Pet Hates: Stop sighing and don’t get eaten

Small Chirp: Select Pet Hates from the Fantasy and Paranormal Genres

Sighing

When in doubt, make your character sigh.

In fact, make your characters sigh all the time! It adds depth to their already angsty personalities and highlights how tortured and put upon they are. It can also be used while daydreaming of that hawt actor look-alike across the room, to convey impatience with the police line that just won’t let the character ogle the corpse, or to express pure frustration when the villain, once again, slips out of a clever ambush. It can even convey boredom. It’s a very versatile act.

For an even better use of this elegant action, have your character (if female) fiddle around with the strands of her black-dyed hair as she stares about the bookstore sighing or (if male) glance broodingly around the coffee shop as he slumps in his seat with as sigh. Life is meaningless. This story is boring. The characters are deep.

Le sigh.

What age difference? It’s true love!

Sure the human girl may be super mature for her tender age of 13 (or 20, or 30) but you have to wonder what a 100-year-old (or 500, or 10,000 depending on how far out we’re going) immortal sees in her. Outside of the trope of soul-mates, in which case neither the poor girl or the put-upon immortal have much choice in their inevitable hook up, the age difference is taken so easily for granted. It blows my mind.

I am not comfortable with the idea of a 17 year old getting it on with a 70 year old. So why would it be okay for the 17 year old to hook up with a 170 year old vampire, or 17,000 year old angel, say? It’s because he’s still hawt, right? Somehow, the rules of common sense stop applying.

More to the point, what would an immortal who has lived several lifetimes see in a girl barely out of school? If you, dear reader, are in your twenties, let me ask you this: Have you ever had an honest heart to heart with your young tween cousins? As equals?

At best, such an immense age difference will lead to a skewed power dynamic between the partners. Worst case scenario, it implodes.

Love Soothes the Raging Beast

“Get away from me,” he yells as he begins the transformation into his beastly counterpart, “I cannot control myself! I shall attack you, eat your liver and appendix, suck the marrow from your bones, and then come morning, feel super guilty because you’re the first girlfriend I’ve had in five centuries! …so, like, run.”

“Nope! I lurves you,” says his girlfriend of one week.

“No, really, I will kill you.”

“Luuurve you. Gimme a hug.”

“Do you really want me to spend the next century and a half wracked with guilt over your death?”

“Hugtime!”

They hug, he gets his monster under control, and true lurve prevails.

In a perfect world he would have chomped on her liver and appendix, sucked the marrow from her bones, and then, come the morning after, gone hunting through the yellowbook pages for a therapist.

Johnny, it is not your fault.

___

What do you think, canaries? Should I work harder to suspend my disbelief? What are your pet peeves?

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10 thoughts on “Pet Hates: Stop sighing and don’t get eaten

  1. LOL. Loved your show-don’t-tell approach to illustrating your point. No, I think you should not have to work harder to suspend disbelief. That’s something the author should ease you into without your conscious awareness that it’s happening, in my opinion. And it’s also the most difficult thing to pull off because I’m such a critical, skeptical reader. As a writer, I strive to be like Stephen King in his ability to suck me into believing something ludicrous.

    • I really do love those books that pull me in and only much much later when I think about the overall story in the cold stark light of logic does it hit me: “Wait, what just happened there?”

  2. I agree with the sighing. Someone else brought my attention to it (can’t remember who though) and after that, I don’t think I let another character sigh again and reading about sighing now gets on my nerves. I’ve seen the age difference thing handled well, but also very badly. I think an immortal/human love story shouldn’t have said immortal be much older than, I don’t know, let’s say 300 at max, unless good reason has been given for it. Definitely not anything over 500. I think at that point, the immortal would pretty much stop resembling anything remotely human in personality. Those stories which do have an immortal/human thing going on that I didn’t really notice the age difference tended to be those which either had such excellent character development and plot that I didn’t care, or actually included those issues from said immortal being very old. The love thing…has ruined too many books, and it’s not just the raging beast bit. A series I truly was loving, The Night Angel series by Brent Weeks, ended with love conquering all and I put the last book down thinking “bullshit”. Sometimes, the love thing works, but most times it doesn’t. I’m all for letting love play a part in, say, controlling a raging monster, but not at the most crucial moment and not it being the only factor.

