Everyone has different tastes when it comes to reading. What one person enjoys, might make another reader want to fling the book or their e-reader across the room. Authors certainly can’t please everyone, so how much should they be concerned about reader’s pet peeves?
A recent internet search revealed several articles and forum rants about various reader’s pet peeves. I focused on the Romance genre, but some also applied to fiction in general. After reading several, I found a few common themes to their rants:
Cliffhangers– this puzzled me because I have heard of authors still doing this, and that some readers don’t mind it, eagerly awaiting the next installment. But those who do hate it are vocal about their frustration. I am one of them, and I wrote a post awhile back on the subject, “When Romance Novels Finish Before You Do.”
Lack of Editing– This has become more prevalent with online publishing. Even traditionally published books have an error now and then, but when it becomes so noticeable it takes the reader out of the story, it’s a problem. Some readers are more forgiving, but there are ways to avoid this and ensure the product (book) is as accurate as possible before publication.
Clichés- This should be a given, but they still make their way into some stories. If you have to put one in your story, figure out a twist to make it ironic, humorous, or some other method to make it useful. Otherwise, leave it out.
Overused Tropes– the ironic thing here is, some readers love certain tropes and never get tired of them. So maybe the trick is, as with the cliché, to find some type of twist or fresh take on it. Maybe combine two or three? Take a trope from one genre and use it in another?
Inconsistencies- from timeline troubles to characters who change hair color randomly, readers notice details. After all, details are what draws them into the story. Keeping a list or series bible can help avoid these types of problems.
My Personal Peeve
It seems like it should be common sense to avoid such things as cliché’s or overdone tropes, but the fact there are articles and people on forums ranting about them, indicates they happen with some frequency. So, here’s my question:
If an author is successful, and sells well, do they get a pass on committing the “sins” that drive some readers crazy?
I can think of several recent examples of books that have sold extremely well, best sellers, which contained cliché’s, cliffhangers, overused tropes and/or inconsistencies. Can you? Apparently, these “problems” are enough to irritate readers, but not enough to keep them from being published and promoted.
Here’s what brought this subject to my mind, prompting this post- I was with a friend at a bookstore recently, when I told her I had never read anything by a certain author who is considered the Queen of Romance Novels. I wanted her recommendation on the best one to start with, because I wanted to see what made this author so popular. I took my friend’s advice, and started reading the book that night.
It was a story about an old haunted southern mansion, right up my alley. I loved the descriptions, the setting, the author’s voice; her characters were engaging. But by the end of the second chapter, I was irritated because of the constant head-hopping!
Yes, the author is a celebrated, multi- NYTBSA, and she has the skill to “pull it off” as my friend pointed out when I complained. Yes, the author does pull it off, meaning, it doesn’t hurt the story, but it annoys me because I never know whose head we are going to be in from moment to moment. Then I become hyper-aware of it, watching for the change. Often I end up re-reading portions because the change is abrupt enough to pull me out of the story. In addition, I feel it makes it more difficult to get deep into the character’s head when POV switches frequently.
Writers Gonna Write
My annoyance with head-hopping may be my own personal taste, but I was surprised no one else complained about it in the articles and forums I researched. I have always heard head-hopping is advised against, in books on writing instruction, and it is mentioned as taboo in the submission requirements for certain publishers. Apparently, some readers don’t mind it, and some authors can use it effectively.
So I guess the take away from all this is, yes, writers should be aware of reader’s pet peeves, but take the information with a grain of salt (oops, a cliché)! If you do include something that you know may annoy readers, at least have a good reason for doing so.
What are your reading pet peeves?