5 Things I Hate Seeing in Books

I love reading, and I like a lot of books, but here are five things that drive me nuts when I encounter them in a novel!

1

Narrator/Author withholding Information to Create “Suspense”

This is so tiresome. A character will refer for 150 pages to “the incident” without actually telling the reader what they are talking about, generally in a bid to keep readers turning the pages so they can finally discover what “the incident” is. The character will say how they haven’t been the same since the incident, or they haven’t gone back to the ice cream store since the incident, or they haven’t spoken to their best friend since the incident. The incident is the explanation for all interesting things in the character’s life and colors all their thoughts, actions, and decisions, but they can’t tell the reader what that incident was. The worst part — generally it’s not that interesting of a reveal anyway, once the protagonist gets around to it.

2

Illogical World Building

This is a huge pet peeve of mind that I know a lot of readers do not share at all, based on how many books that have world building that makes NO SENSE end up quite popular and are even praised for their world building.

Often the praise comes because the world building is “so original,” but I’m here to tell you that if no one wrote a book before where a single country is ruled by twenty-five monarchs each from one to twenty-five years in age, each of whom is solely in charge of a different segment of the country, so the laws on one street don’t apply to a street one mile over, and the laws a baby makes by spitting up milk onto the proposed bills she likes best are equally as revered as the laws made by adults…that is not because this is such wonderfully creatively world building sprung from a uniquely imaginative mind. It is because it is completely illogical, and any real country with this supposed “government” would fall apart in weeks, probably taken over by a military coup.

Freaky Twins – A Sideshow More than Actual Characters

I wrote about this issue at length in this post about why I hate so many twins in books, but the gist is that SO MANY authors still act as if twins are a weird phenomenon instead of actual people. This happens enough in real life — if you know any twins, you can ask them how many people act as if they’re one unit in two bodies instead of two different people, or how many people don’t bother to figure out their names, or how many people act like they’re supernatural and ask if they’re telepathic or whatever. Literature is almost worse. Authors also act as if their twins are interchangeable, or mystic, and they finish each other’s sentences and either have the exact same personality or GASP polar opposite personalities. Please, stop. Twins are just people, and, like most siblings, most of them will have some interests and hobbies in common with each other and some that are not.

four

Flowery Descriptions that Don’t Seem to Actually Mean Anything

I am a big fan of “lyrical” writing. I love classics, and I don’t think “convoluted” or “complex” sentences are a problem. In fact, I often prefer them and find them much more interesting than bland, straightforward writing that can sound the same from book to book, author to author. However, I am NOT a fan of when authors seem to be trying to be “lyrical” and end up with bizarre descriptions that don’t seem to actually describe anything, or even to mean anything, if the reader takes time to think about them rather than skimming past.

It’s hard to come up with an example off the top of my head (so perhaps I should give credit to writers who do this often, for having some type of skill), but imagine someone writing a description like this: “The opulent raindrops lustered on the verdant leaves, shimmering and shaking like bees waltzing across their honeycombs before a storm.” Uh, what? What is an “opulent” raindrop? Is “luster” definitely a verb? And what is a waltzing bee? Do bees act differently before a storm? And how does comparing a raindrop to a dancing bee convey anything useful to me??? I have so many questions!

The Fight that Breaks up the Love Interests to “Build Drama”

Can we…not do this? I understand that some authors think that having a romantic couple get together and just…stay together is boring, and adding some fights and a quick “break up” will add some conflict to their story, but I hate that couples just being together and being in love is considered “boring” at all. I’m sure most people in healthy relationships would not say their relationship is “boring” because they actually like each other! Add drama to the plot some other way. Or have the couple fight but not literally end their relationship over the fight.

Worse, this trope is so common it’s predictable and, therefore, not even that “exciting.” I dread reading some books because I know eventually the author has to pretend to break up the couple just to put them back together by the end, and it seems unnecessary and is often extremely forced (in the vein of, Well, yes, I could explain to you why I have your dead mother’s necklace and it would make sense and prove I am not a thief, but I am offended you are asking, so I’m just not going to give you my reasonable explanation to solve this fight. So there! We have now broken up!). Sigh.

