2 posters do: I recently read a book where there were several names that were doubled. I realize this is common in real life but geez.  Give them dif names for the book so it's not as confusing to read.

And when a 4 yr old kid talks like a 40yr old.  You know there's just no way the kid is going to talk like that in real life. 

Date Posted: 12/26/2007 1:04 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
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When the person wakes up at the end and it's all a dream.  ; )

I also agree with the names that I can't pronounce or that don't flow smoothly.  It shouldn't matter, because when you're reading to yourself you're not supposed to be sounding out all the words (slows down your reading that way) but I guess I'm hearing the words in my mind and need to know how the name is supposed to sound.

Date Posted: 12/26/2007 2:22 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2007
Posts: 3,326
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I hate it when the author makes a character act completely inappropriate for their age.


I didn't think of that earlier, but by coincidence, I just read a book like this! The title is The Legend of the Lady Ilena, and it's a YA book that's pretty good, but I had some issues with the main character.  She was raised in a tiny remote village and taught to be a warrior by her father.  Her father dies and right off the bat she runs into a fight and battles her way through a big group of experienced warrior men. Regardless of her destiny as a warrior or leader, it just struck me as odd. Nothing is ever *that* easy  :-)


Date Posted: 12/26/2007 2:26 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2007
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but I guess I'm hearing the words in my mind and need to know how the name is supposed to sound.


I read extremely fast, and I do hear the words in my head -- not knowing how something is pronounced is a stumbling block for me. There is a name in my current book (series) spelled Sioned. I think this is common in celtic cultures, but the way the book has the reader pronounce it just doesn't mesh with my vocab comfort zone, I guess. 

Date Posted: 12/26/2007 3:06 PM ET
Member Since: 9/25/2006
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In Neil Simon's Murder By Death millionaire Lionel Twain criticizes mystery writers, "You've tricked and fooled your readers for years. You've tortured us with surprise endings that made no sense. You've introduced characters at the end that weren't in the book before! You've withheld clues and information...that made it impossible for use to guess who did it."

I know when I read mysteries I should just enjoy the characters and the author's style. But. However. Coincidences I accept in real life but I feel they are cheating in fiction. I don't like time travel or sleep walking or hypnotism or amnesia or people waking up from comas to reveal the crucial information. Nor do I like good guys (e.g. Spenser) letting other people (e.g. Hawk) do their dirty work.

Date Posted: 12/26/2007 7:50 PM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2006
Posts: 2,246
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I can't think of anything that bugs me in the mostly non-fiction I read, unless it's reading something that I know is inaccurate, such as a date. I read one awhile back, can't think of the name just now, in which the author had the name of the prime minister of England wrong for the date given. That kind of thing makes the reader wonder whether any of the facts in the book can be trusted.

My wife is a big Nora Roberts/ J.D. Robb fan and frequently complains about the author's overuse of "long eyes" and "lips curved." She waits for it now to show up in every novel, and I'll hear her yell, "Page 32, long eyes!" followed by a growl.

Edited for spelling.

Last Edited on: 12/26/07 8:17 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 12/27/2007 1:28 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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Gratuitous sex.  No thanks.  Most sex is poorly written...either that or the authors simply have poor creativity.

I hate stupid-sounding names.  Grafton's Kinsey Millhone is one that is like nails on a chalboard for me...

Date Posted: 12/27/2007 11:21 AM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2007
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Here's a really specific one: the colloquial contraction for "should have" is "should've". Scott Turow elects to write this as "should of" -- which may capture the pronunciation, but drives me up the wall because my eye keeps seeing the existing word "of" and sentences like "He should of kept his mouth shut", read slowly, require re-reading. I know, that's about as abstruse as you can get, and he's sold a few more books than I have. But: still. I went so far as to write to Whoever Reads Scott Turow's Email on his site, and Someone Claiming To Be Scott Turow replied that while I had a point, too bad, he liked it that way. Fair enough. But: still. Perhaps I need to get out more.
Date Posted: 12/27/2007 4:39 PM ET
Member Since: 3/31/2006
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I hate it when they expect you to believe all these events happened in a 24 hour period.  I find it really unbelievable.

