Yet Another Post on Reading Peeves

Emma sipping tea - Guenette photo

I’ve been reading a lot lately. I love to read and I do it all the time but these days, part of my retreat into the pages is my inability to cross the divide that separates my own book planning from book writing. No doubt this has put me in a picky frame of mind. Then again, that might just be my natural bend.

Some books rub me the wrong way. Here is a collection of my current peeves.

A point of view that allows a character to say, “If I knew then what I know now.” Or a variation on that line. Often, when this happens, 99% of the time the author has been using a third-person point-of-view. Then along comes a 1% slip that allows a character to break the third wall by speaking directly to the reader and telling something this character can’t possibly know – at least not yet.

I find this slip a distancing technique that irks me. After all, I’ve spent time bonding with a character, living the story as he or she is living it. Then quite suddenly, I am knocked flying out on my ear. All attempts to suspend reality while within the pages of this book have been for naught.

And speaking of an author’s voice intervening …

I have no problem with characters having opinions. After all, that is what makes characters real and vastly interesting. When I read a book where the same opinion is expressed by two or three or four different characters, I start to wonder and not in a good way. I can’t help but think that the author’s agenda is slipping in and I don’t appreciate being held captive to someone’s soapbox. Authors may well put the blame on the characters they have created – an indefensible position. If not guilty of trying to ride their hobby horse in the name of their characters, then they are guilty of being redundant – almost as bad!

Pensive Emma - Guenette photo

Agenda is not always relegated to characters’ opinions …

In a book I recently finished, three out of five, female, secondary characters are described as grossly overweight and I mean graphic descriptions of rolling, folds of flesh and eyes sunken in mounds of fat. Having one character like this would make an impact – three simply screams out – what the hell is going on? I’m well aware that rates of obesity are rising but one can only assume author bias when something like this occurs.

Who remembers the importance of character arc? Put your hand up.

Real life moves along at a certain pace – sometimes rushing, sometimes crawling. Change takes time and people don’t often turn one-hundred and eighty degrees on a dime. Okay, I get all of that. But a novel isn’t meant to read like real life. It’s not a reality show. Unless you’re writing a multiple edition saga, the reader will want to see characters they have bonded with making progress over the course of the novel. I don’t want to spend time with a character who is still saying the same childish, silly things at the three-quarter mark of the book that they were saying at the beginning – especially when they have had ample chances to smarten up.

And what about staying true to the character created.

If the woman is described as being in her thirties, ridiculous affectations and childish attitudes are out of place. Unless, of course, acting infantile is the point. If an author wants to write a young adult novel with a teenage protagonist, then go ahead and do it. If there is some legitimate reason your character behaves in odd ways, then please do explain. Otherwise, let characters behave in ways that at least approximate their age.

Emma on the phone - Bruce Witzel photo

Well … there you have it. Rant complete, air cleared. I know I could be called to task for things I write that irritate. Each list of peeves will be as unique as the individual doing the peeving. But I don’t think that means I should never let fly with what is getting on my nerves. I don’t mention names or particular titles for a reason. I understand that my particular peeve is unique to me.

This entry was posted in Writing.

6 comments on “Yet Another Post on Reading Peeves

  1. Well said, Fran. Amen!😊

  2. smilecalm says:

    how wonderfully expressed
    having time to read
    & write about it 🙂

  3. rkpavia76 says:

    I have so many reading peeves, I could do my own post on it – but yours adequately covers some of mine… for now. Well done.

    • I know, I know – the list is long when it comes to things that can get on one’s nerves. And the times I get the most irked are in the books that have a great story going and instead of letting that story shine, they’re messing up my reading experience. Oh well. When it comes to peeving, I’m an expert 🙂

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