So my last post about writing was generally focused on good writing and what is considered a “good read”. This post is going to focus on all the things I think are stupid and distracting when I’m reading. Like ‘oh gaaawd kill this character NOW!’ distracting.
Okay, first off, pointing. Whenever I see something obvious or blatant, such as “‘you did too.’ He pointed out.” I just feel like throwing the book at said author’s face. I know he made a point – that was the point. You saying “he pointed out” just encourages images like this to pop into my head:
I read a book about a year ago now that started out quite promising. It had a good storyline, the characters were okay, the pace was good. But the one thing, one tiny thing that put me completely off and made me want to do the horrendous act of burning the book? (okay, maybe that’s a tad overreacting)…it was names. Ugh, names. Okay, I get that to let the reader know who’s talking, it’s necessary to put “She said” or “Lyndsey said” occasionally. Most of the time, the reader can work the rest out for themselves if given a slight prompt at the beginning of dialogue, or better yet, make it clear that each individual character has its own voice (hard to do actually, especially with a first novel). But this particular book had a character saying someone’s name all the freaking time. Example:
“Oh, Lyndsey, I’m glad you’re here””What’s up Neil?”
“Well Lyndsey, there’s an event down the street that needs covering…”
“Okay, Neil. I’ll go there now.”
And so on. There are only two characters. Two. Not five hundred. Two. I think the reader can guess that the next line of dialogue will be the other character. It’s a classic case of not knowing your characters, or not having any to start with. It’s not just about plot line and dialogue, if all your characters speak the same, react the same and think the same, the story just goes to shit. In my opinion, anyway.
I think it’s a given that clichés are annoying when reading. I particularly get annoyed at small clichés that no-one really notices, but makes the story shoddy nevertheless. clichés such as “she had full lips, a full body…” “he had salt and pepper hair…” “he raised his chin slightly…” “a shiver down his spine…” yadda yadda ya. Just for future reference, clichéd writers, “full lips and full body” does not imply a sex-siren who has the lips of Jolie and the body of Beyoncé. It implies an overweight sexual deviant with badly applied collagen. Similarly, “Salt and Pepper” implies this:
not that the character you are describing is a once-was-brunette now turned old-greying-man. If you want your characters to appear mature and hot, describe them as so, don’t offer readers with an image of our Dad on a Saturday night.
“A shiver down his spine” is probably a more noticeable cliché and pretty self-explanatory. “He raised his chin slightly” is one I find annoying as a term to use for when a character acknowledges someone. It’s like a simple wave or smile is too old-fashioned, too out-done. It’s like saying to the reader “oh, lookit me I so kooky and different, I describe gesture in different way.” When actually, no, it doesn’t make you any different, it just makes you look like an idiot who probably doesn’t know how to use syntax correctly (I only use syntax because I wanted an excuse to use the word).
There’s probably more clichés I can think of but I’m surviving on an hour’s sleep in 24 hours here. Plus it’s my birthday, so I’m going to go eat some pizza and do general birthday things. 🙂
EDIT: Thought of more. “He shook his head no.” Bah. Of course. Why would anyone shake their head yes? It makes no sense and it just adds description where none is needed. I think this is an American thing, as it seems to be the American author trend.
I also dislike easy characters. By easy, I mean simple, the “angst-y teenager” the “troubled writer” the “sexual deviant.” It’s like authors create a character and then add stereotypical elements to it because it’s easier than trying to depict an actual human being. Guess what? Humans are weird. We say the wrong thing sometimes, we laugh inappropriately, we get insanely jealous over small things. We like weird stuff, we get passionate about stuff no-one else is interested in.
One thing I’ve learned from my blogging experiences is that everyone has a different hobby, a different outlook or whatever, on life. People want different things out of life, they see life’s meaning differently to others. Therefore, creating characters that are “perfect for each other” in terms of relationships, having perfect children, the perfect job (she’ a nurse, he’s a lawyer, go figure) is so far from reality, it makes it difficult for readers to relate to characters. And what are we teaching our future generations, anyway? What are we teaching ourselves when we read something, or watch something, and take it as reality? That love is undying and fantasy-like? That you’ll get a cool job and have no worries? That people love you, and that you’re a confident, happy person all the time?
That’s why I like gritty realism. I like getting into books that don’t shy away from reality. I like fictional stuff of course, but portraying or trying to portray a reality that is both skewed and imperfect as a balanced, normal reality doesn’t work. People like reading that stuff, of course. People like to believe in happy endings, in “the one” in the perfect life. But life isn’t perfect, and when you realise that, you, like me, will probably find that reading the same old shit just doesn’t do it for you anymore. I don’t want to read another Jodi Picoult novel, I don’t want to read another “bestseller.” I just want to read something that means something to me, that I can relate to. I want something that portrays the world as it is, not as it should be.