I also hate aimless books where there isn't a cohesive plot.  The Jane Austen Book Club comes to mind.  It just seemed to wander with no particular purpose.

I also avoid books where they spell everything out for you in the first chapter and then go back into the past.  I want to be surprised.  I'd add mysteries where you already know who "dunnit".  I don't want to know until towards the end.

Lastly, books written in dialect where I can't mentally vocalize the accent.  Buddha Da was one that I had trouble with.  I couldn't get the accent down in my head and it frustrated me, so I stopped reading.

Date Posted: 12/27/2007 5:05 PM ET
Member Since: 10/2/2007
Posts: 66
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I hate filler material,such as the 5 page description of the clothes the character is wearing or the room they are in!Just get on with the story!LOL! Seems the Koontz does this alot in his newer books.

Date Posted: 12/27/2007 7:51 PM ET
Member Since: 12/25/2007
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Yeah. The absolute worst book to read if you have name pet peeves is "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe. The book takes place in Africa... it took me like 20 times reading a paragraph over to figure out which names were of cities, and which ones were names of people ^__^

Date Posted: 12/27/2007 10:34 PM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2007
Posts: 5,272
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This might sound really odd, but I hate it when there are too many characters introduced all at once, particularly at the start of the book when I'm trying to figure out the who's and where's and when's anyway. It gets confusing and I feel like I should be taking notes; I can never tell which characters will later turn out to be minor or which ones are significant to the story. Ugh.

Date Posted: 12/27/2007 11:31 PM ET
Member Since: 8/22/2005
Posts: 1,103
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I agree with the too-much-too-soon complaint. Fast action; love at first sight - okay, I can suspend belief. But then there are those where by the end they've had umpteen battles, fallen in love, several sex scenes, and found the treasure and you realize they met yesterday. Ugh!

Not so much a plot device, but an inconsistency. It bothers when the pictures on the cover are nothing like the character descriptions. (Story = tiny blonde; cover = tall brunette. Huh??)


Date Posted: 12/28/2007 1:33 AM ET
Member Since: 7/24/2007
Posts: 2,825
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I agree with all of the above! The worst for me is Tamar Myers Penn-Dutch books. The main character Magdalena Yoder acts very childish. I only read the first two in the series and skimmed the third, because I couldn't handle the temper tantrums, and the way she talks to her love intrest (aka; schnookums, cuddley wuddley ect) from a 40yo woman.

She also is very repetitive with the jokes she uses, not unlike "long eyes" and "lips curved" mentioned above...

How many times do we have to hear about cousin Melvin being kicked in the head by a bull? And how his eyes roll around in different directions?

This is a very popular cozy series though.

Date Posted: 12/28/2007 2:00 AM ET
Member Since: 8/23/2007
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Jo: I love romances and that cover thing is a pet-peeve of mine.  Obviously Authors are not taking control of their covers because the people in the book never look like the person on the cover. 

Timeline inconsistancies are annoying too.  When they do a prologue and say the age of the charactar. But then when they go to the main part of the book and show the time past and then give ages that don't match up.  Like the hero is 12 in 1812 but 30 in 1828.  Umm don't you read your own book to make sure the timeline is right?

Date Posted: 12/28/2007 8:04 AM ET
Member Since: 3/13/2006
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Aimee, I completely agree about Magdalena Yoder.  What is the deal with those temper tantrums??

I'm reading a book right now in which a bunch of characters and their relationships to each other were introduced through a short, out-of-context discussion between two characters right at the start of the book, and all of these identities just didn't sink in with me.  So every time one of these characters comes on the scene or is discussed I have to stop and think, okay, who is this and how does he or she fit in?  It's really bogging me down.

Date Posted: 12/28/2007 1:17 PM ET
Member Since: 1/10/2006
Posts: 1,078
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I have to admit all the things that have been mentioned so far do bug me. The one that I have to add is when the cover has a couple in historical dress and you find that it is actually a contemporary story!  Huh? Did the publisher think we would be too stupid to notice that little discrepency?