What are some things you dislike seeing in books?

Briana

63 thoughts on “5 Things I Hate Seeing in Books

  1. Bibliosini says:

    HAHA! This post is so much fun because I love the way you have written it and it’s so relatable! I actually agree with all five, especially the twins and the couple fights! I think we’re over-romanticizing twins at this point if that’s even possible. And I’m sick of waiting for the couple’s fight that almost always happens! Urgh!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I usually schedule posts a couple weeks in advance, so when I was rereading it I realized I must have been in quite a mood when I wrote it! :p

      The twins thing drives me nuts all the time, and then of course it’s also in TV, where of course all twins dress exactly alike so viewers know they’re twins and (apparently) weirdos who can’t dress themselves.

      Yes, the couple’s fight is almost the worse because I KNOW it’s going to happen, and I have this air of “Ok, let’s just get it over with” instead of actually enjoying the book.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Krysta says:

        I just read a book where twins were just mentioned and it got kind of weird and icky? The main character was just musing about twins and their special bond and saying how he was always fascinated by them, etc, etc. Um, they’re not an exotic fruit. They’re just normal people. And, then, of course, he met twins and they were polar opposites.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Kim @ Traveling in Books says:

    The overly lyrical writing annoys me so much. It is perfectly possible to have beautiful, elegant writing without having things opulently lustering through the shimmer-shining leaves or whatever. But so many authors seems to mistake overwriting for lyrical writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Line says:

    With your first point, you’ve perfectly described the book I’m currently reading (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine), where she literally refers vaguely to something she calls “The Incident”. I agree with you that it is a tiresome and maybe even lazy way for the author to create suspense. It’s even more frustrating that the character is remembering more and more tiny things about the incident as the book goes on so. There’s something unrealistic about that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Ah, I’ve seen a number of good reviews of that book, but knowing that makes me not want to read it!

      Yes, I always wonder how realistic it is, too. I’m not sure most readers know enough about mental health and how brains work to accurately write a character who is apparently purposely not remembering things about their past and then having small hints break through until they actually confront their past.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jan says:

    I agree with all five of your points! There’s a pattern in some series where a couple gets together in the first book, only to fight and break up in the second to create more drama and I hate it. And yes to your second point – it makes no sense when these eighteen-year-olds suddenly become rulers of countries and heads of rebellions. [Spoiler] I think a book that covered this aspect really well has to be the Hunger Games, where Katniss finds out that she’s actually being used.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I don’t like the couples fights, either! Why can’t a couple just be together and have good times and go on adventures? Wouldn’t that be a healthier relationship that all the ones with needless drama?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      That drives me nuts a lot, too. Especially if the book seems more like a vehicle to espouse particular views than to tell a story.

      I think a lot of YA is like this, actually, but many readers are fine with it because they are views they agree with. Personally, (for just one example), I am a feminist but a bit tired of reading YA fantasies that are some variation on “men are awful and oppressing us and afraid of the power women would have if given a chance and we must tear down the patriarchy.” I mean, you could have that but also be more subtle about it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Krysta says:

        I’m getting tired of the political memos that have nothing to do with the story, too. And I’m wondering how well some of these will age. Or maybe they’re just assuming the book won’t still be in print after this very specific political reference becomes confusing?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Kat @ Bookish Blades says:

    I definitely 100% agree with your first and last point! Both of these are just… so annyoing! As for inconsistent world building, that’s something I can live with. I tend to focus a lot more on characters, so when those are well written, I don’t need a perfect world building 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I can’t stand the couples who fight and break up over nothing! I’d like to see a healthy relationship where they communicate with each other, avoid the drama, and just go on a fun adventure together! Being together in a non-dramatic relationship can be fun, too, you know! XD

      Like

  6. majoringinliterature says:

    Haha I’m also not a fan of unnecessarily lyrical writing, or bad “lyrical” writing. And I also loathe when couples fight and break up for the sake of creating drama – this so often happens with couples that you’ve been wishing would get together for ages because they’re so perfect for each other, and then once they do the excitement is “gone” so they need to create unnecessary drama.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes! I can’t stand this idea that “the excitement is gone” after the first kiss or whatever, and so we have to have these dramatic fights over nothing. I guess married couples are doomed. The next couple decades are all downhill. XD

