I actually wrote a very similar post to this one in October of last year called “Top Ten Book Turn-offs”. You can check that out here, but here’s the gist:
- I hate the Babies Ever After trope. Why does every character need kids to be happy?
- I hate when the male protagonist or love interest is saddled with misogynistic friends. It’s a misandrist stereotype, and it casts the ostensibly egalitarian male character in a really bad light.
- I have a very low tolerance for fictional animal abuse. If it doesn’t need to be in your story, it shouldn’t be in your story. And if it is anyway, I’m out.
- I hate when relationship abuse is touted as true romantic love. It’s fucking not! I totally don’t mind reading about relationship abuse, but it had better be acknowledged as part of the story’s conflict(s) and not presented as something I’m supposed to want.
- I’m always disappointed and fairly baffled by instalove. Why are these characters in love? Because they fell in love at first sight! But what the fuck does that mean? We don’t know! They’re just so hot!
- If your book is poorly edited, I’m checking out. If you don’t feel like you need to work to earn my time and money, you don’t deserve either.
- If you can’t get your science or your history straight–especially if you’re writing science fiction or historical fiction–I’m not sticking around!
- I hate when a book seems to be written under the assumption that all of its readers will be Christian. Atheists, Pagans, Jews, Muslims, and other religious groups exist, too, remember?
- I have no time for a film novelization that doesn’t add any extra information or insight. What’s the point?
- Special snowflake protagonists should stay in fanfiction, and when they show up in published lit, I start getting twitchy-eyed.
So that’s my old list. Here are a few more!
Turn Off #1: When Your Series Jumps the Shark
What This Is: The term “Jump the Shark” comes from a Happy Days episode that featured the character Fonzie literally jumping a shark while water skiing. Now, I’ll admit that twenty-one-year-old me has never seen Happy Days… but what from I gather, this wasn’t exactly something that made sense on the show. And from there, the phrase “Jump the Shark” has come to mean the point at which at series loses its original focus and becomes something else entirely–almost always something bad.
Why I Hate It: If I’ve stuck around for at least a few books of your series, and then the series suddenly undergoes a fundamental change to the premise or mythos that completely changes what the series was about in a way that doesn’t really make any damn sense, that’s it for me. I’m out!
An Example: Apparently, Narcissus in Chains is considered the Jump the Shark moment for Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series. I haven’t read it, but from what I hear, Anita jumped eagerly and never came back down.
Turn Off #2: Abusive Parents
What This Is: There are lots of types of abuse that parents can inflict upon children, varying from less severe actions like occasional verbal abuse to more horrific things like sexual and physical assault.
Why I Hate It: I’m upset enough about real-world abuse. I really don’t have any interest in upsetting myself further with fictional abuse. Hell, I even get upset about unintentional emotional neglect and tyrannical parenting in fiction, usually checking out of books with parents who espouse such parenting styles. I really don’t want to read about parents abusing their children in any capacity.
An Example: The Dursleys in Harry Potter were abusive and neglectful to the titular character (and, much more subtly, to their own son Dudley). If the books had placed more focus on this or shown Harry suffering more serious consequences, I’m not sure I would have enjoyed the series as much.
Turn Off #3: Franchise Zombie
What This Is: A franchise zombie is a series that continues going long after it should have ended. The creator, the creator’s boss, or the rights holders are running the thing into the ground, and someone needs to put this poor series out of its misery.
Why I Hate It: It’s a really quick way to ruin a good story. Oh, you wrote an amazing ending that you’ve been building up to for five years? Well, what if we kept going instead? What do you mean, you’re finished with this story? Then we’ll find someone else to write it; that’ll show you! …hey, wait, where are the fans going? Get back here!
books, given that Thomas Harris was apparently
pressured into writing Hannibal Rising
under the threat of the movie franchise being handed over to another writer.
Turn Off #4: “No Bisexuals!”
What This Is: More scientifically called “bisexual erasure,” this is when a character who expresses and acts upon attraction to both sexes is identified by the author as gay or straight for little apparent reason.
Why I Hate It: Honestly, I’m just annoyed when a book, show, film or whatever attempts to reinforce the idea that human sexuality is strictly either/or with “attraction to women” and “attraction to men” as the two options of which you must choose only one.
An Example: I’m going to use a television example here, but I’m sure this happens far too often in books, too. (Though I don’t really read enough fiction with GSM relationships–or canon relationships at all–to say for sure.) The example that annoys me the most, then, is Willow Rosenberg from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She dates Oz, a man, for the first three seasons, then dates Tara, a woman, from seasons four through six, and finally dates Kennedy, another woman in season seven. And while she identifies as “gay now!” once she begins dating Tara, she continues to express attraction to men, including Giles and Dracula. Meanwhile, Xander has some subtext-laden interactions with Dracula and Spike, while Spike himself admitted in the spin-off show Angel that he was once “intimate” with Angel. And yet the show doesn’t even mention bisexuality at any point. Hell, Buffy herself sleeps with a woman at least twice in the comics and is still referred to as straight.
