Literary pet peeves

Dorian E. Gray israfel at
Sun Feb 9 14:49:02 EST 2003

Margaret said...
> >
> >Doesn't Mercedes Lackey overuse "damn" & italics a ton?
> >
> I haven't read her recent work either, but I do remember thinking, when
> I was reading her, that somebody should disable the underscore function
> in her word processing program. (Most editors that I've encountered
> still hold to conventions dating from the invention of the typewriter,
> so you have to underline words that you want them to italicize in print.)

Mmm...I don't recall seeing "damn" much in her work, but the italics...yeah.
Showing characters' thoughts is all very well, and italics are a useful way
to offset them, but in my own writing, it took me about a year to get out of
the habit of showing vast quantities of my characters' internal monologues
(yay for my workshop, where several critters jumped all over me shouting
that I should *show* my characters' feelings, not have them think about said
feelings for half a page!).  And that bad habit was definitely Lackey's
> I think my pet peeve is the Instantaneous Background Dump. "As you know,
> Stephen, you and Matilda have been at war over the crown of England
> these many years..."

I annoyed my Patrick the other week by complaining about "as you know, Bob"s
all over the Lara Croft movie. :-)
> My husband's is the point-of-view switch in mid-paragraph. I believe he
> still treasures a copy of a particularly crummy novel in which the
> author managed to switch point of view in mid-*sentence*.

Those drive me nuts too, though I don't think I've seen many of them in
published novels.  Lots and *lots* on the workshop. :-)
> And, of course, there's the Really Glaring Anachronism. He came home
> from a business trip once and woke me up at three AM to babble about the
> complete and utter awfulness of a best-selling historical novel he had
> bought to read on the plane. I forgave him when he pointed out that it
> was set in ancient Greece and that in the middle of the book the
> characters refer to a *blueprint* of some building. (And no, it was not
> a time-travel novel. It was a Serious Historical Novel that has gathered
> many good reviews and is recommended reading at West Point to help the
> students understand classical warfare. Go figure.)

Giggle.  Yeah, authors who don't do their research are infuriating.  I read
a chick-lit novel that Hallie lent me in which one of the main characters
apparently crossed the Atlantic in a 737.

That novel also embodied one of my other pet peeves - time-hopping.  It
seems to be incredibly popular in chick-lit, and I'll grant that when done
well, it can work.  But when the story starts in 2003, then jumps back to
1973, then jumps forward to 2003 again, and then back to 1983, get
the idea.  Framing the life-story of a character in a pair of present-day
scenes can work, but hopping back and forth randomly is bloody infuriating!

And, as someone else pointed out, the overuse of a pet phrase.  I quite like
Katherine Kerr's Deverry books, but boy did I ever get tired of characters
"weeping in a brief scatter of tears"!

And descripto-dumps.  I *hate* descripto-dumps.  Much as I love Elizabeth
Moon's Paksenarrion books, I skip huge chunks of travelling through pretty
scenery every time I reread them.  Not to mention the "here's a chunk of
background info disguised as a lecture to the heroine" bits.

Oh yeah, and action scenes just because the author thinks it's time we had
another one (all those Encounters listed in the Tough Guide).  Gah.

I could probably go on, but I won't.  The perils of being an active
workshopper and a frantically-trying-to-get-published writer. :-)

Until the sky falls on our heads...

Dorian E. Gray
israfel at

"I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be
- O. Cromwell

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