      Like

  7. Mark says:

    “The opulent raindrops lustered on the verdant leaves, shimmering and shaking like bees waltzing across their honeycombs before a storm.” What a stunning metaphor for climate change, here have a Booker prize 😉

    I have to admit, most of what I read doesn’t feature any of these problems, bar the excessive flowery language.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I’ve seen a number of YA books lately try to be “lyrical” and sometimes readers even say they love it, but I don’t get it. By the time you are comparing someone’s teeth to a road sign being hit by headlights in the dark (real example), you’ve lost me! XD

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Angele || adominiquereads says:

    Omg I totally hate the illogical world-building bit! I always love a great world building in my books, but sometimes there are just too many elements being included into it that over-all, it doesn’t make any sense to the readers, or doesn’t actually have any purpose anymore to the story.

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Ah, I feel like it’s in every genre where a romance is part of the plot, not even just actual romance books. You’re happily reading some fantasy and BOOM! the couple breaks up over something stupid, only to get back together 100 pages later. :/

      Like

  9. Jillian says:

    I HATE IT WHEN THE OTHERWISE RATIONAL HEROINE LOSES ALL FOCUS BECAUSE A MAN WALKS BY AND SHE FEELS THAT AT ALL COSTS SHE MUST NOW HAVE THE RING EVEN IF IT MEANS FORGETTING THE PLOT THAT BEGAN THE STORY AND ALLOWING THE SUDDEN HERO TO SOLVE IT FOR HER.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. BookerTalk says:

    The over-egged description is a turn off for me too. My pet hate is the author who has done all the research and absolutely believes they need to share it with me – all of it. So we end up with a chunk of text that sounds like it was lifted from an encyclopedia

    Like

  11. Jamie @BubblyBooks says:

    I hate the twin trope too- partially bc I actually have a twin and the need to always make one of them die or become operated is just too much DRAMA for me to handle. And YES I hate all unnecessary fighting between couples in books – like can we please make that not a thing? I only understand fighting or arguing if there is an ACTUAL reason behind it!! Awesome post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The Write Path says:

    I hate it when there are to many characters in the book. Like One of us is lying and One of us is next. I had to screenshot the names so i could go back everytime the characters were mentioned. It’s so confusing 😣

    Like

  13. Zezee says:

    Ugh! #1 and #5 and top ones for me. The withholding info thing is so frustrating and another one is when a conflict could easily be resolved by having the characters talk to each other, but they don’t to extend the drama of the situation. Ugh! So annoying.
    I came across an instance of #5 in a romance novel I recently read and I rolled my eyes at the scene. I could just tell how things would play out leading up to the argument.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I kind of think if a writer has to create unnecessary drama just by having people be terrible communicators, maybe the story isn’t that strong, after all. But it’s hard to be invested in a relationship where they have an earth-shattering fight over a small misunderstanding that could have been resolved with a phone call. That’s what would be called an unhealthy relationship in real life.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Krysta says:

      I totally agree! I can understand instant attraction that develops into a deeper relationship over time. But, if you tell me he’s The One from 30 seconds of eye locking from across the room, I’m going to laugh a little.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Isobel Necessary says:

    I’m off to check out your piece on twins! I did some research on circuses in fiction a few years back, and the fact that the sideshow-freak associations of twins and pseudo-twins are still so dominant in novels from as recently as the 2010s – it’s quite disappointing, frankly.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I don’t understand the continued fascination with twins as some sort of “freaky” “Other.” I don’t know if they’re all that uncommon. I can think of nine pairs of twins I know just off the top of my head, and they’re all just regular people. But when I read about twins in literature, it starts to feel kind of icky with characters wondering if the twins are telepathic, musing about how they share a special bond no one else can understand, etc. It’s no longer acceptable to exoticize groups of people in fiction, but twins still seem to be fair game.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Brooklyn @ Brooklyn Blogs Books says:

    ahaha this post was so fun to read. i definitely agree with all of those, and also, cliffhangers. i won’t start on them, but my thoughts pretty much boil down to: they’re a stupid cheap ineffective literary device that i hate with a fiery passion 🙂

