5 Things I Hate Reading

STOPYou 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…

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. The overly-explanatory-explanation.

 

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.

 

  1. 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.”

 

What are your pet peeves when it comes to reading? This is the nest of trust. You can speak honestly.

23 thoughts on “5 Things I Hate Reading

  1. Blizzards and dreams….

    I’ve had plenty of otherwise good reads get boring fast. Like when the detective can’t break a case but gets a hint or revelation in a dream or vision. Or when he does finally encounter the bad guy, only to have the mother of all blizzards (flash flood, etc ) nearly kill him and let the bad guy escape.
    To me, those are examples of lazy writing.

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  2. You touched on many of my own. The firearms one extends to military terms/behavior as well. And I know that’s just my personal distractions. Even you have slipped on a couple of these! Haha. I also really like when the heroine/lead female isn’t described as perfect aesthetically. I like when a character is made attractive through their actions/ characteristics/demeanor. It gives them depth and is much less superficial.

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  3. I hate crap editing in self-published books. I get it, you’re doing it on your own because you have a story that needs to be told, but surely you have a friend or two with enough mastery of the English language not to let you put something out there with dozens of errors?!?

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  4. I get really frustrated with words spelled wrong, the wrong word being used (ex: their, there, they’re), wrong tense being used, and the wrong character name being used in dialogue. It drives me crazy that some books are edited so poorly. 😦

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  5. Something that drives me crazy is the time compression in lazy writing. “Bob went to help his neighbor dig 14 pits, each 2 feet wide and 3 feet long. The soil was typical dirt, and although the heat was in the upper 80s with 93% humidity and the EMP wiped out all motorized digging devices, Bob and his neighbor only had to dig each pit 12 inches deep. An hour later, the digging completed, Bob excused himself to change the bandages on his forearm wound that nearly caused him to bleed out the previous day.” Realistically, none of this is possible. Another thing that I absolutely despise is the miracle container or bag that carries at least 2x the amount of gear/equipment/supplies any normal person can fit into the same container or bag. What’s even more maddening is when there’s no previous mention of the items in the bag…the hero just magically pulls them out of his/her bag at exactly the right moment. I served as a US Army infantryman, and there was never enough room for all the things you needed to carry. Never.

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  6. This may seem odd but I hate boring or poorly written fight sequences. Over the years I’ve read a few books where I can barely get through those action scenes. Either the scene is so beyond impossible you can’t possibly believe it. Or the bad guys who have been top of the food chain suddenly are making idiotic choices that get them killed. I’ve never experienced any of this in your writings thank goodness!

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  7. I agree with all of them, but #3 is the one that irks me the most. Always bothers me when an author calls a ‘magazine’ a ‘clip’ or what you described.

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  8. I get frustrated with books that are really decent reads, good plot, character development through a few hundred pages, and then all of a sudden comes to a close in the last 8-10 pages / half chapter of the book. Of course, most everything is also wrapped up in very tidy (mostly impossible) packages too!!

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  9. larry correia and peter neilan write books with average looking people as leads.

    My peeve is the never ending shitstorm. A group of characters are in a plane crash, then attacked by zombies, then get to an extraction point but the boat isn’t there/destroyed, and then a thunderstorm/ tornado hits and cthulu attacks. It strikes me as sloppy to non stop beat the crap out of characters who can even keep going. If your characters can survive a new crisis every 30 seconds then you are asking for too much suspension of disbelief.

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    1. That’s interesting. The “never ending shitstorm” is actually something that fiction writers are advised to do to keep the story interesting. I actually remember reading several articles on compounding the conflicts for your characters to make things more interesting. However, to your point, I think THEIR point was to compound the conflicts–not have a never-ending stream of them. I’m also a big believer in contrast. In other words, if you have a lot of action, you gotta give a breather–both for your characters and your readers!

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      1. It’s OBVIOUS that writers are told to compound conflict to make it interesting. It doesn’t. I prefer a little plot with my explosions. I know that every single thing can’t go right, but it is hard to embrace a story where every single thing goes wrong. At times it makes the protagonists seem pathetic and hard to root for.

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  10. Well it’s not impossible to suppress a revolver. There are a few designs that the cylinder pushes forward to close the gap right as the hammer falls. One example is the Russian 1895 Nagant revolver. It’s probably the one that is suppressed the most due to the round it uses. This thing is about as close to Hollywood quote you can get when suppressing a firearm.

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    1. If my memory serves me correctly, the nagant was the only mass produced revolver capable of this. And it has certainly never been one of the ones I’ve seen suppressed in films. That prop master needs fired by the way! Haha

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  11. My most hated things in all of the novels I read. I read or listen to two to three a week and abstain from TV altogether. I won’t go into to the grammatical issues and poor editing which does bother/infuriate me. I really get annoyed when an author will make sure I know that a character is black or Asian or some other non white race. As an author myself I prefer to let the story tell it and if someone determines a character to be a certain way then for them, that is what they are. I also hate when there is so much focus on action and gore and sacrifice the story in the process. nAlso stories that are written towards the genre without the author having any real knowledge whether researched or practical of that genre. Lastly is taking the protagonist and setting him/her up with so many things or options that they can’t fail.

