Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Pet Peeves

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Do come join the fun....

Back before I started reading a lot about How To Write, I accepted most writing at face value. There were books I loved, books I liked, and books I didn't care for, but as long as the tale was reasonably well-told, things like adverbs and word repetition didn't bother me.

Nowadays, little things jump out and wave at me, interrupting the flow of the story. I kind of wish they didn't. But here are a few of the things that have always, and will always, get on my nerves:

1. Over-writing. Too many adjectives, bulky sentences, too-obvious attempts to sound literary. Words have to proceed smoothly, without catching the reader and tripping him or her up.

2. Other people's notes in the margins. I don't notate my own books; marginalia not belonging to me are even more annoying.

3. Tense shifts. More tense shifts make it into published novels than I'd have ever expected, and while I don't claim absolute immunity from creating them myself, they totally throw me off when I'm reading.

4. Bad endings. Stories that don't resolve, or that hit the reader with a mean gut-punch, or that otherwise show no concern for the reader's intelligence or emotions. I wrote a whole blog-post about this once.

5. Awkward similes. I ran into this recently; without taking examples directly from the book, it would be things like "The bay was very blue, like a pool of sapphires that rippled and pulsed as if stirred by a giant invisible washing machine agitator." The book was otherwise good, but the similes kept making me snicker.

6. Tics. This is actually one of my own biggest problems—the tendency to create a phrase that I like and re-use it over and over. It's fun to write, but annoying to read. Robert Jordan, whose Wheel of Time series I love very much so far, never refers to a woman folding her arms without saying "She crossed her arms beneath her breasts"—and every time, a little voice in my head shouts "A MAN WROTE THIS."

7. Lack of terminal stop. It's a simple copyediting mistake, one anyone can make. But it happens with some frequency in published books, and I always feel as if I've run off a cliff. If there's a pen handy, I'll draw in the missing punctuation.

8. Objective voice. The story just isn't very interesting if I don't get to experience the protagonist's feelings.

9. Unlikable protagonists and/or sidekicks. Jerks, cads, buttkicking who-needs-a-man women; too many displays of things like arrogance, dishonesty, extreme selfishness, lack of mercy. Sorry, but if I wouldn't want to make that person my friend, why would I want to read a book about them?

...and perhaps the biggest, most frustrating one:

10. Caricatures and stereotypes of Christians and the Church. Treatment of religion as some merciless, controlling, murderous organization makes me want to throw the book across the room. The portrayal of Christians as hypocrites who do nothing but make their children unhappy and insult people who disagree with them makes me want to cry. I have been a Christian my whole life, and a member of both evangelical and Catholic churches. Yes, I've come across a few instances of hypocrisy, control freaking and failures of mercy. But I've also come across immense love and forgiveness and honor, not to mention truth and something to hold onto in an unstable world. I know the Church intimately, and love her with my whole heart. People might as well be attacking my husband or my sisters or my parents. Don't mess with my dearest and best.

...apparently I could write a whole blog-post about that. Heh.

Oh, and since I just took a lunch break and read Kathy's list, here's a peeve I totally should have included: Cover art that doesn't match the text. I just ran into that this week—a heroine with straight hair and a perfect face on the cover, curly hair and a big scar in the book. Argh.

What are your own pet peeves regarding books?


  1. Jenna said, "Robert Jordan, whose Wheel of Time series I love very much so far, never refers to a woman folding her arms without saying 'She crossed her arms beneath her breasts'—and every time, a little voice in my head shouts 'A MAN WROTE THIS.'"

    Well, how's the old saying go? "You have to write what you like." ;)

  2. I'm with you on the stereotypes & caricatures of Christians & the Church. If I'm reading reviews of books on Amazon looking for new stuff & I run across in the description how the Church or religion or what not is the Big Bad, I just sigh & say, "How original," & pass it by, unless it does look interesting then I might put it in my wish list.

    The other thing that annoys me is usually if they do have a good portrayal of someone religious or in the Church, it's because they basically don't hold to any of the Church's teachings.

  3. George, LOL. I think it's "Write what you know", which isn't any better. :P

    Also, I wholly agree with that last point. If they're praising someone for disagreeing with the Church, they're back to mocking what I love. Grrr.

  4. Bad similes are awful but also kind of hilarious in their way. It's not that I want to read a book crammed with them but when you catch them and wonder what the author was thinking, it's kind of funny. I'm so with you on #10. Rare indeed is the Christian character who matches up with the decent "normal" Christians I interact with daily.

  5. Love your bad simile example. sadly, we've all read books like this.
    I have also been known to "edit" books when I find typos.
    Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I'm *so* with you on the awkward similes thing. I think we're taught to overuse similes. Unless you can think of a really good one, stick to simple language. As my college writing teacher used to say, "if you can't think of a really stellar word, an ordinary word is your best choice."

  7. Megan, it's true--the bad similes can be hilarious. The same is true of spelling errors, which is the main reason I didn't put them on the peeve list. :)

    Kathy, editing is better than being annoyed every time you read the book! At least, that's my philosophy.

    Kiernan, you're right about our being taught to overuse similes--and to overwrite in general. I totally agree with your college writing teacher.

  8. You are so right about the caricatures and stereotypes of Christians and the church. I ran into a lot of that lately. If the church is mentioned then automatically they are portrayed as hypocrites. It's sad really.

  9. 1--Definitely! And why I avoid "literary" novels. I hate it when authors are so determined to show you the caliber of their poetic prose, that it distracts and detracts from the story.

    2--I've not had serious problems with marginalia, but it annoys me when people correct grammar and spelling (and are often wrong!).

    4--Bad endings. Aargh, you read through a book and find a cliffhanger to sell the next book, or an ending that makes you feel you wasted 400 pages worth of your time.

    5--I find too many books clogged with unnecessary similies instead of good metaphors. "The lake was like a blue sapphire, gleaming in the sun." Why not "The sapphire lake gleamed in the sun" or "The lake gleamed sapphire in the sun"? The simile measles seem to be a rash upon the YA landscape.


    8--Perfect example: I just reread A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute. Unfortunately, Shute's engineer background informs his writing style. He writes narratively about his people in a methodical, detached way, and you never get to know their inner thoughts, who they are, or why they do what they do, and so I can't feel with them or care about them. And there is no suspense or investment. Telling you a person sits and thinks about a situation and then decides to do something, rather than putting you in their mind as they struggle with the situation and their decision, is a way to kill a great story. I'd love to see this story in the hands of a really good novelist.

    9--Agree completely. One book (first person narration) I ditched after three pages. I couldn't stand her; why would I want 300 pages more?

    10--Oh, yes. I can't stand this either! Faith: only the evil and stupid need apply.

    Cover art: see any and all SF books! It's hilarious!


  10. Skye, thanks for adding your thoughts! You're absolutely right, and I agree that it's sad.

    Arabella, I just loved reading all of your responses! You're on to something with that comment about metaphors reading better than similes. Also, sci-fi books do tend to have whacked-out covers. :)

    Nobody's said anything, but looking back at my point number 9, I feel the need to qualify: I like tomboyish girls and tough chicks just fine. It's when they start b*tching about the male half of the species that they get on my nerves. I like men. :)


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