Reading Pet Peeves.

Some things just make my blood boil.

For example:

In a book I was reading recently, it got to the bit where the couple were in a clinch and things were hotting up.

As they were kissing, she ‘felt his nature rising.

Seriously? I’ve read a lot of coy phrases describing erections, but that was a first.

It somehow reminded me of being in a forest watching the sun rise.

I was enjoying the book up until this point, but the phrase jarred me completely out of my reading zone.

Awkward Sex Scenes

Awkward sex scenes in books is one of my reading pet peeves.

As an author I fully appreciate how difficult it is to write original sex scenes.

But coy terms and clichés used for bodily parts and having sex just end up making a farce of it.

Every year British literary magazine Literary Review bestows the Bad Sex in Fiction Award on the author voted to have written the worst sex scene in a book published that year.

In 2015 singer Morrissey won it for the sex scene in his debut fiction novel List of the Lost, in which he referred to a ‘bulbous salutation.’

Beside that, ‘nature rising’ seems very tame.

If the ‘bulbous salutation’ has whetted your appetite for more, you can read the entire winning scene here.

Bookish Reading Pet Peeves

It got me thinking about other pet peeves I have as a reader. Here are some others:

Authors who describe their characters’ clothing in minute detail.

One particular crime writer describes every bit of clothing, right down to their socks (colour and thickness).

Then it's the watch (size, colour and brand) and jaunty handkerchief sticking out of the pocket (plain or embroidered) of their shirt (colour, brand and material).

The other problem is that this author’s fashion sense leaves a lot to be desired, particularly when it comes to women.

So by the time I’ve visualized the murder suspect in a floral blouse with a frill at the neck, mustard cardigan with an emerald brooch, and green tartan skirt with tan stockings and black court shoes, I’m ready to throw a Vogue magazine at her.

Dream Scenes

Dreams are boring – whether they’re the dreams of real people or characters in a novel.

I always skip the dream scenes, even if they’re supposed to reveal something deep and meaningful about the character.

There are a couple of exceptions to this:

1. If the dreams are funny.

I’m compelled to say that as I have included the odd dream scene in a couple of my books (How Not To Commit Murder and Perfect Sex).

But in my defence they’re short and amusing.

And if you don’t like them, feel free to skip them too.

2. My own dreams are fascinating. My partner can vouch for this.

He has studied dream analysis and I always give him a blow by blow description of my dreams so he can interpret them for me.

I know you’re dying to hear all about them, but there’s not enough room in this blog post, so another time perhaps.

You’re busy? Every day? Oh well.

Precocious Kids

Six-year-olds who have an armoury of witty repartee, cute observations and disdainful comments directed at all adults to make them feel like prehistoric imbeciles.

Admittedly they seem to be more prevalent in movies.

But I have read the occasional book in which the kid is more knowledgeable and together than the adults.

Such as, rescuing a kitten from a burning building, whipping up a batch of pancakes and cleaning up afterwards and giving his mother advice about her love life.

Whereas in reality, a six-year-old will be glued to the X-box while the building is burning.

They have no idea how to cook pancakes but will leave a trail of cereal and milk across the kitchen and as for love, they have one word – ‘Yuk!’

Lack of Quotation Marks Around Speech

I’m looking at you, Tim Winton and Richard Flanagan, amongst others.

Why is that? Are the authors too lazy to bother with them?

I agree that quotation marks are annoying to insert, especially when you’re in the flow of a piece of profound dialogue that’s going to change the world.

But in my opinion it makes reading so much more difficult when the dialogue is indistinguishable from the rest of the narrative.

And you have to stop and think,’ Oh yes, now he’s speaking.’

It’s also difficult to distinguish the characters’ thoughts from their speech.

I have noticed that it seems to be mainly the authors of literary fiction that do it, so maybe it’s a trope of that genre.

Researching it on the internet, I found I’m not the only person annoyed by this.

So I breathed a sigh of relief that I wasn’t turning into a GOW. (Grumpy Old Woman).

Whatever the reason, I refuse to read a book written without speech quotation marks.

This, according to some advocates of that style, marks me as a lazy reader.