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  12. I hate protagonists who lack confidence. I don’t care if they’re introspective, but if they keep making bad decisions because they can’t get their shit together, then I’m not there for that and I will put the book down. (This really is me typing this and not my husband, ha. Guess we’re morphing into the same person. Hi!)

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    1. Haha! Glad to hear from you! I agree–I’m totally okay with people rationalizing bad decisions, as I think that’s pretty consistent with how people operate, but you HAVE to show me the rationalization, or its just going to seem like the character is dumb or doesn’t care.

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  13. How about the indulgent editing of the books of really popular authors? I can’t stand that they allow the author to put WAY too many words on a page. Just because an author knows how to describe things in extreme detail, doesn’t mean they should be allowed to do it. (I find this is much more noticeable when you listen to a book rather than reading it which leads me to believe our minds skip over a deluge of written words as ‘yada yada yada’ when we are using our eyes. You know, like skimming over the songs or poems in a Tolkien book!)
    One of my all time favorite authors is so guilty of this excess that when I listen to one of her books, I sometimes want to scream at the narrator to SHUT UP and get on with it already! If the person’s cough isn’t leading somewhere in the storyline, I don’t need to know how many times a character coughs, what each cough sounds like, what type of tree branch caught on the character’s coat as they bent over to cough yet again, or of the deepening degree of worry the other character feels at the sound of all the coughing! It’s tedious.
    This is not something I run into with your books however. I remember picking up The Remaining on Amazon knowing it was self published but figuring if it sucked, at least it was cheap. It turns out that I was totally blown away by how well it was written and edited. (I think there was a pail that should have been pale but so extremely well written and edited.) Now I’m a total pusher! I rave about these books to anyone who will listen! I anxiously await each new book!
    That said, the one small peeve I have with the latest series again comes into play more when listening to rather than reading the books. It is three, three, three. A word said three times in succession to emphasize a point. It drives me crazy, crazy, crazy!

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    1. Ha! Yes, I’m absolutely guilty of the three word thing. It’s funny that you mentioned it, because I’ve just started to notice it as I’m re-reading my current manuscript and it’s starting to annoy me too! I like the rhythm of three for a lot of stuff, but what you just called me out on can definitely be overdone. I’ll commit to you that Rogue Cell will not have any three word successions in it!

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      1. Lol thanks! As I said, it’s funny how many more things like that you notice when you’re hearing rather than reading the words. Let’s blame it on my daily commute. Please just keep cranking out some of the best fiction around and make all of us happy!

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  14. A couple thoughts:

    #1) I thought this was interesting for two reasons. First, it’s definitely a convention for the main character and “the chick” to get together. In fact, it’s so much a convention that it sticks out to me when authors go out of their way to make clear that a relationship is going to be platonic. It doesn’t necessarily bother me; but it’s something I notice right away because it’s unusual. My second thought on this: is it really all that unrealistic in the kinds of crazy situations we are presented with in this type of fiction? I’d guess not. Danger and trial experienced with another person has a way of creating a very strong bond very quickly. You know this as a cop; think about how close you get with your partners (my previous career was LE). Relying on one another that way has a way of creating intensely strong relationships. I am not a veteran, but from what the ones I’m fortunate enough to know have told me over the years, this is even more true with those who experience combat together. So, were I to be stuck in a post-apocalyptic setting, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see that sort of thing happening all over the place.

    #4 (and #5!) These made me laugh because I’m very aware of both of these things as a reader. First, let me say a disclaimer: you can never be too descriptive of gear—the more gun porn the better! (Well, okay, within reason). Anyway: I read a lot across a lot of genres and in my opinion, the master of the overly-explanatory explanation is Michael Crichton. His characters would often be mid-dialogue and go off on an internal tangent explaining some esoteric bit of scientific ethical theory or the like for 7 or 8 pages at a clip—and somehow he managed to both hold my interest and return me right back to the scene feeling like I had never left. I don’t know exactly how, but that’s some skillful wordsmithing. I remember being too descriptive in a short story I wrote allllll the way back in a high school English class—and the teacher’s notes included a comparison to the phrase “and then he hit Jack over the head with a galvanized steel bucket.” I’ve not forgotten that, even 15 or so years later. Micheal Crichton I am not!

    Another master of detail is Tom Clancy—a guy whose novels routinely run upwards of 800 pages in part because of his lengthy descriptions of the inner workings of naval weapons systems and the like. I absolutely love Clancy’s novels—but I read (and re-read) them particularly when I want to go to sleep. Is that weird? They’re great, but something about the tone and pacing…the details of how the AEGIS missile defense system functions just relaxes my brain, I guess.

    Anyway, thanks for involving your readers like this—and for turning out great work.

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  15. On page 10 we’re introduced to a character named Bob. The next mention of Bob is on page 210 when he’s talking to the 15th character in the book. Maybe I recognize “Bob” by name, but I don’t remember who he is or what he did. I need a refresher on these characters.

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    1. I totally agree with that one. I think it works a lot better when a writer characterizes minor characters with a small, easy to remember aspect, like “the guy with the big nose” or something like that. That helps me reference who the character is later on.

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