You know, we all have our preferences in reading. I tend to be pretty broad in what I’ll accept as entertainment. I read from a lot of different genres, from history books to classic fiction, to the new bestsellers, and plenty of indie stuff in between.
So, I’m not what I would consider a picky reader.
However, there are a few things that I just wish authors would stop doing. Now, I realize this is a dangerous topic for me, as an author, to bring up. But don’t worry, I won’t pick at the speck in their collective eye without removing the log from my own. I’ll point the truth-gun at myself and take a shot at where I’ve screwed these things up too…
The hero and the hot chick always get together.
You know how it goes. It’s the end of the world. Our hero is wandering through the apocalypse. And he miraculously meets another survivor. Who is, miraculously, incredibly attractive. And, even more miraculously, apparently doesn’t have any standards and is pretty willing to sleep with anyone, because in the span of a few short days I guarantee you they’re lovers.
This doesn’t happen in real life. And for that reason, it needs to stop.
Have I ever done this? Hell no. This one is one of the things I hate so much I’ve never even come close to doing it.
The heroine IS the hot chick.
This extends to male characters as well, but we like to expound much more on beautiful women than we do men, so it’s just more noticeable as a reader. How many homely heroines can you think of? I personally can’t pull any to mind. (If you can, please let me know in the comments!)
My point being, it seems writers (and maybe readers, too) have a hard time accepting a homely lead, particularly a homely FEMALE lead, and I think this is pretty weird. I’m the furthest thing from a social justice warrior, so I’m certainly not taking a soap box on this, but I just think things should be REALISTIC, and having only supermodels as leads is not what I view as realistic.
Have I ever done this? Maybe. I try not to describe characters in terms of how the opposite sex would view them, but occasionally it comes out in the interactions between characters. That said, I try to keep my cast of characters a representative sample of average people. So while I might have a few attractive characters, I’ve also got plenty of plain ones.
Incorrect firearms information.
This might just be because I’m pretty well-versed with them. But, you know that old adage about “write what you know?” This is one of those things that the adage is talking about. If you’re going to incorporate firearms into your writing but you don’t have a base of knowledge for them, I’d suggest you keep things real vague so as not to be so glaringly obviously that you have no idea what you’re talking about.
Have I Ever Done This? Well, I’ve never put a suppressor on a revolver or said that a character was switching the safety off his Glock (for the non-gun-crowd readers, those are both impossible things), but shamefully, I have made a massive mistake in firearms terminology. I noted the odor of “cordite” several times as a description of gunsmoke, and was eventually corrected by a knowledgeable fan who informed me that cordite hasn’t been used as a propellant in cartridges for many decades. Whoops! I felt pretty dumb.
You know, when the author really needs to drop some knowledge on you, but he/she knows they shouldn’t have a big explanatory paragraph, so they just have one character (we’ll call him John Curious) ask something of the other character (we’ll call her Suzie Expert), and she starts giving them a collegiate lecture on the subject. Somehow, in the course of the lecture, John Curious manages to ask some very smart questions of Suzie Expert, which allows her to expound on some key points that just so happen to be very germane to the plot.
Except for that’s not really how people talk and everyone that’s reading that dialogue knows exactly what’s going on. It’s a badly disguised information dump.
Have I Ever Done This? Yes. But luckily, it’s never made it past the first draft, as I’ve had good editors and a good agent that are willing to point it out and tell me that it was lazy writing. I’m now much more attuned to it and I pick it out in my rough drafts prior to letting anyone else see it.
Too much description.
This one is pretty subjective, and I’m sure there will be some differing opinions on what is an acceptable level of description, but this is my opinion: Unless it’s essential to the plot, keep it simple. I don’t need to know about the style of furniture, style of architecture, or the name of the artist that painted a particular painting on a particular wall. I also don’t need to know about every single item of clothing that is touching a character’s body. This isn’t a suspect description–I don’t need to know the color of the person’s socks (unless of course the color of the person’s socks is somehow integral to the story).
And can we not just use layman’s terms when we DO describe this stuff? “He wore a sky-colored oxford and chinos.” What? Who the heck knows what “chinos” are? Apparently, they’re just khaki pants, but I had to ask my wife about it. How about we just say, “He wore a blue button-down and khaki pants.”
Have I Ever Done This? Yes and no. While I tend to keep physical descriptions pretty brief, I’ve been accused of spending maybe a bit too much time describing gear. I think I recall one reviewer calling it “gun porn.”