20 Responses to “Ask the editor: What do you hate?”

  1. Rhonda Stapleton August 24, 2010 at 2:02 PM #

    You hit on a few of mine, Angela! Here are a couple of others (I’m pretty sure I could go on and on all day about this, LOL):

    –Characters who do things that normal, rational people wouldn’t do. Like, having the heroine go after the villain at night, by herself, in a dark alley or whatever. Normal, rational people would go, YEAH RIGHT. And yet you see this kind of irrational bravado in stories all the time.

    –Bad soap-opera dialogue. Don’t make your characters say things in dialogue that is already mutually understood between them. E.g., “Bradley, I’m your sister. And you know Mom said right before she died that the inheritance would go to both of us. And yet our evil uncle is trying to claim it.” Okay, horrible example, but you get my gist.

    –Insta-love that comes out of nowhere. In a romance, the love that grows between the characters needs to be founded and grounded in plausibility. I dislike when characters hate each other, and then suddenly love each other. Or when their love grows abnormally fast for no rational reason.

  2. Angie August 24, 2010 at 2:03 PM #

    Oh, those are good examples! You reminded me of something with the bad soap-opera dialogue! Anytime I see “that fateful night/day/time” I roll my eyes.

  3. Katrina August 24, 2010 at 2:04 PM #

    I’m right with you on the unclean sex, but I thought it was just me, like I was supposed to be so into it that I wouldn’t be thinking about things like bacteria.

    The other thing I hate is heroes who have a complete personality change out of nowhere at the end of the book. The ones who go from misogynistic and verbally abusive to adoring, all because of the love of an angelic, much-maligned woman. Please. An a-hole is an a-hole, and you can’t change an a-hole. (I guess that thought also works for the point about unclean sex.)

  4. Angie August 24, 2010 at 2:06 PM #

    The other thing I should have added to the unclean sex part was the use of sticky, sugary foods on (or in) women’s private parts. I just can’t suspend my disbelief past the yeast infection she’s going to get, lol!

  5. Karina Cooper August 24, 2010 at 2:08 PM #

    Those are all excellent points! I agree with all of them.

    What makes me, personally, want to throw a book across the room are two easy things and one complex:

    1. A hero that beats up on the heroine. I’m not talking a slap across the face to get through hysteria or a swat on the rear, or a fight scene between two strong, physically capable characters to seed plot/conflict. It’s intent that breaks it. I once read a historical where the hero let fly an open-handed slap of anger that bruised the heroine’s cheek and made it swollen. I gave that hero a piece of my mind.

    2. Details. Details, details, details! I like detail, but for the love of all that is sane, don’t treat me like I’m five years old and can’t comprehend what “blue eyes” are. I’ve read books where the details of every description were painstakingly force fed to me. We’re talking three pages to describe the elegant embroidery on a man’s shirt cuff! We’re talking seven different ways to declare a man’s eyes “blue” in two bloody paragraphs! I gave up.

    3. The Mary Sue complex. This phrase gets bandied around a little too loosely for it to really mean more than “I am annoyed by the heroine”, but I mean the honest to goodness issue where a heroine is physically perfect (gorgeous, a genius, excellent fashion sense—or fashion sense SO atrocious that you can’t help but love her—etc.) but utterly boring. I mean, she can do anything, be anything, achieve anything. Any bad stuff that happens to her is simply to show that bad stuff can happen, and she overcomes with only token effort.

    What really makes a Mary Sue is the sincerity with which an author presents her: the author actually intends the reader to swallow this all, flutter our lashes and sigh, “I want to be like her.” The author will fight anyone who suggests that Mary Sue is anything but an extremely well-rounded, deep character with reasons for being how she is.

    It’s the kind of writing that makes me feel not just talked down to, but actually insulted.

    Mary Sues can be hilarious in satires and parodies, or in books who don’t take themselves too seriously. I don’t mind them as a rule, but only as long as no one’s insulting my intelligence by presenting them, right?

    Those are my main three. I’ll stop reading if I encounter these, and yes, there is book throwing. But not… very hard. I always feel guilty when I throw books.

  6. Katrina August 24, 2010 at 2:09 PM #

    Rhona, your dialogue example is frighteningly close to a convo between some secondary characters in a book I recently put down (after about 20 pages).

    They were at home when an older woman walked up the driveway. The man turned to his wife and said something like, “That’s my mother. She left us when I was ten. I haven’t seen her since,” at which point his wife expressed surprise.

    All I could think was, “You married this woman and she never once asked why your mom never turns up for Thanksgiving? Are you kidding? Was it a mail-order bride arrangement, and did you just get married this morning?”

  7. Jen August 24, 2010 at 2:10 PM #

    The evil twin!

    You just know when an author intros a set of twins that one is pure evil. This drives me nuts (unless they were raised in different homes…then at least there is usually a rational explanation while one is saintly and the other devilish).

  8. charles frenzel August 24, 2010 at 2:12 PM #

    Number two, the big misunderstanding. I’ve never developed sufficient spite to adequately express my nausea at the whole idea of basing something on the Big M. It’s such a prevalent crutch in TV that I wonder why viewers don’t revolt. Thanks for picking it as one of your top three, though I hope you’ll move it to number one eventually. And while I couldn’t agree more with your other two choices, there’s something insidious about misunderstandings and why so many are inclined to find them funny. It must be a cultural throwback in our social evolution.

    And don’t forget, violence is often excused or at least passed over in terms of a misunderstanding. So, as an editor, throw ’em all out. We like your little eccentricities.

