Biggest Writing Pet Peeves

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by J.U. Scribe

Pet peeves.

We all have them. That one thing that gets under our skin and ticks us off. It can be any number of things depending on the person you ask. For some people it can range from bad body odor,  unreliability, slow drivers, fake people, tardiness, just to name a few. When it comes to writing though, most of you reading this have at least one pet peeve in regards to books you’ve read.

If you were to ask a group of people what their pet peeves are, I’m sure the responses would vary. Many of them though can be boiled down to three main complaints. This is by no means an exhaustive list but here are some of the top ones I’ve heard many lament about.

 

Overused cliches – This has to be the biggest and also broadest writing pet peeve. This pet peeve is a collection of popular clichés, from the popular-jock-gets-the-nerdy-girl to the infamous beginning: the alarm clock going off.

Granted, it’s extremely difficult for writers to avoid all clichés in their writing. This is especially true in genres such as romance or YA fiction which are the most common offenders in my personal experience. Don’t get me wrong. Clichés are not bad in themselves. I’m guilty of a couple of them. It’s just that some get used so much, that the device becomes predictable and stale.

If you do employ clichés, try to mix it up. So for example, the ‘hot guy with the six-pack,’ doesn’t have to be so perfect. Maybe he has insecurities he doesn’t want others to know. Or maybe he’s really smart but tries to fit in with his peers. Whatever you concoct; just change things up. This leads into the next writing trap.

 

Mary-Sue – she is synonymous for a one-dimensional character that can do no wrong. For the boy counterpart you can call him be Gary-Stu. What’s wrong with having perfect characters? Simply put they’re boring. To a reader they come off being flat caricatures instead of real people with real emotions, hopes, and faults.

Yes they’re fictional characters but you want the reader to feel that their real. Because Mary-Sue characters lack actual flaws, they’re harder to relate to. While I may not put down your book if I run into one, I would hope the main character is at least dynamic and interesting if you want me to continue reading past chapter one.

Not surprisingly, the idealistic, dreamy characters in a lot of teen fiction fall into this particular trap. If you want to find examples of this, free story-sharing sites like Wattpad are full of them. One way to counteract this pet peeve is to brainstorm your character’s strengths and weaknesses. This adds a layer of depth to the character that makes them more multi-dimensional.

 

Spelling/Punctuation/Grammatical mistakes – Most poorly written books suffer from this problem. The mechanics are not used correctly and the book is full of typos. Granted I’m not a “grammar Nazi” nor am I an English major so I will make blunders in this category occasionally. Because of this I try to be forgiving when I see a typo here or there in a book. When I start seeing glaring mistakes appear multiple times throughout the page that’s when the red flags pop in my head. Instead of enjoying the story, I’m now distracted by the errors the author made.

As a writer, you are personally responsible for editing your works. Rereading your work out loud can help you catch mistakes or awkward sentence structures. Having another pair of eyes to review your works really goes a long way to avoid this pitfall.

Again these writing traps as I like to call them may not necessarily be your pet-peeve. For example, while others may be more lax about typos some people who are coined Grammar Nazi’s may find a single typo or a grammatically incorrect sentence a complete turn-off. For me I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Glaring errors are pet peeves because poor punctuation and spelling are not only careless but sucks me out of the story.

Some pet peeves may include those outside the list I mentioned. For example I’m particular about language used in a story, particularly profanity. While others feel it’s no big deal at all, for me a f-bomb is a complete turn off. While I may let some things slide, personally a character with a potty-mouth is crude and off-putting. If you have stories littered with profanity, you can guarantee I will be quick to drop it.

Granted even with my list, I can’t speak for everyone because pet-peeves can and do vary from person to person. And that’s OK. Whether a writing device or blunder irks you depends on a number of factors from your temperament, ethics, belief systems, bad experiences, or simply personal preference.

And to make things more interesting your current mood can heighten or defuse how you react to a writing blunder. If you’re a writer you can’t always predict what’s going to turn a reader off. But it’s safe to assume the three main writing traps listed earlier are things you want to avoid as much as possible.

If you’re a writer you don’t want to turn off potential readers. If anything you want to attract potential readers especially your target audience to your story. What can help in that regard? Well that’s a discussion for a future blog post.

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Question to readers: What’s your writing pet-peeve?

 

 

 

Guest post contributed by J.U. Scribe. J.U. is the author of Before the Legend and enjoys outlets such as blogging, drawing, painting, and graphic design.


226373498_dacf4f263f_bNeed help with your book or novel? Check out the Writer’s Toolbox, a list of free, discounted, and overall helpful links to tools and benefits to help you with what you do best: writing.


