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!
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.
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.
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?