Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Pet Peeves

I happened to notice this, and this and of course it’s always somehow entertaining to see a list of pet peeves, the same way it’s entertaining to read very negative reviews. Or maybe that’s just me?

Anyway, what’s interesting to me is how you can read a list of somebody else’s pet peeves, and even though you wouldn’t have specifically thought of ANY of those pet peeves, the moment you see them in print, you think, OH, YEAH, ME TOO. Or is that also just me?

So! Orphaned kids attached to prophecies — yep, that’s a trope I’m tired of, all right. Someday I want to write a novel in which there is a prophecy that is just wrong. Would that make readers mad, do you think, or do you think they would be amused and pleased to see a prophecy not come true?

Precocious kids and idiotic adults — check. It is just offensive to see parents presented as totally clueless in order to force their kids to save the day. The author ought to be able to come up with a better reason for the kids to save the day than “Well, their parents are just stupid as turnips.” A really neat kid-parent relationship can be a huge plus in a book. Or a movie, because in this context what comes to mind is Veronica Mars, where the writers did a fabulous job on the relationship between Veronica and her dad. That was one of my favorite aspects of the show.

Writers who think their main characters are just too dreamy for words — actually, this isn’t a pet peeve of mine. As long as the main character really is dreamy. If everybody is in awe of how cool the protagonist is, when she is in fact impulsive and childish and dumb as a post, I will hate that book. I’m thinking of Kim Harrison’s Rachal Morgan series here. Everybody is just all “Ooh, she’s so dreamy!” and I think she is SUCH an idiot.

Weird names: well, obviously this is not a pet peeve of mine, as you’re certainly aware if you’ve read my books. I see absolutely nothing wrong with any of the names presented as “too weird” in that linked post. For heaven’s sake, “Trevanion”? Are you kidding me? It’s easy to pronounce and it looks fine on the page. Who could have a problem with it?

And then in part two:

Book and series titles that are confusing: well, I don’t spend time worrying about this, but yes, I don’t like confusing series/book titles either.

Weird use of perfectly ordinary words: That only bothers me some of the time. “Gifting” probably wouldn’t bother me all that much. Well, it would now that Charlotte has ranted about it, but if I’d read the book without reading this pet peeve list, it probably wouldn’t have. And yet I can be a major stickler for correct word use. So a definite pet peeve for me is “alright.” Two words! TWO! WORDS! There is no such word as “alright”! How complicated can this be?

Okay, taking a deep breath and moving on:

Intrusive narrators: Sometimes I think that is clever and fun, though I agree that the technique is always going to have a distancing effect.

Prologues: I used to say that I hated all prologues. Well, now I’ve written two books with prologues, so I can’t exactly say that anymore, at least not with much fervor. (One of those books isn’t yet published, so don’t rack your mind wondering if you missed a prologue somewhere.) I can’t even say that I hate all unnecessary prologues, because frankly I’m not sure if there’s any such thing as a truly crucial prologue. Even so, I have reluctantly been forced to admit that some prologues actually add to the story rather than detracting from it, even if they’re not strictly necessary. So all I can say now is: I hate badly written unnecessary prologues. Which is still going to cover most of ’em, imo.

I like most epilogues, though, but not if they do violence to the preceding story, which I think happens now and then. I grant you, epilogues are a matter of personal taste. The epilogue which has annoyed me most in the recent past was the one for UNDER HEAVEN by Guy Gavial Kay. Loved the book! But at the end, I was all, “My God, man, just write a second book and put all this epilogue stuff in that one!”

None of these are my REAL pet peeve, though.

My REAL pet peeve is stupid or ineffectual characters. The examples that leap to mind for me, right at the moment, and meaning no offense here, but way too many characters — not just the protagonist, but nearly everybody else, too — in EON and EONA, by Alison Goodman, were deeply, unbelievably stupid about recognizing and countering the big bad guy, and I couldn’t stand it. Yes the worldbuilding was good; yes, I like the alternate China-esque setting, but good Lord above, people, you might consider taking measures to protect yourselves from the bad guy you know perfectly well is planning t kill you all. Gave those two books to the library the day I finished them.

And I know, I know, Juliet Marillier is a great writer, okay? And usually I love her books. Really. But WILDWOOD DANCING, her retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses? Jena is not all that stupid, but she is totally ineffectual. Everything falls apart around her and she just stands there wringing her hands. I wanted to shake her and shout, “You’re the protagonist! Do something clever!”

How about you? What absolutely drives you nuts in a novel?

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