    Let’s see…greatest pet peeves…
    1. Well, lately, the big one is overusing dialogue tags, especially when it’s a conversation between two people. There are other ways of identifying who is speaking and, usually, in a two person conversation this needs to happen only every so often. Also, dialogue tags that aren’t said get on my nerves. Whispering is okay, so is shouting, occasionally rasping or moaning, but never those more creative ones. If I spot more than two weird dialogue tags within the first five pages of a book, it’s likely I’m not going to get to page ten.
    2. What else? Oh, info-dumping. I’ve been trying to read this book called The Fallen Blade, and within the first ten pages, the author has stopped the progression of the story to tell me something pointless, or to explain away the only mysteries that were keeping me reading. It’s now joined the collection of doorstops along with Dune (which is another pet peeve in and of itself).
    3. Anyone with rainbow hair or rainbow eyes.
    4. Any teenaged character who becomes a badass in six months. Actually, most teenaged characters have me putting books down. It’s probably why I can’t stand reading most YA books. I just can’t bring myself to believe that this grand army of veteran soldiers will put their lives in the hands of an untested, untrained sixteen year old…who then wins.
    5. Boring rehashes of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Crazy, unpronounceable words or names that either don’t have glossaries or don’t have the characters explaining how it’s said.
    6. Umlauts. I don’t know how to pronounce an umlaut, but I’m pretty sure it’s not said how most fantasy writers seem to think they’re pronounced (ie, however the writer wants).
    7. Names and location names that don’t match. I don’t like seeing the names John and Ann as characters next to a town called Cabaxalinarai, and they both are from the same fantasy country.
    8. Weirdly formal dialogue coming out of the mouth of a twelve year old, or weirdly formal dialogue coming out of everyone’s mouths to the point that if I removed the dialogue tags, I wouldn’t tell one character from the other.
    9. Boring villains.
    10. Boring heroes. Actually, I don’t particularly like hero characters much. I vastly prefer characters who either have the capacity to act heroic occasionally or inadvertently act heroic either for selfish reasons or some sort of loyalty to someone else. I don’t like characters who just decide to be heroes or a prophecy makes ’em a hero. I want a character who is a person first, then maybe a hero, but also with the capacity to do some really evil things.
    11. Vague prophecies that seemingly only match up to some regular joe, and it never occurs to anyone that it could be someone else this prophecy applies to.
    12. Stupid mistakes. Ballistas shoot giant arrows. Catapults shoot rocks. Trebuchets are probably what you want when sieging a castle, not the ballista, and if you ever tell me that the ballista is shooting rocks, I’ll beat you over the head with it.
    13. Boy-heroes who kill their first man and don’t react to it. Or they vomit a little but nothing else happens.
    14. Heroes who pick up a sword for the first time and are a “natural”.
    15. Female heroes who are unnecessarily sexually abused or raped and the trauma doesn’t effect them or at least, goes away right before she needs to save the world or fall in love with her one true love.
    16. Paranormal romances that always have a brooding vampire/werewolf who’s different from the rest of his kind and is some kind of social pariah falling in love with some human girl (usually 15 or something).
    17. Paranormal romances where the vampire, for some reason, decides human blood is “bad” and they want to be like a normal person…usually after terrorizing whole cities and killing hundreds of people or something.
    18. Urban fantasies that seem to think the more paranormal critters they put in, the better. This always makes me think, why the hell hasn’t anyone seen that unicorn living in the park? And why do I need to memorize the fifty-eight varieties of brownies, when the writer only needed one?
    19. Characters that don’t have any sort of desire and it’s not a character trait.
    20. Characters that are always PC no matter how they’re feeling.

    This list could go on for a long while. I have a lot of pet peeves. Some of these are forgiven by a gripping story or great characters. Some of these, if there’s enough of them, have me chucking the book across the room. Anyway, this is a rather long comment, so I’ll just end it here.

