I've read a few excellent books this month....and I've read a few (hmmm)...well I don't want to say they're duds. They're not. But I can't say they were good.
I do think any creative endeavor that helps a person express him or herself is a worthwhile effort. And there were parts of these books I enjoyed...until I didn't. I was even swearing and cursing at one to just END (which is really bad) as I skimmed the first sentence of each paragraph and skipped most of the dialogue because it made me want to take my iPad and feed it into my husband's shredder....(I know. Calm down, Karen, it's okay.)
So without further ado, here are things that make me want to take a book and shake it with frustration:
1. Snark where it's not necessary.
Don't get me wrong, I love snark. I love wise ass characters that spit in fate's face with a smile on theirs. But damn it, when you have a character randomly spit out snark because you've thought of a witty comeback - but it doesn't fit with the character's personality or with the flow of the book - well, its not necessary. If your character is serious, let them be serious. If they're snarky, let them be snarky. But if they're a sweet, naive, serious character who talks in a sweet, naive, serious tone only to have a wicked, sexually forward, snarky comeback to someone that doesn't fit with their character....aaaagh! Don't do it.
2. Characters who talk like they went to formal diction school in the 1700's. I mean, what 17 year old says "One moment please. I am going to peruse the tomes on these shelves, and then I am going to procure my wallet to pay for my selected purchases." (I made that up, but you get the point, right? Right? Do you expect me to believe your character is normal? Or that they even exist in this world? What kid talks like that? He'd better be a time traveler from the past.
3. Characters who don't have a steady personality. This reflects on the last two entries. I'm sorry, but your character can't be innocent and promiscuous. They can't be tough and a wimp. Sure, they can have moments where they do something unexpected, but they can't just do things that go against who you've created them to be without a damn good reason. A character that's a werewolf enforcer isn't going to cower when they're attacked by three guys any more than they'd cower when attacked by one. They're going to fight. Unless for some reason they have a phobia about the number three (maybe they were raised by an evil three headed hell dog and they have a flashback to a vicious beating). See - ridiculous it may be, but it's an explanation. Don't make your character do things out of character unless its part of their character.
4. A World out of whack. Okay, so your character lives in a world where supernatural creatures - lets say faeries - exist. Only no one knows they exist. Well, they can't walk around with six fingers on each hand, and an extra set of knuckles on each finger, razor sharp pointed teeth, green skin and pink hair without some sort of glamour. Hello? No one's going to notice that? Seriously?
5. As an extension of that - your setting has to be believable, too. A city full of vampires that burn to ash in the sunlight isn't going to have buildings with huge plate glass windows that let the sun in all day long. I'm pretty sure the vampires would design buildings that protect them from the sun's rays. Do you see what I mean? You can't just take a setting you're familiar with and throw characters in it when you're writing urban fantasy. That's the whole point. You have to think about it. What would a city full of vampires who only come out at night look like? (Again, this is just an example.)
6. Unnecessary extraneous characters. Yes, you need to have characters for your main character to interact with, but don't dump forty million useless characters on me only to have them stick around for one chapter and be gone, never to be heard from again. I don't need to meet Bobby's cousin Darrell, who's in town for the city wide vampire purging unless Darrell's going to do something to affect it. Screw him. He's unnecessary.
7. Evil bad guys with no reason to be evil. If you're going to slap a bad guy in and make me like him or hate him or feel sorry for him, then you'd better give me a reason. If he's a total evil asshat without any redeeming qualities, why is that? You can't just make someone evil and say 'he's evil because he's the bad guy'. Maybe I'll like him more than the hero. Believe me, I've read books where I was rooting for the evil dude to kill everyone just so the book would be over! (I read two of them this month.) It's frustrating.
8. Sex where its not necessary. Yes, sex is good. I like sex in a book when it belongs there. But if you have sweet Suzie Sugarpants, who is all of seventeen and untouched, dry humping the hero (sorry, I know that's rude) because he's cute (and that's the only reason), I'm probably going to vomit in my mouth. And if you've got two characters having sex against walls and doors and under tables in busy restaurants, but the conversation/interaction between them is so stilted that it can't even create a reason for them to be doing it...well, ptht. I'd rather read Charlotte Bronte. (No I wouldn't, but honestly...sex for sex's sake does not make a good book.)
9. No reasoning behind the emotion. This is probably one of the most frustrating issues I have with characters. Here's heroine Bonnie, clearly distraught at finding a woman wandering on the side of the road. She's in tears as she helps the obviously injured woman into her car & later breaks down with emotion. Why? I don't know! You tell me! If you don't give me a reason to go on, I just think your character is a nutjob. Jeez. God.
10. Gorgeous heroes/heroines with no other redeeming characteristics. Sure, hot guys are nice. I wouldn't kick Thor out of bed with two feet, but don't give me a guy with six pack abs and a face to die for and have him be a chauvinist pig or a total douchecanoe or a wimp and expect me to believe that the heroine would still want to be with him. I wouldn't put up with any of that - and if she's a strong woman, neither would she. Sorry. Don't buy it. Leave the pretty face out of it. Make him average. I don't give a shit. I'd rather lift my skirts for a guy who's likes me being tough and looks like he was hit by a mack truck, than for a guy who looks like Thor and wants me for a naked housekeeper.
That's all. Vent over.