As writers, we always have pet-peeves when we are reading. Maybe it's the -ly or the -ing or the telling-instead-of-showing. Maybe it's the ambiguous pronoun or that one word being repeated a million times on a single page. And honestly, I think those are good pet-peeves. My CP gets really worked up about ambiguous pronouns, and it has really helped my writing.

We tend to read as writers. It can be hard not to, and when I find a book that makes me forget my writer-brain, well, then I know it's a good book. A very good book.

But, I want to talk about reader pet-peeves. This goes for writers, too, but let's discuss the pet-peeves that aren't just because we write.
 © Copyright Jonathan Wilkins
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under this Creative Commons Licence.

I see this one almost daily:                                              
"I hate when an author ends on a cliff-hanger."
(I'll be honest--I don't feel the same. Sure, it can be frustrating, but if the author pulls it off, why  not? But, as my coach says, I also tend to do things that cause self-suffering, so maybe that's just me...)

Are cliff-hangers a problem for you? What else irks you? There are so many readers, so many blog reviewers and so on, that I know many of you must have a list, even if it is only a mental one.

What drives you crazy in a book?


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  1. I read quite a lot of NA Contemporary novels and romance it quite often the main focus. I like it, but what bothers me without an exception is when characters fall in love instantly. If the author shows that the characters are in lust, I'm all game, but love? Then, I can't connect with the characters and the story. Of course, it's my personal taste. I love the build up.

    About cliffhangers... I don't enjoy them all that much, but if the author managed to write one that is believable and understandable and not just a mean to kick start the sequel easily, then I'm not against it. And let's be honest, cliffhangers make us want to buy the sequel even more.

    I'd love to read more pet-peeves from readers. It's always fun to compare our reading taste. :)

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  2. Ending a sentence with also makes me wanna kill someone. :D

    And love at first sight is a big no-no for me to. I put those books down as soon as it turns out the characters are in love (first or second chapter). There is nothing more unrealistic than that. Instant lust? Yeah. Instant like? Of course. But love doesn't work like that.

    I love cliffhangers if there are some stops on the way... I mean, how long can you keep up the tension? If the characters are always in trouble and on the edge of the cliff, after a while you just get tired of it all.

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  3. I agree-- I can't stand insta-love, nor can I stand "love" based off all physical aspects. Drives me nuts!

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  4. I don't like cliffhangers because most of the time they really are a ploy to make you read the next book and suffer for a year until the next book is released. I MUCH rather enjoy a series where the main conflict in that book is tied up, but the next book's conflict is introduced. That way, you have a feeling of closure between book releases.

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  5. As a reader I can't stand overly descriptive books. I like to use my imagination, and I find it unrealistic that a character would be paying attention to the size of the room if they had a gun to their head, or honestly at all. When I walk into a room I don't describe everything about it!

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    1. That's a good one. I know some people who love heavy descriptions, but they aren't for me, either !

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    2. I half-way agree. I like to have enough relevant (operative word) description, but it absolutely must be introduced at the right time (such as when there are no guns being bandied about), otherwise it totally pulls me out of the scene.

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  6. It depends on the cliffhanger. If the pacing of the story feels like the author is dragging a series out for $$, then I don't like it. But some stories take longer to tell, and so breaking them up is okay. If you're going to hang me off a cliff, though, don't make me wait months or a year for the next release.

    Other than small detail things like the ones you mentioned, I dislike stories with inconsistent heat levels (e.g. those that are graphic in one scene or spend a large amount of time building up to a love scene, only to tell it in shy summary or close the door.) I also dislike character action/reaction inconsistencies and implausibilities, being spoon fed repetitive information, and instances of author intrusion. POV errors drive me up the wall, too.

    Great post. It feels good to get that off my chest. :)

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    1. All good points! I feel like some books call for cliff hangers more than others-- like an epic fantasy verse a contemporary romance.
      So, Melissa, what is a time frame you want the next novel out? How long are you willing to wait?
      Good point with the reactions! I hate getting to a scene and it being unbelievable based on the earlier scenes

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    2. Inconsistent heat levels! Yes, this is one I didn't realize until you said it. I read a romantic suspense that was pretty tame on the romance, but funny, quippy, and enjoyable. And then this sex scene toward the end that felt really out of place with the level of detail. Like an editor said to amp it up or something.

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    3. @LG
      Agree genre can make a difference.

      I think a month or two on the sequel when the same story continues. Less than six months for sure.

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  7. Great question! Don't like passive characters, deus ex machina plot resolutions, and love at the expense of everything/everyone else. My wife and I would easily give up our own life for the other, but I hope she'd never let the universe be destroyed to save me. LOL

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    1. Ha! So, keep you away from the romantic romantic epic romantic love story, then...
      But I'm right there with you.

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  8. My biggest pet peeve would be length for the sake of length. So many stories would benefit by slashing 100+ pages. I'm not a fan of repetition.

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    1. I tend to write extremely long books, which I deliberately planned and plotted at saga length. If I cut out hundreds of pages for no other reason than to make them shorter, the entire story structure would collapse, and it wouldn't be nearly the same story anymore. I dislike books that are short for the sake of being short. I always wonder at how anyone could fit a complete, fully-developed story, characters, and setting into all of 288 pages. For me, a substantial novel should be at least 400 pages.

