Thursday, 12 August 2010

Book Orphans

I have piles…

…actually only one but that got your attention, right? It’s a pile of ‘abandoned’ books that I have teetering by my bedside. In fact the orphans by now far outweigh the ‘To-Read’s. Which is a bit sad.
It’s difficult to know what to do with them. Although in the past I have been known to chuck them across the room straight into the bin. I daredn’t name names. With all these networking sites I can’t take that risk. Suffice is to say it ‘twee-ed’ me to death and I couldn’t bear it any longer. I actually felt insulted. But it would probably have delighted the next person. If Twee be their cuppa tea.
I do, however, have a small list of things that really get my goat. *clears throat*:

A Contents list. And by this I mean a list at the beginning of the book with chapter number followed by chapter title. Because a lot can be learnt from the title of a chapter. And if this is at the front of the book, then it’s going to be read before, say, Chapter One is even reached. I picked up one such book recently and by the time I’d read the titles in the contents list, I felt I’d already read the whole book. And after I’d read the first few actual pages, I was waiting for the *Chapter 1 heading* to happen. Which it did. Followed by the *Chapter 2 heading* that was about to happen. OMG. It felt so pointless. So annoying.

Mixing up the tenses/typos And, while we’re at it – isn’t this what a copy editor/proof reader is paid to iron out before it gets as far as our hands anyway? Once or twice I can kind of forgive, but every other page? No thanks. Unless the book comes with a packet of Panadol and/or a bar of Galaxy.

An MC who either works as a Florist (and there’s a LOT of those lately) an Advertising Exec, or anywhere Big in Media – or all three at the same time. Please, for crikey sake can’t we have some ordinary people who work at the Town Hall, Tesco or in the local Chippy?

A Preface. The more obscure, the heavier it sits on my mind as I try and read the rest of the story. What did it mean? Is *this* the person/situation it was alluding to? Am I missing something? Why was I given this information to begin with? I don’t know what to do with it – where does it fit? Should I skip to the end to make sure I’ve understood it properly or should I just open the nearest bottle of wine?

Too many characters. I can cope with two main and two secondary. And I’ll let those also have minor acquaintances but character overload equals brain malfunction. I want to feel close to my main characters; please don’t dilute. I once read a book that had 16 main characters. Never again. There aren’t enough highlighter pens in a set to keep up. Same with maps of the fictional area. What’s all that about?

Designer-names. If I find another MC who has a fabulous Louis Vuitton bag/scarf or hankers after some Jimmy Choos, then she’s joining that Twee book on the next flight into the WPB. What’s wrong with having a bag you got in the Matalan sale anyway? What are you implying? Aren’t I good enough for you?

Too many commas in one, sometimes five line, sentence. Please… I know the comma-splice ‘rule’ but let’s be realistic about it, okay - I thought reading was supposed to be an enjoyable experience? I don’t want to have to track back half a page to find out how the sentence began. This is not the reason I bought you.

Babies/toddlers: who get in the way. Perfectly ok if they’re the main reason FOR the story but if there’s action and/or conversation going on – please – give the child a dummy or ten quid to get out of a scene or two. References to them are fine but an interjection by them… no thanks. They’re just an annoying distraction and I have enough of those in my life already, thanks.

p.s. I got SO annoyed once, right at the end of one of  Tony Parson's books when his characters were dancing to Britney Spears' "Do that to me one more time" that I spent an eternity tracking him down to point out the error of his ways... I don't know if he ever read the e-mail  but I've never bought another of his books... so that'll teach him, won't it?!

Pet Peeves anybody?


Bernadette said...

Interesting list!

I have my own but it's so long I don't have time to put it all here, though I do get put off by characters called e.g. Tristan and Lucinda.

It was suggested by a publisher that I reset my novel in advertising or the media as my setting was too boring and people wouldn't relate to it.

bondgirl said...

Please, what's the comma-splice rule?

Anonymous said...

Dialogue in a foreign language gets me, if it goes beyond, say, a basic salutation. Even if there's a translation.
And, obscure literary references, or cosy references to people of whom you've never heard. It can exclude the reader.
'Look at me!' the author is crowing, 'I understand foreign languages, I went to university, I'm clever, I'm an intellectual!'
PS. And you're in the bin.

Caroline Green said...

A bit like Bernadette's this one...I can't stand it when adults, especially men, call their mothers 'Mummy'. Maybe ok for Sebastian Flyte and that's about it! I just think, 'grow up you soppy idiot.' [Sorry! Harsh!]

I'm not madly keen on book's written from a child's perspective, although, unlike Gillian, I like parenthood or children as themes.

Ellen Brickley said...

Designer labels annoy me - particularly when owned by characters who have no way to afford them. Single women living in large cities, working for disrespectful bosses and spending a lot of money on rent and socialising, they probably aren't spending a lot of money on shoes and handbags.

I don't mind it if the person is revealed to be in massive debt (I quite like that, actually, because I'm a cow) or of their job is genuinely high-powered and well paid, but office girls in Jimmy Choos get under my skin.

Roderic Vincent said...


A comma spice is when you use a comma to join two independent clauses, they should be separated by a full stop or a semicolon.

Roderic Vincent said...

or splice!

Geraldine Ryan said...

I too am put off by certain posh names and by labels and dialogue in a foreign language I don't understand. Like all that Greek in TS Eliot, for instance.

I am put off by wet characters too, particularly women who let their parents/partners/children/pets walk all over them.

Oh, and animals. Not everyone thinks animals are cute.

And I hate it when people have no money but by no money it means they have to let the help go or sell the holiday cottage.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Great lists! Bernadette, it was suggested by an agent that my novel would send publishers running for the hills because it WAS set in the media!!
The pile of orphan books by my bedside and in my bookcase is growing alarmingly recently. One thing which really drives me mad is loads of characters whose names begin with the same letter.

Gillian McDade said...

Great blog. This made me laugh. I don't use babies or toddlers in my work due to unfamiliarity! Heck I've never even changed a nappy or fed a baby!

Csilla Toldy said...

This is a great list, and indeed it could go on.

I try to avoid repetitions in my own writing. In any good quality reading it does not happen very often that I find the same adjective on a page twice. For me this is a sign of overwriting.

Now, just recently I re-read Women in Love by DH Lawrence and found that it is riddled with repetitions and dialogue in French for that matter. The novel was porbably so groundbreaking at the time that no editor bothered with these little mistakes, while trying to edit out as much of the explicit sex as possible.

So yes, foreign language can exclude the reader, unless it is just as well known as Heil Hitler.