Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Writing elements that make you go 'Hmmmmmmmmmm'

After reviewing a few books now, I’ve realized that there are certain elements that writers use that can automatically make me twitch a little.  They aren’t always a bad thing, but it can sometimes be my reason for not enjoying the book or give it the full five stars.  It does help, though, as I work on my own writing to realize things that I don’t like and then not put those elements in my work.  What are some of them you may ask?  Well…I just happen to have this handy list here!

Character overload:  It’s only the first chapter, but you’ve already been introduced to every single character in the story and it takes you until about chapter 20 before you can figure out who’s who.

Description dumping:  It’s nice to get a picture in our head of what our character looks like or what their crush looks like, but really I don’t need paragraphs or pages describing their long blonde hair and pale eyes.  Or even just pages of them doing some mindless detail, so you can get every description of their body from their yellow toe nails to the top of their dandruff-ridden head.

Current day slang:  In the Seventies it was ‘groovy’ in the Nineties it was ‘cool’ and lately it’s been ‘Epic.’  If you use current terms, they can easily date a book.  Some will transcend the test of time, or are used in diary style narratives, but mostly they just tend to make the text look out of date.

Pop culture:  This is one that I’ve commented on A LOT when I review a book.  If current day slang bothers me then it’s no wonder that mentioning things like a current song or actor just rubs me the wrong way.  I remember on one #askagent someone stating, “If you have a character like the music that you did when you were a teenager it isn’t edgy.  It just makes you look old.”  Ouch…maybe modern day teenagers like Backstreet Boys!  Anyone?  Anyone?

The nice guy finishes last:  Why is it that there is always the best friend or the nerdy guy that likes the main character, but she always ends up with the bad boy or the brooding jock?  Why can’t she just end up with the geek?

Do these writing elements bug you?  Are there any other writing elements that you see over and over that automatically rub you the wrong way in a story?  (Note:  Sorry if you have used any of these elements and this offends you.  It’s just my opinion)


  1. The isosceles love triangle. You know, the one where it's painfully obvious which guy the female mc will choose, but she doesn't deserve either of them, anyway.

    LOL, I try to avoid pop culture references like the plague.

  2. Oh that is a good way to put it! I definitely hate that! That's why I was Team Edward, I knew he would win

  3. Ugh, love triangles, for sure. I do not connect to them at all. I don't understand the concept of being "pulled" equally between two people. Surely you like one at least a little more than you like the other? Dunno. Don't get it.

    Another that bugs me is over-explanation. Readers aren't stupid. You don't have to bash them over the head with something. You don't have to have a character say it, and then reiterate from another character and have the MC think about it AGAIN just to make sure the audience gets it. They get it.

  4. I don't like pop cultures reference either. The only references I tend to use are ones that are a good oldie song. And I do wish there were more nice guy characters in paranormal/sff stories.

  5. Ugh, I hate the description dump, too, unless it's really, really well-written (there are lots of descriptive passages from The Book Thief, for example, but I loved every darn word of that book because it was so well done). The implausible stuff that you mentioned--an entire paragraph devoted to the boy's eye color when the girl only sees him from across the room--really bugs me. How good is the girl's eyesight to see the "gold flecks" or the "thick lashes" from across the room? Descriptions like that are often really boring, unoriginal, and a waste of time.

  6. The only pop culture references I ever use are "the classics" or current events. Other than that, I'm with you on every point. And the comment above is true too.

  7. I had a comment on here and for some reason it didn't post *grumble*grumble*

    Steph- I really don't know any girls that were lucky enough to have two boys fighting over them,or maybe that was just me. You would really think there would be a clear winner? And over explanation..ugh, let's all tell the same detail over and over!

    Nicole- Oh yeah, you put a Beatles reference in a story, it's timeless, but Backstreet Boys or Duran, Duran? Not so much.

    Stephanie- But can't you notice the gold flecks in someone's eyes from across the room??? (kidding)I actually haven't read The Book Theif, but I should probably check that out!

    Samantha- The classics will always live on. I actually had a comment made to me to steer clear of current events that could date the story (i.e. I used Hurricane Katrina and was told to just say 'the last Hurricane'), but I think that is differant for everyone.

  8. Great post! These elements do bother me. Especially the character and description dumps. If you're going to dump on us, at least make the stuff interesting.

    Don't tell us the main character has: perfect brown hair, gorgeous green eyes, dresses perfectly.

    That's so boring!

    Tell us something unusual, something we'll remember.


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