I have a few pet peeves when I’m reading a book, any book, and because they’re my pet peeves, I go out of my way to try to avoid the things I dislike in my own writing.
My first pet peeve is the hero/heroine that is TSTL (too stupid to live). I’ve been reading an e-book that was free (good thing it was, too) and I thought the blurb looked interesting. So, I downloaded said book onto my Kindle and that night I started reading. A few pages into said e-book, I’m thinking that the heroine is a Mary Sue. Okay, we’ve all written one of those and perhaps, to some extent, all our characters are Mary Sues or Gary Stews. As the creative force in a character, some of ourselves does tend to bleed over into those characters. I could condone that. Two thirds of the way into this book, however, I realized the heroine was not only a Mary Sue, she was going to become a TSTL character. The hero, a supernatural being, has spent the last several chapters begging the heroine to not confront the completely, totally, evil supernatural being devoid of anything resembling a conscience all by herself. Guess what she did? Sigh…all by her little lonesome…I didn’t finish said book and I’m debating deleting it from my Kindle. I wondered how in heaven’s name said book was published, so I checked the front page for publication information. Oh, here’s a surprise. It was self-published. That is not to say that there are not a lot of good self-published books out there, but if you want to self-publish, for the love of heaven, hire a good editor!
Another of my pet peeves is head hopping. Because I struggle with POV on a regular basis (just ask my editor, she’ll tell you), I am hyper-sensitive to it in other works. I don’t like reading and feeling like I’m trying to follow a tennis match. For the love of all that’s holy, STOP HEAD-HOPPING! If the character you’re working with can’t see it, touch it, taste it, smell it, or feel it, and you’re writing about how the character’s face twisted with anger—you’re probably NOT in that character’s POV. Most of us don’t think, “Gee, I’ll bet my face is twisted in anger,” when we’re angry.
My last pet peeve is probably my biggest peeve and a guaranteed manner to insure I’m not buying your book. I will read the free sneak peek on Amazon for a book and if I find a glaring historical inaccuracy, I’m not purchasing said book, no matter how good the sneak peek is. Matter of fact, I stop reading at that inaccuracy. As someone who has a major in history to go with my master’s in English, and is totally anal about historical accuracy, historical inaccuracy is the fastest way to make me stop reading because you’ve now destroyed the sense of suspended disbelief that any reader must maintain to get into a book.
Case in point…I was reading the sneak peek of a book and the author began describing the uniform of a doctor serving during the Civil War. He was dressed in grey…okay, he was with the Confederate forces. So far, so good. He had shoulder boards with M.S on the board…Oh, the author did not just write that…the vast majority of Confederate troops DID NOT have shoulder boards, in a deliberate attempt to keep their uniforms different from those of the Union. On his collar, which was buff colored, was his rank in “intricate scrollwork.” Not unless he was a general…and the author wrote this doctor was a captain, and general was one star per rank as general, encompassed within a laurel wreath design. Okay, captain would be three bars on the collar—no scrollwork. The scrollwork was on the sleeves of the frock coats, shell jackets, and greatcoats, and the pattern was an Austrian (or sometimes called a Hungarian) knot, and again, the number of the braids determined the rank. Captain would have two rows of braid worked into that Austrian knot pattern on the sleeves. Then the author wrote about the yellow stripe on the outside seam of said doctor’s trousers and the red sash this doctor was wearing. Lemme get this straight…this guy was so far out of uniform he should have been arrested as a spy and shot on sight, or arrested for impersonating a general, or something. Yellow meant cavalry. Red was for artillery. The medical corps on either side of the conflict had black velvet stripes on the outside trouser seam, and most of the medical corps of the Confederacy had black trim on the jackets, frock coats, and great coats. Green was also an approved color for the medical corps, so black trim with a green sash would have been fine. Not cavalry trousers, artillery signification with the red sash, buff trim which was only for generals and general officers, and scrollwork on the collar!
In this day of much easier research with the internet, there is no excuse for historical inaccuracy. It took me five minutes on Google to find everything I needed when I needed to write about signifying rank on a Confederate officer’s uniform.
So, what’s your pet peeve when reading a book?