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Argh, yes, so frustrating! I can see how a book needs a little forward momentum to make readers what to know what happens in the next one, but when the cliffhanger is over-the-top, like literally leaving you wondering if a character is dead or not, it’s a bit much!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Sophie Li says:

    Really love this post and can’t agree more! I also dislike overly flowery writing that don’t serve a purpose. Vibrant setting descriptions are one thing but if it’s too over the top, I just end up getting bored and skipping it lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yes! I see a lot of people say they skip descriptions, but I actually quite like them– if they seem to actually mean something! I find them more interesting in older books, for one thing, because I think a lot of classic authors were actually well-versed in nature and knew what they were talkin about if they described a forest for two paragraphs. I get the sense some modern authors are like, “Eh, whatever” and just throw in some plant names, and who knows if those plants should even be in season at that time in their book. But they STILL on for two paragraphs trying to sound lyrical.

      Liked by 2 people

  17. Lais @ The Bookish Skies says:

    i don’t think i had realized how common the “narrator withholding information to create suspense” actually is and oh my, i think i just realized i hate it as well. i can not think of a single time in which learning about the incident actually surprised me, because the buildup is always so intense that the reveal always feels lack luster, lol. i especially hate it when the character had a fall-out with someone else and they *hate* each other now, but when you learn what actually happened, it’s something so minor and stupid it doesn’t make sense for them to hold such intense grudges.

    however, i am guilty of loving fights to create drama, hahahah. i just adore angst so seeing couples together and happy for too long doesn’t really give me that much to work with, hahah.

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I agree! Often the big reveal doesn’t seem that big after the person has been hiding it for 200 pages!

      I think fights can work, but it helps if they fight about something worth fighting about and it isn’t obvious they could clear up the problem in ten seconds if they bothered to talk to each other. I don’t think I’ve ever had a dramatic fight with anyone in my life when they were like, “I can explain” and I said, “Nope, I don’t care. I won’t listen to you. Bye now!” Even if you think their explanation won’t help, you can listen for thirty seconds???

      Like

  18. Sammie @ The Bookwyrm's Den says:

    Oh my gosh, Briana, it’s creepy how you read my mind with this post. Yes, yes, and YES. To all of these. Ugh.

    I have actually screamed at Goodreads reviews before while reading them because they say things like “I don’t normally read fantasy” linked with “this has the best world-building.” Welp, I can tell you don’t normally read fantasy, because this world-building sucked eggs. xD Read another fantasy book, ANY other fantasy book, for proper world-building, please. That one always kills me the most, because unique doesn’t always mean good.

    I absolutely love flowery writing as much as the next person, but like you said, I want it to MEAN something. Don’t just string pretty words together and call it a day. I mean, sure, it sounds pretty if you say he had a voice like “velvet glass,” but what does that MEAN?! Those words don’t go together like that lol.

    Yes to your entire fifth point! Authors need to stop this. Or at least make the fight for a good reason, sheesh. It’s almost always some stupid reason that could’ve been easily avoided that feels so painfully forced it’s not even funny. I’d love to see more romances just stick together and more realistic arguments, as wacky as they are. Have the woman sleep on the couch because she’s just spent an hour arguing with her husband about whether he’s allowed to kill half the population if he somehow gains superpowers and takes over the world (a position he’s clearly wildly unqualified for) which culminates in him telling her she’s just too illogical to see the brilliance in his (obviously illogical) plan and she’s done and can’t deal with him anymore. True story. Relationships are weird sometimes. xD

    Like

  19. DoingDewey says:

    Oh, I am so with you on these! I feel like withholding information is very rarely done such that it feels reasonable instead of gimmicky that you’re missing information. Internally consistent world building is a must for me and I hate drama that feels made up in romances as well. Those three items in particular are real pet peeves for me too.

    Like

  20. addynikitabooks says:

    I totally agree with most of these however I did not know about the twin thing. Maybe I just haven’t read enough books with twin characters.

    Like

      • addynikitabooks says:

        Oh that’s true. I’ve mainly seen twins in cartoons and yes they’re almost always wearing the same thing or something coordinated.

        Like

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