I love reading. I am a proud book worm and always have been. I read a lot of books, sometimes averaging two a week. I put one down and pick the next one straight up. I read books I’ve stumbled across myself, books I’ve been recommended, books I’ve been sent, and books I’ve chosen to read and review for UBR. I don’t think of myself as a picky reader, although I generally try to stay away from romance and most sci-fi, and I have never felt enticed to pick up erotica. Apart from that, I will pretty much give anything a go, although as you all know, what I am always looking for is the character…
Anyway, books make me happy, reading makes me happy. Words make me happy, as do made-up worlds and wonderful characters and plots. But sometimes, just sometimes, the opposite happens and books make me angry. Really angry. Want to know why? Then read on for a list of my pet peeves when reading a book…
- Telling rather than showing. I find this so annoying. I am not stupid. I do not need to be told things I can work out for myself. I do not need to be given a character’s whole back story in one go, or a giant list of their general opinions, or their inner thought processes. I want the character to do this for me! Not the author. I do actually start to feel quite angry when an author tells me things I would like to have gathered for myself. I might need the author to give me a brief description of the characters physical attributes, but I don’t need the narrative to tell me if they are bossy, dominant, paranoid or selfish. I can work that out for myself by the way they behave and speak and interact with others. I also really, really don’t need to know their entire life story thanks. Just the parts that are relevant and not all in one go!
- Info-dumping. This is linked to the above. When an author dumps a whole load of information on you, basically because they can’t work out a suitable way for the characters or the plot to explain something to the reader. So they will explain it for you, very nicely, over several pages, without dialogue or interaction between said characters, until you start skipping bits and nearly die of boredom. This probably makes me angrier than anything else. Please, if there is a lot of information to get out, think up other ways to do it! Spread it out, get the characters and the plot to help ease the load, take your time, be clever, be patient, leave clues. If you try to get out a load of information all in one go, whether it’s technical stuff you think is vital, or back story for a character, or history or whatever it is, the reader will get bogged down with it and bored and will more than likely forget it all anyway.
- Mixing tenses. I have come across this a few times lately, and sadly it has mostly been when reading indie books. I know it can get a bit confusing if you are writing in present tense, but the character is describing something that happened in the past but there really is no excuse for continuously getting this wrong. It might take a few more beta readers to pick up on mistakes like this. I can get over the odd mistake or typo, where the author has used the wrong tense by mistake, but if it is happening again and again throughout the book, it is worrying and confusing and basically makes me angry.
- Poor dialogue. One of my top peeves when reading. Lack of dialogue can also annoy me, but I’ll get over this if there is a reason for it, ie the characters don’t or can’t talk much. But if they talk a lot, and the dialogue is poor, I will get annoyed. Poor dialogue is obviously a matter of personal taste and opinion. I always ask myself, do people actually talk like this in real life? Also, is the dialogue fitting to the character? Is it also unique to the character? I recently read a great book with great characters, but I couldn’t help wincing a bit every time they spoke. They sounded too old for their ages and it made me question whether the author had spent any time around young people recently. I think dialogue needs to be researched like anything else. It needs attention. What they say, and how they say it and why they say it, need to be considered, otherwise, it can all start to feel a bit cringy.
- Unlikeable characters. By this, I mean I just don’t like them at all and don’t care what happens to them. This saddens me. Maybe the plot was a fantastic roller coaster of twists and turns. Maybe the writing was spectacular, the prose beautiful and the style unique. But for some reason, I didn’t get to know the characters, which meant I didn’t get to fall in love with them. For me, I need to feel like these people are worth me investing my time and thoughts in. They might not be perfect, they might even be totally evil, that’s fine, but I have to feel like I am on a journey with them. Even if they are despicable, I have to have some amount of empathy for them and their actions. They need to go on some kind of journey which sees them develop, for me to properly care. I feel robbed when this does not happen!
- Sex scenes. Call me a prude, I don’t care. I don’t like sex scenes. I don’t like reading detailed accounts of how the characters get it on. I don’t mind them getting it on, and if they do get it on, I obviously want to know. I might even be really hoping they get it on, but I don’t need to have explained to me in graphic detail, which is why I avoid romance and erotica. I just find those kinds of scenes boring. I want to skip over them and get back to the story. What makes me really angry is when books that are not marketed as romance or erotica, throw in really graphic sex scenes. It’s not what I’m looking for when reading, so to find it by surprise is quite off-putting. I’m not a total prude, I don’t mind romantic scenes if they are done well and if they add to the development of the characters and the plot. I don’t mind a bit of kissing or fondling, I’ve even written a few scenes like this into some of my books. Undoubtedly, love and sex creep into human stories and we can’t avoid it. I just personally don’t want or need a graphic description of the sex acts that go on for pages and pages…Yawn.
Now, what about you? I know these are all very personal peeves. I know that some people get really angry with first person narration! (No way!!) And some people hate too much dialogue. We’re all different readers, and we all have our preferences. I’d love to hear your thoughts! What makes you angry when reading?