I've been reading an awful lot of books lately, largely courtesy of the fact that I've just become a member of the local library. Hooray! Anyway, as it happens, a large number of these books have been great - and some have reminded me of my fiction pet peeves. As most of us are readers here, I expect you all know what I mean. Those tropes or tics that drive you crazy.
So here are three of mine.
1. Stupid characters
It's worth noting here that by 'stupid', I don't mean characters who are daft, or silly, or intellectually challenged, or just plain ordinary-in-terms-of-intelligence. These can all be charming and wonderful characters. I mean characters who are stupid. You know? The kind of stupid that makes you want to shake them and scream HOW CAN YOU BE SO STUPID?! in a non-endearing and non-fun way.
Example: in a book I recently started (which will go nameless because I'm not being entirely positive about it), the narrator actually put me off reading any more of the book. He was stupid in a bad way. He was specifically told, by a character we know to be sensible and good, not to do a certain thing and he was also told why. Five pages later? He does that very thing, and puts up only a token resistance. I'm sure this was a plot device, but it did nothing for the character's appeal. It just made me think 'I'm going to end up reading 400 pages of this guy doing stupid things like this, so no thank you'. Which was a shame, because the book was intriguing, quirky and unusual in premise - all things I love!
2. Ridiculous misunderstandings
Now I know the Misunderstanding is a feature of fiction as old as time, Greek myths and, you know, dinosaurs. I'm okay with misunderstandings. I even enjoy them when they're done right - in Harry Potter, for example, we frequently see characters tricked into believing something that isn't true.
What makes me grind my teeth and throw a book at the wall is the Ridiculous Misunderstanding. The one that is so far-fetched, or could so easily have been avoided, that it just leaves you feeling disgusted. Romeo and Juliet being a case in point. Or, worse, a book I recently read that I loved apart from the section with the Ridiculous Misunderstanding.
Boy sleeps with Girl. Both have been in love with each other for ages now. They're happy. Girl goes home to tell her fiance she can't be with him. Boy sends Girl a lovely necklace to show her how much she means to him. Girl receives necklace and thinks 'wtf? This means he's casting me off with a farewell trinket!' and is heartbroken. Does Girl bother to ask Boy what the necklace means? Does she even talk to him about it? No, of course not, because Misunderstandings are Cool. To make things worse, Girl then sends a message to Boy, through a friend, to say 'I am sailing to America with my fiance now, goodbye' and Boy thinks 'I've been used'. Does he chase after her to find out what the hell is going on? No, of course he doesn't, because Misunderstandings, dear readers, are Cool.
I could have broken something, I kid you not.
3. Deus ex machina
Latin for 'God out of a machine'. In other words, when all seems lost, an implausible and amazing coincidence or plot device appears to save the day. As a writer, I know that sometimes these are hard to avoid. Sometimes you really do need an amazing coincidence or a startling plot twist. But when an entire Final Battle is punctuated with them (I'm looking at you, JK Rowling, though I do love you apart from this tiny thing), it gets a bit much.
What annoys you in fiction? Do you share my pet peeves or do you disagree?