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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

How to Annoy Your Readers

I know it can be hard to separate being a writer from a reader, but I believe the things that bugged us before we became writers drive us even crazier after we learn the craft. Case in point: I decided I needed a weekend off from writing and spent it reading some books I’d bought a while back but hadn’t read yet—contemporary, historical, and paranormal. I was part way through the first book of a three-book package getting irritated at the laundry list of hero/heroine’s attributes that indicated to the heroine/hero why he or she had fallen in love with that particular individual. It didn’t hit me at first why it irritated me so much (obviously the writer in me had taken the weekend off), but then I realized the author was telling me, not showing me the love-inducing traits. That author robbed me of what I consider critical reasons for investing my own emotions in the evolving relationship.

It prompted me to take a look at a few authors who excelled at showing those traits. When the hero/heroine did a mental recapped of why this person at this time, it was a much smaller list that reminded the reader of all the times the hero/heroine demonstrated those traits. Not only was it less annoying to me the reader, but it made the attraction and reason for falling in love that much more believable because I experienced those instances right along with the hero/heroine.

Personally, I don’t think my reading enjoyment has diminished as I’ve learned more about the craft—in a lot of ways it’s enhanced it. Now I savor a well-written opening and figures of speech because I know how hard they are to do well. And I really try to avoid annoying my readers!

Bonus: Pet Peeves

I’ve read this in quite a number of books by different authors who should know better. It’s easy to test and all of us have experienced if we’ve ever checked on a sick child, odd noise, or a trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Unless you sleep with a light on, when you wake up in the dark your eyes do not need to adjust to the dark! They are as adjusted as they ever will be. Depending on your wakefulness or need for glasses, your vision may be a little fuzzy, but that has nothing to do with night vision—or “adjusting to the dark.”

And why do authors think you can see colors in the dark, especially red, as in blood? Go outside at night and try it (okay, maybe you don’t want to try this with blood). Red is one of the first colors to disappear in low light. Adding in moonlight doesn’t buy you much on the color scale either. Again, it’s a simple test to verify. And seeing eye color at night? Seriously? All I have to say is go out at night and check it out. You might want to rethink that scene in your next thriller or mystery.

So what annoys you as a reader? Any personal pet peeves you want to share?


jean harrington said...

One annoyance for me when reading is obvious grammatical errors that remain uncorrected in the "finished" product. Case in point: In my last posting here at NYUS, titled Tough Guys, a typing error crept past my eagle eye. Geesh.

Anne Marie Becker said...

I'd agree that grammatical errors can be annoying. I also find the telling vs. showing issue is a reason to pass over a book. I used to not be able to put a book down unless I'd finished it. Now, I'm much more impatient and will move on to the next book if I don't like the voice, story, characters, or if I find anything annoying. Seems like, in today's world of publishing, it's so easy to find the next book that annoying readers can be especially dangerous!

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