    • 2. Oh no, Dune! That book has a ‘favorite-sci-fi-book-of-all-time’ place on my shelf. Of course, I haven’t reread it since high school, but still, I demand an explanatory post on this topic! (Unless your issue is with the sequels, on which point I completely agree.)
      3. But she’s so speshul with her blue-green-purple eyes.
      4. You might just fall in love with Bujold’s Warrior’s Apprentice.
      5. I’ll take your ‘Boring rehashes of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.’ and raise you a ‘Tolkien’s Middle Earth’. I am a fantasy fail-fan: I barely managed to crawl my way through that trilogy I was so bored.
      9. Boring villains: Hear hear! I can take a boring hero if the villain is badass enough. But give me a lame villain and the story better have a romantic subplot to distract me from putting the book down.
      12. Stupid mistakes: How about them twenty pound swords. Or, you know, this: http://thecanaryreview.com/2011/06/29/friends-dont-let-friends-read-high-fantasy/
      Of course, I ended up hating that book with a passion (see exhibit c: http://thecanaryreview.com/2011/06/18/rothfuss-what-are-you-doing/ ), so perhaps it wasn’t entirely its fault.
      16. If I were part of the preternatural community, I sure as hell would make a pariah out of any pervert stalking a 10th grader. Sniff.
      17. Another book to put at the top of your reading list: Sunshine by Robin McKinley. The vampire-human dynamic is done so very well!
      19. Characters that don’t have any sort of desire and it’s not a character trait.

      What we need to do is get together and brainstorm fun canary charts for the peeves. They deserve some spotlight time! 😀

      • 2. Dune…well, I’m on page 3. I’ve been on page 3 for about four days now and I can’t seem to move past page 3. I’ve been told so often that Dune is incredible and I need to read it, and I was once accused to ripping off Dune in one of my oldest and dearest worlds, so I’m going to push onward and finish it. I think my greatest problem so far has been the combination of passive writing (the first paragraph has at least five examples of “was” use that aren’t really necessary. A small change to the sentence structure would’ve made the beginning a lot more gripping) and characters I don’t care about. I don’t care about Paul, or his prophetic destiny. He’s a boy in a bed who doesn’t say anything and doesn’t have anything interesting about him so far, and it’s killing my enjoyment of the story (true, I’m on page 3, but I hope that by page 3 or any story, I care a little bit about a character).
        3. Color changing eyes are especially evil.
        4. Well then, I definitely will keep an eye out for Warrior’s Apprentice.
        5. I’ll admit, I never finished Lord of the Rings. I didn’t even finish The Fellowship of the Ring. I have, however, finished both the Hobbit (three times) and The Silmarillion (which is one of my all-time favorite books). One day, I’ll try for the trilogy, but not any time soon.
        12. Ooooh, I hadn’t noticed the glass bit. Maybe it’s because it’s been a year or two since I started reading that book (it’s still waiting to be read…sitting lonely on my shelf…). The other one that gets me is when the world is based on medieval Europe and the average shepherd boy can read, but there’s not many books in the world nor some sort of educational system. Rather recently, I read a fantasy book by Carol Berg where the main character is from the privileged class and can’t read, unlike everyone else he happens to be with (mostly, transcribing monks). It’s a nice change.
        16. Oh, no I mean he’s a social pariah long before he falls in love with the 10th grader. And for some reason, either everyone is trying to kill his high school aged love or loves her, no matter how much they may (inexplicably) hate him.
        17. Oh, I’ll definitely be grabbing that one! I’ve been in search of a new vampire paranormal book lately.

        That sounds like a great deal of fun! They do deserve some spotlight time. 🙂

        • Okay, so here’s the thing about Dune. You have to power through the first 50-100 pages. Somewhere in that magical window, though, you will undergo the transformation from a normal, rational human being to a passionate Dune fangirl. 😀

  3. I always wondered what those ancient immortals think they see in mortals. Do other immortals think they’re pervs for pursuing humans? Do their mothers sigh deeply and say “She’s 40? She’s just a baby!” So glad to know that I’m not the only one wondering this.

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