Oh, and another one..... when the actual back cover that tells about the story is blatently misleading. One comes to mind that said the story was about a woman who was in a fierce battle with her two sisters for their inheritance. It made it appear that this was the plot of the story. Oh, no.  It turns out that their "fierce battle" was settled   in the very first chapter and went on to become just an ordinary romance. It is kind of like some of the previews you see of coming movies that have a scene in the preview that catches your interest but that particular scene is not even in the movie! 

Date Posted: 12/28/2007 6:34 PM ET
Member Since: 10/2/2007
Posts: 2,243
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I hate when authors use repetitive flashbacks which are in no particular order.

I just read Jodi Picult's The Pact. (First book by her for me and not my usual "thing".) Every time there was a flashback, it would take me a page or two to figure out that:

1: This is a flashback

2: WHEN is it?

I don't know if this is a common thing for her, but it was enough to put me off....


Oh! I completely agree with the "should of" thing. Grammatical mistakes drive me NUTS! It's one thing to make them in a quick post in a forum or something, but a published novel? YIKES!

And one more. I HATE when authors spend 3 pages describing what was served for dinner! HOW is this important to the story?

Date Posted: 12/28/2007 6:49 PM ET
Member Since: 8/22/2005
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...when the actual back cover that tells about the story is blatently misleading...

Diane M. - I'm glad you mentioned that one. I hate it as well. Some of the discrepancies I can at least understand how they might be overlooked. But to pick a couple of paragraphs to summarize/market your book that don't even represent the main storyline is just insane.


On the covers  - they are pet peeves of mine in many ways. I'm glad the industry seems to be moving away from those sultry "bodice ripper" fantasy covers they used so often on romance.  They were just ridiculous.

Julie Garwood is one of my favorite authors and I posted a message on her website once about that and how I liked that several of her historical romances were being re-issued with very classic, sophisticated covers.  She actually took the time to email me and say she felt the same way, that unfortunately as an author, she had no input into the covers and she didn't like the silly ones either.

Subject: Miscommunication Stupidity
Date Posted: 12/28/2007 11:44 PM ET
Member Since: 10/23/2006
Posts: 9
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At the top of my list is the "miscommunication"  or "stupid assumption" plot device.  I think this is why I don't like romance novels, because the few that I have read all seem to use this device a little too generously.  Or maybe it's because I'm a blunt person and generally don't make stupid assumptions about other people without asking.

ex:  our bold heroine spies her beloved whispering into the ear of another woman and stupidly assumes it is a romantic gesture.  She runs off and takes the next boat across the ocean to start a new life. (/sob) Her beloved hears she got on the boat and stupidly assumes she has decided against marrying him, so goes on his merry way without bothering to find out what happened. blah blah blah

Date Posted: 12/29/2007 8:56 AM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2006
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I really hate when a ficition author spends pages and pages setting up a scene, you know when they write all about the house that grandpa built with only a hammer and saw and the land that has been in their family for generations  and cousin Bill who ran off with the Preacher's daughter, and how cousin Emily has three kids but only one loves her now that they are teenagers, yada yadda yada! Then I remember why I am soooo picky about the books I read! I find myself skimming and when I start to do that too often in a book, I usually end up just putting it down and moving on to the next book.

Date Posted: 12/29/2007 10:03 AM ET
Member Since: 2/24/2006
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Ridiculous or hard to pronounce names.  HUGE age differences between romantic characters. 


Date Posted: 12/29/2007 11:29 AM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2007
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The Dragonlance series can be very annoying because the characters are frequently mentioned by their full names.  For example, Tanis is Tanis Half Elven, Tass is Tasselhof Burrfoot.  It feels like the authors are trying to fill space by doing that.  I know their names already! 

Many of Stephen King's books and short stories have writers as the protagonist, to the point of being redundant.  Cell, Salem's Lot, The Shining, The Mist, Misery, Bag of Bones, etc.  I love Mr. King, his great horror stories were what drew me to reading as a kid.