Turn Off #5: Aesop Amnesia
What This Is:
Aesop Amnesia is when a book revolves around or involves a character learning a lesson of some kind… only for the sequel to revert that character to their previous, pre-Aesop self.
Why I Hate It: I really don’t need to see a jerkass character learn to be nicer to their siblings and peers over and over again. Do it once, then be done with it!
An Example: This is probably fairly obscure, but in Fear Street‘s Silent Night trilogy, Reva Dalby spends each book learning to be a nicer person, only to revert back to being a huge bitch sometime in between books–twice!
Turn Off #6: Arbitrary Skepticism
What This Is: Arbitrary skepticism is when a character who should really know better doubts that the plot is really happening. If you fight vampires for a living and refuse to believe that there might be a werewolf hanging around, that’s arbitrary skepticism. If you regularly hang out with Santa Claus but can’t fathom that the Easter Bunny might be real, you’re suffering arbitrary skepticism.
Why I Hate It: It’s a lazy-ass trope that creates artificial drama at the expense of characters’ intelligence.
An Example: Hermione’s disbelief in the Deathly Hallows in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows doesn’t make a ton of sense considering her background; she was a Muggle who discovered a hidden world of magic, after all! Deathly Hallows aren’t a big jump after that, their legendary origins aside.
Turn Off #7: “Because I Said So!”
What This Is: This is literally a character who operates under a “because I said so!” mentality. They act like a dictator despite being nothing of the sort, and they attempt to reign like tyrants over the lives of their children, friends, siblings, etcetera.
Why I Hate It: I hate this trope in real life, and I hate it just as much in fiction. And since it tends to be portrayed sympathetically or even espoused by main characters, I end up hating the character with the attitude and it can dampen or ruin my enjoyment of the story.
An Example: The example that annoys me the most is actually a television example, and that’s Dean Winchester of Supernatural. He grew up being essentially a foster parent to his younger brother, Sam, and he never grew out of the mindset that his word was law (and his dad, John, was an even worse example toward both Sam and Dean, so it’s no wonder where he gets it!), despite the fact that both characters are in their thirties now. It drives me fucking nuts.
Turn Off #8: Twist Deja Vu
What This Is:
Sometimes, an author will have a long-running series that utilizes twist endings from time to time. And as you read more and more of the series, you start to realize… the author is using the same twist over and over again!
What the heck?
Why I Hate It: A twist used once is clever. A twist used twice is disappointing. A twist used more than that is infuriating. What am I reading these books for, if they all end the same way!?
An Example: Too many Fear Street novels end with the reveal that a character has been a zombie the whole time or was suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder.
Turn Off #9: Heel-Face Revolving Door
What This Is:
A character starts out as a villain, then resolves to be a good guy and joins the hero’s team. But within a few chapters or episodes, he’s back to being a villain. But then he tries to repent again… and before long, he’s right back to villainy. And so on and so forth.
Why I Hate It: At first, if it’s well-written, it can be a really interesting moral struggle for a character. But if it goes on too long, eventually I just want to scream “Pick a fucking side!” and “Stop trusting this guy, damn it!”
I’m going to do another television example and shame Cole Turner from Charmed
here. At first, his moral conflict is interesting, but then the revolving door starts spinning out of control, and it drags main character (and Cole’s love interest) Phoebe Halliwell down into the spiral with him. Cole started out pretty awesome… but by the end of all that nonsense, I was glad to finally move on!
Turn Off #10: Poor Communication Kills
What This Is:
This is the trope that comes into play when characters neglect to simply talk
to one another, even when it makes no sense for them to withhold information, and it results in convenient drama for the plot to milk.
Why I Hate It: Like with arbitrary skepticism, it’s lazy writing that makes the characters not doing the talking look like complete morons. I demand more plots where characters act like intelligent humans!
An Example: No one in Dracula thinks to warn Mina about the goddamn vampire, and so she’s easy pickings for him. Harry Potter withholds information from adults in Harry Potter, and the adults do the same to him, and it helps Voldemort get away with a lot of shit. And heading back to television, half of Supernatural‘s emotional drama revolves around either Sam or Dean insisting that they’re “fine” instead of simply saying what the hell’s bothering them. After ten seasons of the same, it gets pretty damn aggravating!
So, that’s ten more of my bookish pet peeves. What are some of yours? Let me know in the comments below!