My Reading Pet Peeves – How not to annoy your audience

Much like Aziz Ansari’s character, Tom, in Parks and Recreation, I have some “Oh No No’s”. But unlike Tom Haverford, my Oh No No’s don’t extend to my husband. They do, however, decide my relationship status with a book.

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Now these are just my personal opinions. If you do any of the following it just means I’m not your target audience.

This is just why I stop reading books.

1. The names of characters

When picking the name of your characters, a lot of things should be taken into account. Setting, family history, genre, and who your character’s parents were are all viable ways to name a character. Fantasy settings tend to have more out there names, and that’s acceptable. The romance genre can get a little corny, but we’ve all come to expect that by now. So what’s the annoying part of names? The cheesy names for no reason, the naming a character who sacrifices themselves after Jesus, or the blatant “character stereotype” names. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read someone’s work where they have a girl named “Raven”, who’s a dark, brooding girl, with a dark past, and a dark future, and she’s just dark. Or how many Astras, Stellas, or Stars are quirky, “spacey” girls. When naming is done correctly, an author can shape a character and make a name fit into the narrative, but when names are just slapped on without any rhyme or reason, I say “Oh No No”, and close the book.

And it’s not just me who’s noticed this. Check out Cracked’s video “4 Bizarre Rules for Naming Fictional Characters

2. Instant character changes

I love character development. As a writer who focuses more on character driven stories than plot driven, when I find another author who has the same drive to create a well developed protagonist/antagonist, I will cherish that book for the rest of my life (as I have with Good Omens. Go find it and read it). When that development is rushed, however, I feel cheated. The mousy girl who magically becomes a sword wielding, viking warrior, the asshole guy who all the sudden has a heart of gold, the cruel villain who suddenly becomes kind, I’ve seen it too many times to count, and I can’t stand it. Now if the character grows into that role, I can accept it, but short of mind control or hypnotism, a character shouldn’t spontaneously turn into a new person in one page.

3. Short cuts/Deus ex Machina endings

This one infuriates me more than any other number on this list, because most of the time it doesn’t happen until I’m already invested in the novel. I agree with the fact that some stories do have to have a little bit of coincident to progress. If a character doesn’t happen to be walking down that one road, they never would find themselves in a story, after all. But when all hope is lost, and there is nothing that can save a character from a fate worse than death, there needs to be a believable way to get out of their problem. Again, usually it’s too late for me to throw out an “Oh No No” card by the time this happens, but it will make me question reading that author again in the future. You see this in Lord of the Rings, with the eagles, but that’s about one of the few exceptions I’ll accept.

4. Killing for the sake of killing

Have you noticed yet that I really love characters? While I enjoy plot, setting and story progression, I get attached to the people who live in between the pages. When a character dies, I’m completely okay with it, so long as it plays a part in the story. When characters die for no reason other than to shock the reader, however, I draw the line. I don’t need my protagonists to have happy endings, and in fact, I love it when they don’t because that makes it more real, but to just die for no other reason than the author wanting to “create chaos” I won’t pick up another book by them again.

5. The “Can Do No Wrong” characters, or their equally useless counter parts, the “So Extremely Dark and Edgy”

These are the perfect characters. The flawless, often times “inexplicably alluring” men and women who for some reason, are amazing. They look amazing, they sound amazing, they can sing, and dance and juggle chainsaws if they ever put their mind to it. And then there’s the anti perfect characters.  These are the ones who are so badass that if anyone even looks at them wrong, they’ll kick them into the ground, and everyone will be okay with this. Everyone in the novel loves these characters. Every man and woman wants to sleep with them and or be them, and chances are the antagonist only hates them because they’re jealous.

But that’s all there is to them. They never develop past how perfect, or imperfect they are, and the story sounds bland because of it. Most of the time, these beautiful bastards are abused in some way, either by bullies, their families, or by the antagonist themselves, but it won’t have any point to the story other than just being something to make that character all the more edgier.

When this character type marches onto the first few pages, I say Oh No and keep walking.

What are your Oh No No’s? Have anything that makes you toss a book into the library donation box? Let me hear it!

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