I’ll lie on the couch and drink to that!

What Are Your Reading Pet Peeves?

I'm sure I could have made this a much longer post.

I didn't because I wanted to give you room to vent.

Tell me your reading pet peeves.

Please rant and rave in the comments box below.

Pet Peeve Update

Since creating this post I have had lots of people make comments and one really stuck in my craw.

Fight Scenes Where The Character Comes Up Smelling Like Roses

If you read the comment below from reader Kate Rauner, who says:

"I can't keep reading if the character is pummeled to near death only to pop up in the next scene like nothing happened".

I'm sure you'll know EXACTLY what she means.

Ten punches to the face and they hardly have a scratch. Then they solve the world's problems before it all blows up.

That really peeves me off.

  • One of the things that drives me right ’round the bend is when a work should have had a modicum of research and what comes out obviously had no research at all. Things like calling the quillons of a sword ‘the handles’ or having a giant 6-eyed spider that no one thought was odd. And the one that makes me the angriest is when an author believes that non-English words, especially Gaelic, sound exactly the way they’re spelled. (By the way, all of this, plus a whole lot more, was in a single book. If I could have given it a rating of negative stars, I would have.)

    • HI Kristen
      Yes, I agree that getting the facts right is important. Either the author is ignorant of the need to research the area or is hoping that no-one will notice!

  • Unpronounceable names & places. It makes everything stop, and it’s hard to follow the characters. I agree with your choices, especially the quotation marks.

  • My pet peeve is a total lack of the word ‘of’ in sentences describing multiples. I’ve noticed this in a plethora of books by American authors who, for example, go to the grocery store to pick up a ‘couple things for supper’. Then they take the word they’ve dropped, and plug it in where is not welcome, as when they drop ‘a myriad of beads on the floor’. I find that sort of thing so annoying that it pull me right of of my reading zone. Th

    • Hi Trudy

      I agree about the ‘myriad of.’ A lot of authors don’t know that it’s incorrect. And yes, the American idiom of leaving out words like ‘of’ can annoy us non-Americans!

  • Two things that drive me nuts (besides the already mentioned ones and the obvious telling instead of showing) are inconsistant characters (a girl that cannot decide if she acts stupid or shy or like a hoyden and so does all of it according to the situation or a guy who is ping-ponging between moody-cruel and tender-nice) and situations that aren’t told realistically but according to need. Like a couple hiding behind a curtain whjen another couple enters the room, to then witness the following sex scene in detail – incl. how it looked like although they were behind a curtain and could have done nothing but listen to it. Or a woman who graps the poor hero, threatens her with a knife while waving around another weapon. Nope, I’m not talking about a book sporting three-armed aliens here, but about an author, who lost count of limbs because she couldn’t decide which weapon was scarier, decided to use both and did not get bashed over the head with the manuscript by her proof readers/ editors. Along the same lines are scenes where it is really dark, dark, dark – until the hero needs to recognize some figure at the end of the street, avoid stumbling into an open manhole or is shuddering because of some punks dirty finger nails. I wish more authors would stick to the “limits” of their own scenes – or characters.

    • Yes, I agree that as an author you have to be careful of continuity errors like those you mentioned. That’s why it’s important to have at least a couple of beta readers for your novel, so they can point those things out.

  • I’m with you on the irritants when reading a book but I have a couple of others. I can’t stand it when a writer uses foul language as a substitute for for real writing. I’ve read books where I swear the amount of foul language made up half the words in the book.

    And the other and MORE irritating thing is a lack of good editing. I can’t tell you how many books (even hard cover print books in years gone by) I’ve read where the wrong iteration of a word was used (i.e. there, their, they’re). You’d think a writer would know which form to use in any case. If not, at least know enough to check a grammar book or dictionary to be sure he/she is using the right word!

    So, I’m off my soap box now.

    I’ve downloaded and am looking forward to reading “How Not to Commit Murder.” I wish you lots of good luck in your writing career!


