Characters repeatedly using each other’s names in conversations
This is one of my biggest literary pet peeves, and one of the ones that I just find SO distracting. Imagine two characters, John and Jane, having a conversation, and their entire back-and-forth is just: “Hi Jane.” “Hi John.” “How are you, Jane?” “I’m good, John. What about you?” “I’m doing great, Jane.” Like ?????? When I think about how I have conversations in real life, I almost never use the names of the people I’m talking to in the conversation, so seeing this coming up so often in novels drives me crazy. Some inclusion of names is fine, but when every single line of dialogue includes the characters’ names, it’s extremely irritating. (I DNF’d The Atlas Six like less than 20 pages in because this dialogue issue was EVERYWHERE, and also the writing was just generally awful lol.)
Obvious/simplistic mannerisms or gestures
Another thing I’ve found that I don’t like: when authors give characters the most boring, simplistic gestures or mannerisms. “What do you think about this?” character A asked, putting her fingers to her chin and tilting her head inquisitively. Like, no. The characters start to feel like cartoons when their gestures/mannerisms are so obvious. Would love to see more subtlety than just tilting their head when they’re asking a question. 😬
Characters knowing things they can’t possibly know
I hate this so much. I can suspend my disbelief for a lot of things, but this is one that really annoys me. I’ll be reading a novel and then the character will just discover extremely detailed and specific things from A Look that another character gave them or whatever. People know a lot of things from studying other people, reading their body language, etc., but when characters start gleaning very convenient, important plot-relevant information just from a basic Look, I have trouble suspending my disbelief.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a major red flag for me, especially in romance, and will pretty much immediately lead me to DNF if I find it pervasive in a novel. I’ve seen so many egregious examples of gender essentialism in romance; there are truly so many wild examples I can think of (“a feminine chair” ??? really??).
Magical realism short stories whose entire plot is just “weird things happen”
I love short stories, but I encounter so many magical realism collections that are not trying to make any point or tell any kind of story beyond “weird things happen.” Throwing a bunch of “magical” stuff at me does not make your story an actual story lol. Would love something at least narrative-adjacent, or that has some degree of finesse.
Being told something without it being shown
Another self-explanatory one, but I see this so often, and it annoys me to no end. Character A will be like “wow, Character B is so funny!” when Character B has not shown anything even vaguely resembling a sense of humour. It takes me out of the story so fast, and really makes me distrust the book’s writing. I don’t want to be told to believe things that I don’t actually believe, based on the evidence from the novel.
Overly romanticized writing about books
Omg I find this so irritating. I hate books–especially fiction–about books. I love reading, as I’m sure a lot of us do lol, but I cannot stand overly romanticized writing about books that’s like Wow, that new book smell! I love cracking spines! Like ?? It doesn’t resonate with me at all; I don’t like to read because of the new paper smell or whatever. This kind of writing just strikes me as trying super hard to be Quirky and Special when sometimes reading is really not that deep. People like to read because people like to read. It doesn’t have to become this weird thing that Only Special People Do.