Pet hates in books?

The other day, Carina Press was asking on Twitter about character traits we found annoying.

Whenever questions like this are asked, every author is bound to become paranoid. Every reader has pet hates, and for everyone, they’re different. The things that drive me crazy in books are often things other people love.

I would recommend authors never venture into threads on Goodreads or Amazon where readers are discussing words and phrases they hate seeing in books; it’ll freak you so much you’ll have to quit writing!

Despite all of that, here are some things that I could do without:

  • The word Turgid. Especially in relation to sex. For whatever reason, it makes me nauseous.
  • The gorgeous male supermodel character, who is also a successful businessman, former Special Forces soldier, owns his own aeroplane and helicopter, only wears designer clothes, buys expensive jewellery for his woman every five minutes, can play a piano and a harp and a triangle at a professional level, is an Olympic gold medallist – and NYT Bestselling author, owns a private island, and a collection of vintage sports cars. Pick one or two attributes please! These days romantic male leads are straight out of a thirteen year old’s fan fiction fantasy!

Sorry, couldn’t resist!

  • The term velvet sheath for a lady’s you know what. Velvet sheaths belong in the 1980s, along with manroots and Fabio covers. I give Christine Feehan a free pass with that term though, because it’s her trademark!
  • If you’re not writing a suspense novel, please stop and consider whether the lead male character in your small town bakery-set Christmas book really needs to be a former Navy SEAL. There’re so many SEALs in fiction these days it’s diluting the impact of the position. Even if you can’t help yourself, and feel the need to include the military in your small town cosy romance, what’s wrong with him not being from the Special Forces? Other military positions are honourable too!
  • The romantic hero who is so jaded by beautiful women (who are, naturally, *always* raving bitches!) he falls instantly in love with the plain, personality-free lead female character (I call this Twilight Syndrome). If you create a male character who’s perfect in every way, you’d better give me a good reason for why he becomes obsessed with the boring girl no man has even looked at before.
  • Which leads me to: empty shell heroines we can imagine are us. Another aspect of Twilight Syndrome. All the “women’s” books (especially young women’s books) that have inexplicably become bestsellers recently, feature these characters. Completely boring, forgettable young women who suddenly find themselves in a love triangle with two gorgeous, amazing, genius billionaires. I know women like to fantasise, but blech!

Twilight Syndrome

  • Romantic heroes who are physically perfect, bar one flaw: their nose has been broken a few times. I’m not saying an author can never use this in their physical descriptions, but it’s something I’m seeing in every second book these days!

8 thoughts on “Pet hates in books?

  1. Great points, all of these. I dislike characters who act immaturely, especially when the author puts them in their 20s or 30s.

    Characters are much more fun to read when they have a few flaws. And it contributes to a richer plot when they have to work to overcome those flaws.

    1. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a character is 17 or 37 – they all act the same!
      I could go on forever, but those were issues that annoyed me recently. Actually, I should add “Main character who is in danger, but wants to be tough and so doesn’t tell anyone”. I’m struggling through a book with that now!

  2. Ha! I loved this! I cracked up laughing at the description of the male lead. I read a series of novellas about billionaire love interests, and I spent the whole time thinking, really? Billionaires? Why not just a humble millionaire? 😉

    And yes, broken noses! Or scars. I see lots of scars. And PTSD.

    I hate the thing about pretty girls always being horrible airheads as well. I know plenty of lovely attractive people!

    1. Millionaires went out of fashion in the Harlequin Presents line – only billionaires allowed now! They did start changing those titles though because they realised everyone hated “Billionaire Doctor’s Virgin” books.
      I don’t see that appeal; can’t imagine being married to a billionaire would be much fun, actually…
      I *really* hate the stereotyping of women in books at the moment. I get that women like this whole ugly duckling thing in their reading, but why does every other women in the book have to be a stupid, horrible person?

      1. Well, I guess inflation will do that. I’m just picturing Dr Evil being all: ONE BILLION DOLLARS!

        Those sorts of titles just kind of crack me up. They’re a bit like SEO optimisation before SEO optimisation… The Doctor’s Secret Midwife’s Baby and all of that stuff. What the?

        I wonder whether the “all other women are evil” thing is meant to bring the hero and heroine closer together in that it’s sort of them against the world? I see it happening a lot in paranormal books, and certainly in YA romance.

        Oh, another pet peeve: when a stunningly beautiful girl thinks that she’s hideously ugly and can’t understand what anyone sees in her. Oh, pfft.

      2. I love those YA heroines: “Even though I have no personality, every guy in the school wants to date me. Gee, I can’t figure out why!”
        I think a lot of YA authors are rewriting their high school years, only making everything better. I saw one of the “popular guys” from my high school on Facebook the other day – he looked frightening, couldn’t put a sentence together without words like Gr8, and used swear words like they were going out of fashion.
        I don’t really want a re-do of high school where the cool guys notice me!

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