Monday, November 18, 2019

The Crazy-Making by Brenda Chapman

Question: Which clichés, plot devices, or characters drive you crazy in the books you read? Let’s hear some pet peeves.


This week’s question is a good one but tougher to answer than one would think because even a clichéd plotline or character can work under the skilled pen of a good writer. However, I do have a few pet peeves that lessen my enjoyment of a book.

1.  Characters that don’t develop over a series or appear to learn from their mistakes. I read a few of the Janet Evanovich books featuring Stephanie Plum, which I initially found amusing but by about book four, I’d had enough of reading the same plot over again with the same hapless but ultimately successful lead character and the on-going love triangle. I felt similarly about Lee Child’s Jack Reacher hero although the last book I picked up further into the series had a more original plot and kept my interest. Sue Grafton’s long-running series works better for me because the plots vary and Kinsey Milhone’s character goes through many changes in her life. 

2.  Information dumps. While I know that authors have to slip in background on characters and plot to fill out the story, the skill and finesse with which the material is incorporated into a plot, to me, separates the novice from the experienced writer. When handled poorly, the information unload takes the reader out of the story and the action. 

3. A hammering home of the moral or message. Authors need to trust that readers will be able to figure out their underlying theme or whatever it is they're getting at through a character's journey without telling them. This is a particular peeve when watching Hollywood movies that hit you over the head, over and over again, with the moral of the piece.

4. Villains that have no real motivation. Sometimes the killer is carrying on a rampage for no discernible or credible reason (not that there ever is a good reason in real life) and they're so completely evil, I don't buy in. Which leads to ...

5.  Sensationalized violence. Most of the crimes in my books occur off the page and I do this on purpose because I don't enjoy reading the gory details of a murder. In fact, I close my eyes whenever it gets too graphic on t.v. The last book I read by Kathy Reichs centred around women being shackled, abused and murdered in somebody's basement - I was appalled and not particularly entertained.

6.  Illogical plot points. Again, speaking of movies and television shows, my husband and I will often comment on how illogical the plot has become, and how whatever just happened would be impossible or does not follow with what went on before. This is as glaring a pet peeve in books. I can suspend my belief up to a point and then I'm just annoyed.

7.  Endings that tell rather than show. In this I include more information-dumping with the author giving a long round-up of everything in the plot they figure I couldn't figure out of myself. Other story endings that bother me are ones that are rushed - I recently read and completely loved Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, except for the ending which covered decades in a few paragraphs and seemed implausible on closer inspection. (This said, the book is well worth a read).

So I hope this list is a good starting point for my fellow bloggers this week to get their pet peeves off their chests. Please feel free to add yours in the comments - 

quite cathartic really!

(And my pet peeve about posting this blog is how the font size keeps changing and I can't figure out how to fix it :-)


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Dietrich Kalteis said...

We share the same pet peeves, Brenda. A good list of things to not do.

7 Criminal Minds said...

Thanks Dietrich - I'm looking forward to reading your take later this week :-)

Dianne Brydon said...

My sorrow - can't call it a peeve - is that we never got a "z" in the Kinsey Milhone series, sadly due to Sue Grafton's death. A problem if authors have an arc they want to finish through a series...

7 Criminal Minds said...

Thanks Dianne - Yes, Sue Grafton's death was an immense loss but we are fortunate to have her almost-completed series.

Susan C Shea said...

I share your unhappiness about the wrap-up explaining what happened, but I have been guilty of it in one book especially because of my own set-up. I couldn't wriggle my way out of the need for it unless I rewrote a rather large part of the plot,and since my editor was okay with it, I crossed my fingers readers would be too. It's a tough one. Good post!

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Susan - Yes landing the ending without an explanation is tough. I don't always accomplish it either as well as I'd like, but sometimes you have to fill in the reader.