1. Michael Shaw
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    Michael Shaw Member

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    Have you ever read something annoying?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Michael Shaw, Jun 17, 2013.

    The title of this thread may be confusing, but I did not want it to be to lengthy, so I'll elaborate.


    This is meant to be a discussion thread, so here's the discussion question: Have you ever been reading a book (maybe even a bestseller), and come across something that just irritates you? Be it typos, structuring, story elements, writing style, some things can get under a reader's skin. And being a writer, things may even make you more annoyed than an average reader would be. So respond here and reveal your own experience. What has irritated you in a book (or any piece of literature) that you've read?

    Note: This thread is all about subjectivity, for it refers to things you personally have found annoying. Plenty of conflicting views will be found here. Something a person finds annoying may be something you find appealing, so be ready to see an opinion that may not be your own.

    I'll start. The Hunger Games is a very popular book (obvious statements: we all make them). I have yet to read it, though, because something always irritates me when I try to read it. It's written in present-tense. I just get bothered when I see fiction written in present tense. It annoys me. I will try to read it again, though, because I'm probably missing out on a great read just because I won't "try something new" and read something that isn't written in what I'm used to: past tense. I'm going to try to open up and give it a crack again.
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I reckon that might annoy me as well. I can't think of any books I've read recently that are in present tense ...so maybe they put me off before I even started!

    Me? I'm not a huge fan of confusing arty-fartyness in novels and short stories. I like to get sucked into a story's world, forget all about the author, and just enjoy reading. I detest having to back up and re-read passages because I haven't a clue what's going on. I want to think deeply about the book and make the thematic connections AFTER I've finished reading.

    If the author is intrusively clever with self-conscious word choices, points of view, sentence structure, description, simile, metaphor, etc, very often I don't finish reading the story.

    My most recent encounter with this kind of stylistic goo was in Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall ...you know, that book that won every literary award on the planet. I bought it, because I love reading fiction based on history, and was SO disappointed. I'm sure there is a great story lurking in there, but I'm danged if I can get to it, through all that intentionally-created waffle.

    There are exceptions, though. Some authors do get away with quirky-clever style. One is E Annie Proulx. Her style choices not only smack you in the face, but they clap you around the head and give you frequent swift kicks in the butt as well. But somehow her style works, at least for me. I think that's because, while her style is overwhelming, her story is always clear. I never have to pause and re-read, wondering "what just happened here?"

    The Shipping News is one of my favourite modern books, as are E Annie Proulx's short stories. I did avoid reading her stuff for a long time, because I had thumbed through The Shipping News in a bookstore, and thought ...urgh. But people kept saying: "read it, it's great!" So eventually I did. It always pays to try reading something you think you might not like. But don't feel bad if you still don't like it, after you've tried.

    It's horses for courses. There's more than one 'right' way to write.
     
  3. Michael Shaw
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    Michael Shaw Member

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    I agree with you wholeheartedly on the need for clarity when getting clever. I think so many writers take pride in the neat way they communicate this or that thing, but communication itself might be lost because of it! I admire the writers that can include both the art and the clarity. :)
     
  4. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    Kevin J. Anderson books. I have a bad habit of finishing things, even if I hate them. I read his entire series, the Sage of Seven Suns...and started hating it after book two. It was a lame version of Star Wars, and the only decent character was the villain, who did some really stupid things (despite being a smart one for most of the series). 7 books later, and I swore off the guy. Nothing personal to him, but the books just dragged.

    In a more recent book, non-fictional, from Thomas Friedman, "Hot, Flat, and Crowded"...He uses acronyms and slogans, repeatedly. That's what he does, constantly. The whole book is about making annoying catch phrases that make you want to cry. HATE that.
     
  5. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    So you get annoyed by 75% of literature?
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Most literature is written in past tense, not present tense.
     
  7. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    Well most books i read are in present tense and they are really great reads. How could you get annoyed with good literature?
     
  8. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    Is that true? Wow! I have read very few present tense novel. I guess I must be annoyed by it too because if that number is correct my chances of picking up a present tense novel should be very high.

    Anyway, I am really annoyed when I find italics for thoughts (can't remember any titles right now). It just comes across as laziness on the part of the writer.
     
  9. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me, it's when writing turns lame. For example, wishful thinking on author's behalf, being too attractive to all women he meets, or knowing everything, or prevailing in some unrealistic way that relies on him being so incredibly cool, stuff like that can ruin a perfectly good novel for me. The 'Millennium Trilogy' I had some trouble with because of this. On one hand, the plot was riveting and on the other was this main character who had every single woman in the story literally throw herself at him, over the course of three books. Ew.
    Also, male writers compulsively describing female characters appearance and clothes. It can get torturous.

    [MENTION=30638]Fullmetal Xeno[/MENTION]: I am very well read and I have come across maybe one or two decent present-tense books so far. It's not a popular tense to write in, it's quite uncommon.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I see so few books in the present tense that I find myself trying to figure out a way that we could differ on the definition of present tense, though it's hard to see how. Can you name a few? I'm not really doubting you; I'm assuming that there must be a lot of present-tense books in some genres that I never touch, or something.

    I Googled to try to find a percentage, and the closest to an answer I got is that the percentage of present tense novels is "inifinitesimal". :) I'm relieved to see that I'm not deeply confused. I do see that an increasing percentage of YA novels use the present tense.
     
