If you’re an author, you read. And if you read as an author, you’re bound to be more critical than Jane Doe who’s just picked up a book for enjoyment. Or maybe not…. I’m not sure because I’ve taught English Language at university level, been an editor, and worked for Simon and Schuster so being critical is really ingrained in me. You can probably therefore guess that my pet peeves include bad grammar and lousy punctuation. Over the years, I’ve loosened up on the amount of commas necessary in a sentence for clarity, but I remain fairly strict. I’ve been told that in fiction we should use emdashes instead of semi-colons, but that doesn’t sit well with me: an emdash is for an interrupted thought; a semi-colon is for a secondary idea of the same thought expressed in the sentence. Yup, it gets complicated.
But now, I’ve got new pet peeves. I hate, hate, hate anachronisms in historical books. For me, it’s sloppy research and there’s no excuse for it. When writing an historical book I work with the on-line etymological dictionary. Of course, you have to think, ‘does this word need to be looked up?’ and mistakes happen. But did someone really think a woman would refer to a man’s abs in the 1880s? Or discuss accessorizing a dress? And then there’s referring to a song in the 1860s when the song wasn’t written until the 1920s. But then maybe I shouldn’t be so annoyed about that; I’ve been watching the series, ‘Underground’ about the underground railway prior to the Civil War, and they keep playing ‘Summertime’ penned by Gershwin in 1935.
Someone once criticized a book of mine because I had a character briefly speak. like. this. We do it to emphasize what the character is saying and how he/she says it. Personally, I don’t see a problem but this obviously annoyed my reader. My publisher has a stipulation that the hero and heroine should generally meet within the first four pages. An author friend told me she disliked books where the h/h weren’t described early on, and another author wrote she hated reading about "a single tear" making its way. She demanded, 'who has a single tear?' And then we ask ourselves what’s the inner conflict? What’s the goal/motivation/conflict of the story? Is there character development? Does the story move along and make sense—is it properly constructed? Goodness, there’s a minefield out there of things to dislike. And that’s before we even get to the love/sex scenes and how they’re described and their length (OF THE SCENE!)
But as I’ve learned from being in three anthologies now, some things will eat at one reader and not in the least bother the next, while the book will hit the wall in the room of yet another reader.
So what are your pet peeves? What do you absolutely hate to find in a story when reading, whether it is in the basics of good English or the construction of the story itself. And please let me know if any of them are in Bad Boy, Big Heart.
I aim to please.
|Available at https://www.amazon.com/Bad-Boy-Big-Heart-Book-ebook/dp/B072MKG48B/|