Top Ten Tuesday - Pet Peeves

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish

This Week's Prompt: Top Ten Bookish Pet Peeves (all those things that annoy you in a story, with book covers, bookstores...)

Ranting is fun! In no particular order:

1: Perspective Switching

This drives me up the walls. If the author is writing in Close Third Person, and switches which character the reader is following, there had better be a chapter break, or at least a section break. And if it switches, worst of all, in the middle of a scene, there had better be a darn good reason. I sometimes think that authors who do this have problems conveying what a character is thinking without being 'in their head', and that's just lazy writing. Every so often there will be an author who can pull it off, but mostly I hate it.

2: Confusing Names

You can check out my entire post on naming for details.

I should add that I understand. Names are hard, and creating names that work together, that sound like they're from the same world (if you're creating a new world) is even harder. However, even "real" names can be problematic. If you introduce a character named Katherine briefly in one chapter, and then a chapter and a half later there is a female character whose name starts with a K, and I have to flip back to check to see whether this is the same character, you have a problem.

3: People who make up new labels (Magical Realism, looking at you) when they mean that a book is "genre, but good, so it can't really be genre"

You are not helping.

4: Typos

PROOFREAD, PEOPLE. I can overlook a typo here and there, but more than a few and it starts to make me crazy. The worst kind for me are the homophones that the spellchecker won't catch. Simple misspelling or a doubled word my eyes can skip over, but few things throw me out of a story faster than seeing loose when the author obviously means lose, week for weak, pitcher for picture, etc.

5: Poor E-book Formatting

I will overlook some of this if I got the book for free, and I'll overlook quite a few things even for paid titles, but it has to be legible. (I am not insensitive to the difficulty, but I have formatted e-books, so I notice all the little things that I fixed in mine.) An e-book should be in a font size that's not completely different from every other one, should have paragraph indents that are a sensible size, shouldn't have paragraph breaks in the middle of paragraphs, etc.. The first letter of every chapter shouldn't disappear because the print version had drop caps. Especially awkward: un-necessary hy-phens left o-ver from an OCR ver-sion of the text.

6: Boring or Knock-off Book Covers

This is really only a little peeve, mostly centered on covers that turn me off books that I find out later that I would like. I don't really have much a solution for this one, as I am personally fond of simple graphic covers, or highly detailed paintings, both of which are easy to do badly, and have themselves lead me astray to mediocre books. This, on the other hand, is fun: Orbit's Chart of Fantasy Art: Part One, Two, Three, Four

7: Repetitive Description

Some authors use the same one or two descriptions, or key phrases, to describe a character over and over again. It's less noticeable for those who use the same phrase or the same passage in subsequent books - until I go back to re-read them. Romance-themed books are particularly prone to this destroying the tone. The more times I read about the character's "piercing blue eyes" (or whatever), the funnier it becomes.

8: Anachronistic Terminology

I hate it when authors either use language that's too modern for a historical setting, or worse, mixed up temporally. If there are thees and thous, they had better be used correctly, and not mashed up with modern phrasing. (I can imagine this being done well, but that would be a surprising exception.)

9: Overuse of Brands as a Substitute for Description

This is why I don't read much 'chick lit'. Describing a character or a space by using brand name merchandise makes me crazy. Like most things, a little is okay, but too much is nasty.

10: E-Book Price War

It's a mess out there right now. I'm irritated with publishers trying to justify charging more for new e-books than for paperbacks, I'm irritated with Amazon for refusing to let Kindles play nice with other formats, I'm irritated with iBooks/Apple regarding just about their entire system, and I'm pissed about the Harper Collins library e-books debacle. You'd think maybe just one other industry would choose to learn from the music industry and get ahead of the technology wave instead of fighting tooth and claw to keep their old business model.

Ah. Feels good to get all that out. Enough snark for today, here is a kitten:


7 comments:

Ronnica said...

My problem with names is when the author just uses common English names...I get them all confused!

braak said...

Stacia Kane, in her Downside Books, uses a neat mash-up of thee/thou anachronistic language. The lower classes in the book have this weird kind of brogue, that sounds like they were all transplanted from 19th century Wales or something, while the fancy church guys use "thee" in generally informal situations.

It's neat, and a neat bit of flair for an urban fantasy novel.

booknympho said...

I couldn't have said it better myself with the naming, this is on my list and it can be so annoying! Love your other post on the topic! :)

Red said...

I totally agree with your #1. Sometimes authors can do this and pull it off, but most of the time it's just confusing and I end up re-reading the same thing multiple times.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I teach composition so I have to deal with perspective switching and typos all day long every day...I cannot do it in my leisure time :p

The Ebook stuff drives me crazy too...imagine what all those companies could produce if they put their heads together??

Lindsay said...

Ronnica: Names are definitely a difficult balance, even (especially?) common names!

Braak: I'm not opposed to using dialect thoughtfully. The urban fantasy I reviewed last week (The Neon Court) had these crazy characters who spoke in 1337/txt speak, and it actually worked. It bothers me when it's being half-assed, like when a writer uses terms just to sound medieval-ish without a care for correct grammar. I can't remember where I've seen this, but I know I have.

Booknympho: Thanks!

Red: Even when it's not extremely confusing, I think it's ugly stylistically. It throws off the sense of a scene to be jumping around in perspective.

Peppermint: Brave woman, dealing with young writers! About ebooks: the book market is a-changing, and I think many of the big publishers are at best not taking advantage of ebooks, and at worst shooting themselves in the foot. It seems crazy to me.

Trish said...

The perspective switching drives me nuts too. I've read one or two books where it kind of worked, but mostly it doesn't.

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