    • Hi Sherry, I agree with you about the lack of good editing – authors need to hire good proofreaders, as you often can’t see your own mistakes. RE: the swearing. Even if that’s the way the character in the novel speaks, with every second word a swear word, the author needs to tone it down, it just gets downright irritating to read. Hope you enjoy How Not To Commit Murder. 🙂

  • The phrase “all the right places”; writers who don’t know the proper tense of verbs – my favourite to hate right now “grinded” along with “dived”, “drived”; misused words -obviously they need a dictionary and/or thesaurus, lack of proper punctuation; use of “f*ck” as a desciptor, exclamation, or “thank f*ck” what is that supposed to mean?; “gained” as in they “gained” (entered or came to ) the dining room; characters who see virginity as a “burden”, something to be discarded ASAP and with whomever; foolish errors due to lack of editing – main characters name is inconsistent; too much telling what’s going on rather than showing through the action; immature writing; covers with steroid enhanced men – give me a man who works hard rather than works out; cliches; timeworn phrases. I agree with you about details. I don’t need to know the entire layout of the resort, room, house, mansion or the details of every item someone is wearing. I agree with the constant repetition of each name in dialogue and the inclusion of “an”.

    • Hi Janice
      You have a very comprehensive list of pet peeves! I agree with you regarding the covers with steroid-enhanced men – all smooth and shiny, not a hair to be seen. Not a real man in my book. 🙂

  • My absolute biggest pet peeve about reading is grammar and/or spelling mistakes. I’m okay with the occasional grammar faux pas.. we all make mistakes, or if that’s the way the character talks. But when the spelling, grammar, or punctuation is confusing enough that I have to read the same sentence or paragraph multiple times to understand it, that makes me want to just put the book down and walk away.
    This pet peeve flows into every single thing I read, but especially books and ads. If you want to sell me something, you better make sure your spelling is correct and that you’re using the correct versions of your/you’re, there/their/they’re, and to/too/two. One mistake and the ad goes right into the trash.
    I’m sure that every author has spell check on their computer, but spell check doesn’t look for context. Do proof readers still exist? I think that would be a dream job for me!!!

    • I’m with you, Victoria! I am a spelling and grammar Nazi too and the thing that annoys me most is apostrophes running amok. As in Banana’s For Sale. I am going to write my next blog post on it. And, yes, proofreaders are very much in demand – I use them for my novels, as do most authors I know, because no matter how good you are at spelling and grammar, there are always mistakes you miss, especially in a large body of work.

  • I guess I meant flat (plat), but to my defense it was the end of a long day. It is difficult for a writer not to be boring. Long sentence, to much information/redundancy, endless scenes that repeat themselves.
    I find there is too long between books, with a story in the right speed, right consistency/plot that can keep me flip page after page.
    For sure boring writing is a Peeves by me. You mention J. K. Rowling some places, well, she is one of my Peeves, boring. I know, others enjoy her books.

    Peeves: Characters, if the person in the story have no identifiable personality, if there is no development of the character over time, where is the story?

  • Hm. Pet Peeves ? Have changed over time. Can be anything really. If it is plat and boring in description. In short, when you read the same plot/scene, just from another writer, it’s hard to be excited about it.

  • How about fight scenes as detailed as that mustard cardigan outfit description? I swear that some authors write their book, decide it’s too short, and calculate how many more words they must insert into the battles. But I must admit I usually skip fights unless they are quite short and believable – I can’t keep reading if the character is pummeled to near-death only to pop up in the next scene like nothing happened.

  • A dialog scene where one character repeats the name of the other character after every sentence.

    Switching from past to present tense. This seriously annoys me, and unfortunately seems to be a fad right now. Hate it.

  • I agree with you Robin about all these pet peeves (hey, do you want to judge the next Stringybark erotic fiction competition?) but I think it must be dreams sequences that really annoy me. They seem to be a licence to write whatever one wants without reference to motivation, characterisation or even the plot and the reader has to accept what is dished up to them. I teach young people (primary and secondary students) short story writing and it is quite normal for me to read an entire short story, grimacing at times, only to reach the last line which says, “And then I woke up.” I feel I have wasted my time.

    David Vernon
    Editor, Stringybark Publishing

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