 

 

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33 thoughts on “Biggest Writing Pet Peeves”

  1. I am more the Angel of Death when it comes to grammar. I don’t like when I see it in my own work. I know I’m human, and will make an occasional mistake and so will other writers. I try to remember that but the minute I see it, I’m prepared to take souls. I guess my pet peeve is my reaction to my pet peeve (and I’ve gotten worse now that I have to write in Elvish).

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  2. Hmm, all these cliches you can find in stories online. Especially on websites like Wattpad and fiction press. The cliche that annoys me the most is the mate cliche. Sometimes I’ll read a good story online just for it to be ruined by the, “She or he is my mate.” > <

    After that, the rest of the book is my mate this or my mate that. Ugh.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s probably a silly one, but I really, really hate it when authors use “as” when they mean “and.” Such as: “The man smoked a cigarette as he ran his hand through his hair.” The idea of “as” is that two things are happening at the same time, and the image of a guy smoking a cigarette, and, the whole time, running a hand through his hair is bizarre, unless he’s got some weird obsessive disorder. Often, it’s describing something absolutely impossible: “He walked through the door as the rain pounded down outside.” That makes it sound, to me at least, as if the rain only pounded while he was stepping through the door, or he took a really long time to step through the door. I know it’s a weird pet peeve, but it drives me nuts (and I probably drive my students nuts by marking it on all their stories).

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  4. Mary Sue’s definitely my number one. How are we supposed to believe a character is ever in real danger of an author can’t inflict them with as much as an ingrown hair? Let alone any big disaster harming them or, God forbid, being their fault.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. One of my biggies is “As you know, Bob” dialogue. I read one the other day that started with “I know you know…” and the character then told the other character what they both already knew for reader benefit. It’s just so obvious and awkward to me. A short paragraph in the narrative would be much better to relay back story.

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  6. The main thing that bothers me is when a writer neglects to proofread his or her work. If the writer isn’t sure enough of his/her proofing ability, he or she should ask someone else to do it. This would avoid hitting readers between the eyes with such mistakes as:
    1) “Overused clichés” – This is redundant. A cliché is an expression or trope that IS, by definition, overused.
    2) Poor grammar such as “she is synonymous for a one-dimensional character…” – It should be “synonymous WITH a…”
    ALSO: “you want the reader to feel that their real.” No, that should be “that THEY’RE real.”
    As the writer says, “[the reader] may find a single typo or a grammatically incorrect sentence a complete turn-off.” In fact, the writer’s credibility was so damaged, that I’m afraid I indeed turned off and couldn’t finish reading the article. Sorry…

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  7. I struggle with my grammar, I was never taught it formally, so I tend to forgive it… Or maybe I just don’t see it? But if it is blatant enough to slap me in the face I know it is BAD and it bugs the heck out of me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I must agree that grammar was never my forte but if it’s a blatant error then it becomes a problem to me. Just make sure your grammar is up to par when it comes time to publishing a story. That’s one of the times it really counts.

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  8. Thank you for coming by my blog. I believe your topic held my interest all the way through to the last word. I am not the best writer, but when I know the topic, I go for it. I believe short is nice, but when I have something to say, it is wonderful when people still read it even if it is longer than two paragraphs.

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  9. I think my primary pet peeve has been born of recent fiction; the lack of description or actual agency in the main or POV character, supposedly so the audience can better “identify” with them. Making them essentially no one and everyone, so the reader can insert themselves into the story. Now, it’s not necessarily an inherently bad idea, but it seems like it’s being done solely for commercial purposes (or just laziness) rather than an intended artistic decision and has become the mutant bastard child of Mary-Sueism (or Gary-Stuism, if you prefer, though I usually see this in female leads) that I would gleefully murder if given the chance.

    But hey, that’s just me. XD

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Stories with poor syntax, grammar, and punctuation, too much internal dialogue, and scarcely any description….that’s what annoys me. Oh–and all the five-star reviews the books receive. Ha-ha! 🙂

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  11. Jargon is one of my biggest pet peeves. I think it is lazy writing and very unoriginal. It assumes superficial thoughts and feelings to your character, because certain words and phrases have become what writers are using these days.

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  12. I laughed at the grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes bit of your post because those three tick me off. I don’t find them too often while reading, but when I do, I wonder whether the book is worth finishing. (If I’m reading an informational book, I question the truth of the content when an error is found). There are more writing pet peeves of mine, but this is at the top of my list.

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  13. Using the same descriptions over and over again. We are suposed to be creative so think up some different ones. It makes me feel like the writer is just trotting the story out without care – so why should I care?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Oops, I’m afraid I fall into the Grammar Nazi cliche, specifically, this little bit from the above post “feel that their real”. My personal biggest problem is periods vs. commas, not because I don’t know when to use them, but because without my readers on my face I can barely see the tail on the comma, and of course, they are snuggled up next to each other on the keyboard. Kudos to our proofreaders! ; )

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