“Irk”: Great word.
When I was at university I was considered laid back, easy going, accepting, slow to warm up, just a real nice guy. During several varieties of psychological tests (a common way for starving students to make a few bucks) I was calm, never got rattled, avoided panic and often ending up winning the “game.” Then went to grad school and became much more confrontational.
Through the years I have encountered little things that, if only momentarily, shatter my calm acceptance. In popular parlance I believe these would be considered “pet peeves.” Unfortunately, the term “pet peeve” is possibly my biggest “pet peeve.” A peeve is an annoyance, something that irks someone, but the use of the word “pet” to (presumably) denote something personal, possibly uniquely held, I balk.
The word “pet” is a verb meaning to stroke or groom an animal (remember, people are animals too), and animal which might be your companion, but not a pet. The mere word is politically ugly. I’ve considered it so since Fifth Grade when Laura Jean was the Teacher’s pet and I was so much smarter than she was (cuter too).
So here is one of things that I cringe over:
I have a smart, funny, gorgeous wife that any man might fantasize about, and many do. These Lotharios make me jealous: I don’t want to lose my lifelong companion to a common Fabio imitator who happens to be envious of me for my intelligent wife. I am jealous that they want what I have; they are envious that they want what I have.
A friend from a reading group would suggest that a phrase similar to “a dog barking in the distance” was a huge red flag indicating a writer that might best be avoided. I myself have conjectured that attendance at a writer’s school might disqualify an author, especially since his or her first novel was inevitably a text that had been worked and reworked by teachers and peers.
When poking around the internet I chanced upon the site PinkPolkadotBooks and enjoyed a similar list of irksome trends in writing. Go to the website to learn more, but here is the list:
- Blushing— cannot stand a character that blushes every time a dude looks at her. Why are all the characters doing this these days?
- Clumsiness— It’s too Bella Swan for me. I see clumsiness as a character trait and I automatically feel like it’s there to make the female appear weak. Like they’re all just waiting for their Edward to show up and catch them when they trip. (Maybe this is just a me thing??).
- Biting their lip— Can we do something else cause this is played out.
- Shoulder shrugs— do people even do this a lot IRL?? Cause I feel like the characters I read about do this every time they don’t know something or feel uncomfortable.
- Whiney characters— Nothing worse than a whiner.
- Main character that talks inside his/her head too much— you know the ones who tell you every single mundane thought and why they had that thought and why they said what they said and couldn’t say what they really wanted to say– BLAH!!
- Villains who stop and take time to explain exactly why they’ve done everything they’ve done and what they’re about to do to finish the fight.
- Random colored eyes— seriously how many people out there have violet, yellow, and gray eyes?? True violet eyes only happen in people with albinism, gray are one of the most rare, and green represents 2% of the world population, so why are so many YA characters having eyes that are these colors? Authors– brown and regular blue (not the bluest blue the world has ever seen) can be beautiful and attractive too I promise!!!
- Pretentious characters— the ones that are just “so different” & non-mainstream from everyone else, and that somehow makes them so much better & smarter than everybody else.
- Rushed endings— massive build up & then it’s like the author got bored and hurries through the all-important reveal. Feels like a rip-off. I just read 400 pages of climb! I want more than 10 pages of reveal.
- Super Selfish characters— you know the ones… no one else’s problems matter because it’s ALL ABOUT THEM. Don’t get me wrong, I think the teenage years can and should be a somewhat selfish time (finding out who you are and all that), but there is a line.
- Girls that don’t know they’re pretty. Just STOP.
- The overly obvious love interest– when the girl meets the love interest in the first page and it’s obv that he loves her instantly. AND he comes on super strong and she acts like she doesn’t know he likes her. OMG I can’t. I actually read 2 books recently where the guy started telling their friend group that she was his girlfriend without even asking her if that was their status. He just told her he liked her and BOOM it’s just assumed they’re together. HELL NO!!
- The Oblivious Captain Obvious— when you can tell a writer THINKS they’re being super stealth, but it’s SO damn obvious. Like the girl has sex and the author has her puking/feeling nauseous all the time and then we’re supposed to be all OMG when she finds out she’s pregnant. Umm, no. We’re not dumb.
- Frenemies— I’m slightly over the best friend being a frenemy. When the main purpose of the girl M/C’s best friend is to do all the “bad” things so the M/C can look “good”. Also, I’m into healthy girl/girl relationships these days. The boys get a TON of healthy friendships in books!
- Girl Virgins— Sighhhh. It’s really hard for this trope to go right for me. If talking about the girl’s virginity adds something to the story or is a natural progression in some way, it won’t completely irk me. But if a girl’s virginity is brought up in a way that makes her seem “pure” or if the guy starts getting all talky-talky about her being a virgin and how special that makes her and getting all possessive over her virginity… I’m OUT!!!
There are so many things in writing or in life that I find irksome. My lists of Rules and Myths of literature are almost thirty years old now but as I re-read them I find myself nodding and harrumphing … so true.