I feel the need to vent. I’m almost three quarters through a book and the author has just introduced a totally new character; turns out, this guy is the villain — ugh! Got me thinking about other things that really irritate me in books. So, for what it’s worth, here are 10 things that give me the you-know-whats:
Let’s start at the beginning: most prologues are backstory, and backstory should be incorporated, sparingly, into the main story. I don’t mind epilogues because if I’ve made it to the end, I’ve invested in the story and probably want to know.
2. Starting In The Wrong Place
There’s a saying: “Arrive late and go home early.” Alas, not all writers have heard it. I got really irritated with a book where two secondary characters and a minor character took up the whole first chapter. The main character, and the actual story, didn’t show up until chapter 2. Please don’t make me wait that long, I might not stick around.
3. Lazy Endings
Lazy endings feel like the author has decided to wrap it up but doesn’t quite know how or where to end the story. For example, I read an historical novel which had an intriguing almost-love story at its heart. There was a subplot where two secondary characters eloped. At the end, we discovered – through an unlikely coincidence – the fate of the secondary characters but not the fate of the heroine’s would-be lover. Very unsatisfying, left me feeling cheated.
4. Unbelievable plot devices
Nothing screams ‘plot device’ like a character acting out of character, or a coincidence that is, well, too much of a coincidence. Frankly, it’s jarring.
5. Just Plain Wrong
Writers, please get your facts straight. I recently read a book where the hero’s knife and sword wounds miraculously self-healed – the genre was paranormal so I went with it until it was revealed that the only thing that could bring the hero down was iron. Swords and knives are made of steel, steel is made of iron. Duh.
And then there was that book that made me think the author had a fetish for human waste. Several action scenes were set in a particularly down-at-heel part of town. With each new scene in this area, there’d be another description of open sewers, vomit and body odor. Yeah, thanks, got it the first time.
7. The Weather
Not so much the weather as going on and on and on about the weather. It really irritates me when the writer, from the comfort of their 21st century, airconditioned point of view, overemphasizes the weather conditions. Yes, life in the west of Ireland, circa 1825, would have been no fun without heating and waterproof clothing. However, if characters and their ancestors had lived there for generations, you’d expect some degree of acclimatization.
8. Historical Inaccuracy
There’s no excuse for historical inaccuracy in the age of the internet. I’m sorry there just isn’t. It’s never been easier to cross reference sources. End of story.
9. Head Hopping
You know what I mean: we are inside one character’s head, hearing their thoughts, and a few lines later, we are in the head of another character. It can be confusing and difficult to follow when there are two different points of view in play in a paragraph or scene.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Last year I re-read Katherine by Anya Seton, one of my favorite books, first read when I was around 12 years-old. Seton head hops all over the place in the early chapters and, strangely, it works to build a sense of the world Katherine enters after leaving her sheltered life at the convent.
10. Testimonials And Acknowledgements
Anything not directly related to the story should come at the end. Testimonials, aka pages and pages of “what people are saying about….” are annoying. Ditto the writer acknowledging the person who kept them supplied with coffee during the writing. To any authors out there: if you must thank every woman and her dog, please do it at the back of the book.
Thanks for putting up with my rant, must say, I feel a little better. And now, back to reading.
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