Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Unreasonable Writing Pet Peeves

So we all have writing pet peeves, but I want to focus on the more prejudicial and personal taste writing pet peeves.

For example, I really cannot stand the whole “good” vs “bad” teen drama of Harry/Draco. I’ve been stalled in Name of the Wind simply because of that same sort of antagonistic school relationship. I find the whole conflict so superficial and insignificant with the grander conflict and plot and it makes me cringe every time they do something immature and stupid simply to “one up” one another.

So who else has an “unreasonable” writing pet peeve?

For me, probably conflict borne of two people not communicating without reason. This comes up incredibly often in TV and movies, particularly when a romantic relationship is involved. In some cases, it can be justified (I guess a notable example would be not wishing to come out as gay to parents, or something similar), but often, it’s just:

“I think he’s lying!”
“She can’t know the truth!”
“I found out the truth, and everything’s actually okay!”
audience gives a happy sigh, light smattering of applause

On a Harry Potter note, I saw some of that in the spat between Ron and Harry during the Triwizard cup; it was pulled off a little better in Ron’s Giant Sulk during the hunt for the horcruxes at least. There’s just no depth behind it and I just want to shake the characters and say, “Just talk to each other already!”

Deus ex machina.

This I don’t see in writing too often … but it pops up in TV. All. The. Time.

Hopeless is hopeless … and I’ve rarely seen divine intervention happen in real life, or witnessed someone suddenly growing super powers. It’s never pulled off in a believable way, and it’s even more rare that a plot would actually benefit from it. That’s my two cents. ^.^

Yes. This.

I really hated Sense & Sensibility for this very reason when I was in high school. However, in college, I ended up writing an essay about how the culture of the time actually made the lack of communication make sense.

In general though, contrived failures to communicate for no good reason drive me crazy.

Needless angst.

Hated it in the Twilight saga - Bella epitomized it. Hated it also in the last half of the Harry Potter series, particularly Order of the Phoenix. If the world’s at stake, why on Earth are you moping about your relationships? I mean, grow up.

Maybe that was just a teen book thing, though. I don’t know. But even as a teenager it drove me nuts.

I also hate a boring or unbelievable cast of characters.

I remember not liking the movie The Truth About Cats and Dogs because the main conflict of the story depended on a contrived failure to communicate, which was further contrived to maintain and draw it out.

Another is one I’ve termed, ‘there is no plan B’, which happens when there are too many things that have to happen just right for the story to reach the conclusion it does, especially if they are random or which the protagonist has no (or limited) control over, and if any of them fail, the road to the conclusion falls apart and something important doesn’t happen, some key piece of information never gets revealed, that would prevent the ending we’re hoping for from occurring. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a good example of this.

Gratuitous, ham-handed tropes. I could not get through Game of Thrones because of this. Tropes are not bad when done with finesse, but ugh, Martin has no finesse. >_<

The failure of communication trope has turned me off of many rom-coms over the years -.- Explains why I can still enjoy Fifty First Dates.

Funny thing happened while going through the slushpile for Fragments. I learned I can’t stand heavy exposition dumps in a short story. Some stories just have a world to big and a history too deep to be compacted into less than 10k words. I couldn’t put my finger on it originally, but normally after the first few paragraphs alone I thought those stories were crap x.x It took Mando to point out that they were actually really well-written, and after a second read I realized he was right >.< Heavy expo dumps are a turn-off for me.

And of course my boo hiss to Mary Sues/Gary Stues >.< I’m painfully familiar and sensitive to many different types and nine times out of ten they make me cringe. I have seen them used decently though, or at least where the story and other characters are so intriguing that they’re easy to ignore X3

To clarify: many stories we received were written with a plot that would’ve been put to a better use in a longer format. Taking an idea for a novella and trimming it down to less than 10k words means (necessarily) having to interrupt the story to explain who the characters are, what their situation is and more importantly, how the world works. It was quite common in the SF/F submissions - alien worlds and societies require an explanation, and you aren’t always able to fit that smoothly into the narrative in such a short space. We’ve seen some really smart tricks being used to pull that off, but we’ve also seen a lot of “as you already know”-style dialogue, and that hurts the flow of the story.

This is not to say exposition is bad, per se. Just that some stories aren’t meant to be that short, and forcing them into a tight space works against them in the eyes of the reader.

My personal pet peeve, also realized while working on Fragments, is this: stories that aren’t about the plot/characters but about showing the world the story is set in. I understand pride, and it’s perfectly reasonable to want to show people what you crafted with a lot of care and (quite often) a handful of extremely interesting ideas, but a middle-of-the-road plot (or a plot that is rushed in parts, often the ending) in such a world isn’t taking advantage of the possibilities it offers - especially if it’s filled with exposition because you need to make sure the world comes across, or want to show everything to the reader. Unfortunately, having to work with 10k words means that your options in terms of narrative are quite limited.

I’m sincere when I say I hope to see more stuff in certain universe we saw in Fragments. Some ideas were BRILLIANT.

I just cannot stand it when I’m able to say dialogue along with characters even though I’ve never seen/read the work before.

O_O That happened in an anime I was watching last night… So that happened to me, except in Japanese, which I am not remotely good at anymore.

I hate it when writers use Capitalization of Random Nouns to imply that the word(s) is significant in the theme(s) of the work.

“Despite his dedication, the Omnipresent Company would ultimately roadblock his efforts.”

An okay sentence overall, but it enters the realm of satire with the capitalization.

“Under the syringe, she could recall the Happier Years that slipped away through her once-spry fingers.”

This would be so much better if Happier Years wasn’t capitalized.

It feels incredibly cheap and lazy to me, and detracts from what are usually very well written stories. I notice George Saunders is guilty of this on occasion, notably in Pastoralia.

All of this is just my opinion though.


It feels incredibly Cheap and Lazy to me, and detracts from what are usually Very Well Written stories.

There, I fixed that for you.