Writing Tips

Wednesday’s Pet Peeves

Next time, I’ll post about what I love to see in manuscripts. For now, these pet peeves keep me up at night. Here are four things that irk me:

1. The phrase: “He’d gone too long without a woman.” It’s okay for your romantic hero to have a dry spell. Too often, though, I see this very sentence. Let me repeat it: He’d gone too long without a woman. Isn’t it strange? It makes me think of the Old West, maybe Kris Kristofferson smoking a cheroot, confessing to his deputy as he strides toward the saloon. Wouldn’t ya know, Kristofferson does say this sentence in Fire Down Below* when Steven Seagal uncovers his illegal toxic dumping in the hills of Appalachia. The phrase is so ancient sounding, I’ll bet Kristofferson hated saying it.

2. This is my own problem and I’m getting therapy for it. I don’t like when “quietly” is used to mean “softly.” Isn’t quiet supposed to mean “silent?” She tiptoed quietly–which means no sound, right? I just checked a dictionary and it gives conflicting definitions: yes, silent and yes, restrained sound. Hmmmm. I change it only half the time because, technically, it must be right.

3. A heroine who states at the beginning of the book that she has no time for a relationship because she’s so focused on her career. Sure this woman exists, but in a romance novel, the heroine should have something  super-bad or significant happen for her to express this and mean it. “Oh pshaw, I’m not interested in dating because I’m all work, work, work,” she says. LIAR! I say this with love because I’ve uttered these words aloud before and have never meant them. I love multitasking! An alternative for the career-focused heroine could happen like this: Don’t have her tell us that she’s pro-career/anti-love. Show us maybe that she’s petrified of a relationship, really, really doesn’t want one. Make us feel her fear. Time goes by, she’s still afraid. She’s almost maniacal about other things, anything but facing the reality of intimacy. The reader should see why it scares her from the beginning. It should be palpable without her having to say it.

A fun career-focused heroine is the one who’s truly done. After two loser marriages and far too many brain cells wasted, she can’t stomach another hero, is way too tired. Show us how exhausted she is without her being too whiny. This could have a touch of humor attached.

4. This dialogue tag bugs me: “So, where are you going after the sock hop?” his mama wanted to know. How is “wanted to know” a dialogue tag? And yet, I see it all the time in published books. I delete. If I’m wrong, I’m apologize. It’s a pet peeve I’ve had for decades. There is no cure.

I’ve accepted that the misuse of “hopefully” is now widespread and unavoidable. For this, I’ve need daily vitamin injections, which is why it’s not on the pet peeve list. Oh wait, was that an eye twitch?

We all have our issues** with grammar and clichĂ©s. I make mistakes all the time–and tend to talk in cheesy movie dialogue (authenticity can be so energy-sapping). Sometimes I can’t figure out the difference between “that” and “which.” There, I said it. No one’s perfect. I do my best. Next post, I’ll list what I love.

*This is so not one of my favorite movies ever.

**Another pet peeve: using “issue” to mean “problem”