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  9. A few of my reader pet peeves: nicknames given to the heroine by the hero that are supposed to be cute but end up being annoying when constantly repeated, insta-love, when authors exploit serious topics just for plot usage, and tons of backstory in the opening chapter. Don't tell me everything I need to know about the characters' pasts up front. Show me throughout the story by sprinkling in the information in creative ways.

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    1. OOh, that's a good one! I hadn't even thought about the nickname.
      And I am so so with you on the exploiting serious topics just for plot usage. I really hate it when they do that to get one certain scene and then drop it and never bring it up again and the character is totally okay... (tv shows seem to do that a lot as well).

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  10. Delighted you asked! LOL

    • Shallow, BS insta-love in the first three chapters
    • Getting beat over the head with how hot the hero/heroine is
    • Overpowered MCs with no flaws or weaknesses
    • Etc.

    Great post! :)

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    1. Hey, Carrie. Did you see this characters biceps? what about his chest? What about that hair? And those eyes? Did I mention the butt? ;)

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  11. Same as Carrie and EJ.
    Hate insta-love, though I totally believe in insta-lust ...
    As for the cliffhanger, it depends ... if the next book is already out or about to be out, then it's not that huge of a problem to me ;)

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    1. insta-lust is definitely a thing, but I feel like writers write insta-lust expecting it/forcing it to be insta-love.

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  12. Cliffhangers CAN work, but to me, only if enough other plot details have some resolution. If everything is totally up in the air and the book ends, sorry but no! The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey did a nice job of closing out the loop of the current story, but setting up the stakes for the next. Everyone was mainly safe (mainly, if they weren't dead) but they faced a larger challenge. In another book I will not name, the book changed gears midway and the ending was just literally stopping in the middle of getting to know a whole slew of new characters. It was really weird, like the midpoint should have been a separate book instead of where it broke off as book 1. It didn't get me excited for book 2, just frustrated.

    My other pet peeve is melodrama. I don't mean this as teen angst or even drama. I mean heavily loaded seniment right from the start "The ghosts of my past clawed at me. I threw myself down on the floor, gasping." Like, on page 1? That's a bit much. It's like it's telling me this is really important and I have no idea who the characters are yet!

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    1. Good point. So, here's a question, if that book's specific issues are pretty much tied-up, and then it ends on a cliff-hanger that really leads into the other book, is that an issue?
      I agree that there are some weird ones that end in what feels like it should be a midpoint for the next plot-arc.

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  13. I'm known for my cliffhangers, so no. They don't bother me, LOL. ;)

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    1. Lol. I tend to write quite a few, too, so maybe that's why I'm okay with most of them.

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  14. I don't mind cliffhangers, but I can't stand insta-love. I like it to have a build up and I have super whiny protagonist.

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    1. Ditto! The build-up is the exciting part, I think. I'd rather read about the build-up than having a book that's entirely lovey-dovey or sex. I like the chemistry before hand.

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  15. I get annoyed by characters who deliberately make terrible choices. Like, they go through all the reasons why they ought to do one thing and why they *shouldn't* do the other thing, but they have one (usually weak) motivator to do the thing they shouldn't do, so they succumb and do it.

    This is basically the thing where people get annoyed at horror movie characters who go upstairs instead of run out of the house. I do acknowledge that this is probably a very particular qualm, haha.

    Also, another vote against insta-love. I'm also not a fan of under-developed characters; I like to see them reason through things.

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  16. I don't mind if a book with a sequel or in a series ends with some threads still unresolved or up in the air, but I hate when a book ends on a cliffhanger setting things up for the next book. I also hate standalone books whose endings feel like a meaningless dead end, no sense of proper resolution or like we've really reached the end of a story. Tender Is the Night and Doctor Zhivago were prime examples of this for me.

    Fewer things make me tune out faster, even from a mere synopsis, than predated naming trends. No, your non-child character would not have a name like Caden, McKayla, Aidan, Braden, Jaden, Jalen, Londyn, Madison, McKaylee, etc. Gut-loading the book with Top 100 names from your characters' generation also turns me off, as do outlandish names or insipid nicknames for perfectly fine names.

    First-person present tense immediately turns me off and makes me stop reading, unless it's merited by the genre or subject matter. Why does a contemporary story need the kind of emotional immediacy as a Shoah memoir or a book about bullying? I also hate books that are too short.

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  17. Cliff-hangers don't bother me, if I'm aware it's a series, then I quite enjoy them and it gives me something to think about while I wait for the next book.

    Repeated words drive me insane, though. I've had perfectly good books ruined because of repeated words.

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  18. Cliff-hangers at chapter-ends are fine, but yeah, at the end of a novel I want some kind of (at least partial) resolution. Things that irk me when I read? If a writer always uses the same phrase to describe something-like reading a zillion times in one book about a character "curling her toes" during kisses, or her "breath hitching". Once or twice is fine, more than that very your word usage. I have to check this in my own drafts!

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  19. My reader pet peeve is either too much dialogue or too little. There's a fine line between having nothing going on and having so much go on at the same time. Hope that makes sense.

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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  20. If done well, I can handle a cliff-hanger. What bugs me about them lately is the trend I'm noticing of authors writing a series of novellas with cliff-hangers when the entire plot could easily go into a full novel (and be much more satisfactory).

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  21. What drives me nuts is using said when a question was clearly asked. ex. "Where is Henry?" she said. I hate when said is used instead of asked like it should be.

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  22. My pet peeve is the too-stupid-to-live heroine. I want a heroine I can root for!

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