Monday, September 23, 2013

Reader Peeves

I'm a writer and hopefully, some will consider me an author.  I love to write and I also read books by other authors.  Sometimes I don't like what I read.  Trust me, that is not a sacrilege!

For instance, I read a fantasy. It was one of those "quest" types where a group go on a journey to gain/claim something of value and in the meantime, learn about themselves.  I was enjoying the story - a wizard, an elf, a dwarf, a knight and of course, a page.  The group encountered many chills and thrills.  As I continued to read, I started to notice that the end of the book was nearing quickly page by page.  I got nervous. "Don't tell me this a series!"  I quickly checked.  It wasn't.  Whew!  Finally they reached the destination and the wizard went to fight the bad wizard. The bad wizard is overcome by the good wizard and the item needed was retrieved.  Up to this point it had been a good book but there are like only a few pages left. And now this motley group needed to get home.  The wizard raises his hands over his head, claps them together three times and in a magical whirlwind, carries the group home where they discover the page is actually the lost son of the king, the elf is a princess and they marry.  Uh, the end?

I felt cheated.  If the wizard could transfer them so easily why the hell did I read 200 pages of trials and tribulations to get them to the bad wizard's lair?  None of the group fought the opposing wizard - it was wizard on wizard.  Other than the group fighting to get the wizard to the bad wizard's castle, they were of no other use.  So why didn't the wizard just whisk himself to the other wizard's domain, take care of business and call it another day at work? Why the long journey?  Why the quest at all other than to make a story?

When I was writing one of my books, my critique group reviewed it and the general consensus was: you're cheating the reader. You tease with a battle three separate times and it never culminates.  I was told battle scenes were like sex.  There is foreplay.  I had three sessions of such "foreplay" and then walked out of the room leaving the partner (reader) still wanting.  My choices were simple - either have a battle scene or trash the book.  I added the battle scene and was really glad it wasn't a sex scene!  Whew!  Of course, that was another point of discussion but I wasn't writing a romance novel and saw no reason to add anything beyond a touch, glance or the hint of a tryst.

Another pet peeve I discovered is formulaic writing. You start reading and quickly realize A->B->C and know who the killer is and why by the second chapter.  My friend loves murder mysteries but has found he prefers books written by men vs women since they tend to kill off the ex-boyfriend and 90% of his friends right at the beginning and, of course, the killer is always the ex-girlfriend.  He claims most male authors twist things a little more to keep the reader in suspense to the end.  Those are his words, not mine.

Some readers have mentioned they despise repetition of facts. It seems to them the author is beating them over the head to make sure that one fact is definitely lodged in their brain.  Readers are smart people and don't need this over-dramatization.  Trust me, the readers get it. Authors don't need to recap everything every time.

Have you ever heard a reader say they just finished a book that didn't have an error in it?  Imagine being able to do that - read a book and not find a spelling, grammar, punctuation, dialog or plot error. Imagine the chagrin of a reader who gets involved with a lesser character who gets shot but not killed. From that point on, the character is dropped from the story.  What happened?  Did s/he survive?  A plot line dead ends and the reader is left with no resolution.

Other pet peeves of some readers were unique: banal character names, lazy beginnings, stupid plots, and fluff writing.  Banal characters.  Interesting.  Your lead is Fred.  Really?  Why is his name Fred?  It's a romance novel and Fred is the lead?  Brock, Hayne, Patrick, or even Jasper are stronger names that give a connotation of a rugged character who takes charge.  Fred?  As to lazy beginnings, I, too, despise a story that starts out with three pages of description regarding the town setting and the house where the action will take place. Is it really critical for the reader to know that the northern brick wall has moss that is trickling early morning dew?  Unless that diminutive detail is vital to the plot - a moss-covered brick wall is all the reader needs to know.

Stupid plots was one that I thought interesting. I'm sure you've read a book where a plot is inserted into the narrative and, as described by the person telling me about this pet peeve, spackled into place in an attempt to make it work.  Having and adding a plot to have a plot at that point is... well, stupid. That is on the same level as fluff writing.  Fluff writing is when the author adds a lot of extra words to the story in an attempt to increase the word count.  An example: We watched the golden sun set in an azure sky filtered with streaks of fire red, smokey purples and harvest yellows over the distant dark blue ocean horizon. Yeah, fluff.  Why not: We watched the sun set in a sky of reds, purples and yellows over a serene ocean.  Sometimes the author tries too hard to paint the image in his mind into our mind for us to see.  Readers do have imaginations, let them use it.

These are a few pet peeves that authors should take into account.  Will they?

Until next I ramble on...

1 comment:

  1. We share similar pet peeves as readers, but as a writer, I'm pretty forgiving. We writers know what goes into these stories of ours (heart and soul). Writing is an artistic expression, and usually very individual. My biggest pet peeve in that regard: Not doing right by your work and getting it polished by a reputable editor. Another pet peeve in regard to reviewers: Reviewing a book based on personal preference and not on the audience it's intended for.