  11. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    I honestly dont see what's wrong with present tense. It's just a tense after all.
     
  12. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    Maybe it could be the certain genres i read that are written in present tense, i don't know... I just don't see past tense books more than present.
     
  13. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm sure you are right :)
     
  14. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    When I realize that a book is going to have no meaning, that it's just a pointless chain of events. Also, and this has only happened to me once, but redaction. I picked up a replacement copy of David Gerrold's A Matter for Men, got about halfway through and noticed parts seemed to be missing. Did a little research and come to find that the replacement copy I had picked up in the used book store was the first printing of the book where the publisher demanded the portrayal of a gay relationship be removed. My original copy was a later printing at a different publication house where Gerrold was allowed to have the book the way he had written it. :/
     
  15. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Novels that read like encyclopedias or dictionaries. I love reading books involving the military and political intrigue, but give me a break! Talk about infodumps. Even authors with great reputations seem to get bogged down in 'teaching' instead of storytelling... A secondary irritant is that many of the 'good guys' in these same books express political views I hate, so I do sometimes find myself hoping they get a little more comeuppance they normally do.
     
  16. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    That's a long way from "75% of all literature".
     
  17. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This.
    There's this novel by Väinö Linna called The Unknown Soldier. Back in the 1950s or so it was considered too anti-war and its language too explicit. Now I can't find its uncensored version anywhere (in someone's infinite wisdom it was even published under a different name!), it's probably sold out, while it's no problem to get your hands on the old, censored version.

    Depending on the way it's executed, I don't mind learning stuff from fictional novels. Of course I do acknowledge it's fiction, but if I read fiction from an ex-SAS, I'm happy to learn combat stuff from it.

    On the other hand, it's annoying when the author tries to appear knowledgeable about stuff they know jacks*it about, when it's blatantly clear they skipped their research. In fields I myself know nothing about, stuff like this does escape my attention, but when it is something I do know about, I get annoyed. One recent example: Tanya Huff's Valor-series. The human MC runs 50 kilometers as something akin to a morning jog and isn't even depicted to be tired afterwards. I started to wonder if the North-American author was fuzzy about the length of a kilometer. Or maybe she's never run 50K herself. Either way, it kinda pissed me off cos I'm an ok long-distance runner and 50K, first thing in the morning for funzies, and then swimming and boinking my bf right after that like I had just walked my dog around the block... Come on!

    Of course shoddy editing is always annoying, or a clumsy translation.
     
  18. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I read annoying things all the time. One thing, which I had not come across before (or at least don't remember) is in a book I just read called One Last Thing Before I Go. The character needs an operation to save his life and for a while refuses to have it. Whether his confusion is due to all kinds of personal conflict or due to his medical condition isn't made entirely clear, but constantly there would be a narrative passage, where the character would be thinking about, for example, how sorry he was for having done something but how great it had just been to make love to his ex-wife, and after that narrative passage, it would be revealed that he had said all of that out loud and other characters would react accordingly. I really didn't like that at all, especially since it was done many times -- if it had just been one time, I wouldn't have minded.
     
  19. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    Stephen King's reliance upon his fancy new word processor, back in the 1980s drove me away from his writing. I still have not gone back. That and his penchant for writing the entire story and each scene, from the point of view of each of the characters, as though padding the book was a great idea.

    "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant". Worst book I ever read. In senior English class, our teacher had us all read that book. Afterward, our task was to "re-write the ending so it doesn't suck anymore." Her words. 1985.
     
  20. TheDistantShip
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    TheDistantShip Member

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    When the protagonist is an absolute idiot. I read one series, forget the name now, but the author went all John Bunyan and labeled every bad guy, and good guy for that matter. Think characters with the names Goodman and Badman, and those would be imaginative names for this guy.
    It really sucks all the excitement from a book when every "friendly stranger" is labeled with his affiliation within the first few seconds of meeting him.
    The final straw was that the protagonist fell for it EVERY time.
    I didn't finish that series.
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    present tense puts me off reading immediately... first person present tense is the worst--an amateurish abomination, imo...

    i am also, along with shadow walker, annoyed to distraction by the show-offy, pedantic technical infodumps writers like tom clancy are so fond of subjecting their readers to, in the middle of an otherwise good story... done without, clancy's hefty tomes [the pre-franchised ones, that is] would have been just normal-sized novels...
     
  22. 7thMidget
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    I also wanted to read The Hunger Games, but the 1st person present tense also killed me right from the start. It's not like I hate reading books like that, but that one in particular completely failed to attract me. I had already seen the movie, anyway, so I wasn't too curious about the book. I just wanted to have a better idea of how the story originally unfolded, because I didn't love the movie at all, but the idea seemed really promising.
     
  23. Anthony Martin
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    Anthony Martin Active Member

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    I am bothered when authors recycle formulas in a series. Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series comes to mind.
     
  24. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    One word: infodumps. Such poor writing practice, as a rule. Exposition and story should go hand in hand, and not be separated into infodumps and action.
     
  25. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can think of only one present tense novel, it was done in first person POV, which I ever attempted to read. It was so tedious that I could not get through the first chapter. Xeno, could you possibly give us the name/author of one such tome that is a "really great read"?

    Great (or even good) literature, like everything else, is really a relative concept. What one considers 'good' someone else may well consider trash.
    Good literature, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
     

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