  9. Angie August 24, 2010 at 2:14 PM #

    Oh, Charles, they’re not in any particular order!

    Katrina, this made me laugh: They were at home when an older woman walked up the driveway. The man turned to his wife and said something like, “That’s my mother. She left us when I was ten. I haven’t seen her since,” at which point his wife expressed surprise.

    All I could think was, “You married this woman and she never once asked why your mom never turns up for Thanksgiving? Are you kidding? Was it a mail-order bride arrangement, and did you just get married this morning?”

  10. charles frenzel August 24, 2010 at 2:24 PM #

    Perhaps you could add “Outstanding Inadequacy, a hook to sentiment” as another target for thrown books.
    “Oh, doctor, I simply don’t deserve you…but please continue trying to make me change my mind.”

  11. Kati August 24, 2010 at 2:25 PM #

    I’m with you on the unclean sex! Especially oral sex after backdoor play.

    Another being the pre-backdoor sex enema. I read an erotic romance that had seriously probably 15 pages on the enema. Oh-ew!! Why not include a rectal exam as the icing on the cake?

  12. Angie August 24, 2010 at 2:26 PM #

    Oh, Kati, I’ve never read a book with an enema. I now count myself lucky!

  13. Lynn Crain August 24, 2010 at 2:43 PM #

    I have to agree with every one of the things on your list. I really had the misunderstanding thing big time. Why people never talk in romance is beyond me. I know that if I didn’t talk to the DH things would be bad. So why don’t authors get it?

    For me, the biggest thing I have an issue with is heroines, or heroes for that matter, too stupid to live. The TSTL thing is a biggy for me. I mean, would someone really go into a house with an evil demon in it without some sort of protection? Really now. And how about those zombies? Hello…you have to be born under a rock not to know about them…or vampires or ghosts or evil. Please.

    And then there are those who think they know what sci-fi is but don’t. If you are going to make up something fine, please keep your own rules straight. If you’re going to use cutting edge technology, please make sure you know what it is first, how it works and why it works. Sigh. That is so annoying to me. I once had to put in an explanation because a beta reader told me a fact I had used wasn’t valid any more. I researched the fact and found out while it was being questioned, there was no definitive answer regarding that particular topic. Readers do notice if you just try to slide by and I am very aware of that fact.

    The last thing for me would be not to tie up all the loose ends. I mean, sure I love reading series but the next book needs to be about the new characters not something regarding the old. Meaning the author really needs to complete the first book with the first set of characters. Please finish their story because if they don’t, I won’t read another one. And yeah, there are many famous authors who do this all the time. There is a difference between finishing the current novel and finishing the series.

    I have read many books only part way then giving them the toss for any of the items on my list as well as yours. My reading time is limited and yes, I am so picky any more but what I really want is great romance in a very entertaining package.


  14. Ella Drake August 24, 2010 at 4:04 PM #

    I agree with everything on your list & thank goodness I’m not the only one who thinks that about sweet food stuffs and yeast infections.

    The last book I had to put down had a gun-shot hero still manly man enough to carry the heroine to bed and have sex. With no pain or mobility issues.
    I don’t think so.
    Took me right out of the story.
    I remember when characters get hurt & I can’t help but consider if they’re able to do the things they do while injured. Not sure if everyone does this, but I can’t help it. I’m fine with a hero toughing it out, keeping it all in, and all that, but please, at least put a band-aid on the bullet hole so I can pretend it’s been taken care of!

  15. Lisa J August 24, 2010 at 4:24 PM #

    This is just me in general, but the incorrect use of their, there, they’re, your, you’re totally makes me crazy. It takes me out of the story as I picture my English teacher in school with THAT look on her face as we listened to her umpteenth lecture on the proper use.

    I know I’m weird this way, but I had to stop going to a local gas station when they had a sign which read “Your number one with us!”

  16. Laurie h August 24, 2010 at 4:35 PM #

    I think for me, a huge dealbreaker is where we have a warrior-whether he’s a cop, a vampire or a medieval Scotsman-who is with a woman who has known he is a warrior from day one, but can’t handle the realism of his job. Example: when our heroine sees our hero strApping on weapons, or actually fighting, and she has a change of heart. Then the hero has to spend the rest of the book making her see him as sensitive. He’s a freaking warrior!!

  17. Katrina August 24, 2010 at 4:38 PM #

    Ha! Lisa, I’m with you. I’m an editor in my day job, and I know I make a lot of mistakes (like misspelling Rhonda’s name in my comment above – sorry, Rhonda!), but if a book makes me reach for my red pen, then the magic’s lost. I shift back into work mode and struggle to get back into the story.

  18. Lisa J August 24, 2010 at 5:04 PM #


    Thanks for making me feel like it’s okay to be weird about this one.

  19. Natalie J. Damschroder August 24, 2010 at 8:45 PM #

    OMG yes on the unclean sex. I read a book that had the hero and heroine in hiding in a rugged cabin, no running water, having oral sex after three days of not showering AND having sex every day. EWWWWWWWWW.

    And Lisa J. and Katrina, add me to that list! If compound adjectives that are supposed to be hyphenated are not, or apostrophes are used (or not used!) inappropriately, I’m done. I mean, it takes more than one error, but I’ve seen books riddled with that stuff and it drives me insane.

  20. Imogen W August 25, 2010 at 7:38 AM #

    Oohhh… good topic! Had to wrestle with this one, and ended up with
    1. Bratty heroines
    2. Huge misunderstandings (again!)
    3. Lies that will inevitably unravel.
    Had gone into more detail on my post: http://wp.me/p12srI-2X

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Angela James

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