IRRITANTS. Things that bother you, drive you nuts, or are at least distracting when reading them. Mine, among others, is "small smile." You see it in the books of leading writers, some my favorites, as well as aspirants. When I see it, it's like something approaching an ice cream brain freeze. There are numerous ways to describe a smile that isn't prominent or otherwise overwhelming. Please use either one of them. And you can tell who are some of the users/abusers aspiring writers are reading because of this "small smile" refrain; monkey see, monkey do. Would you say "smiling smally"?
Look, writers are suppose to be among the skilled, if not masters, of the craft. There must be a way to kill this expression, send it to the bone yard of goofy things.
You got one, I want to hear it. I might be guilty of it.
Two more occurred to me: Sighing and head shaking. Way too much of them going on. Can be understood in every case, without being mentioned.
I grant you that this is somewhat repetitive shorthand. Happens to me from time to time. But the point is to link the dialogue to an actual setting. People who are talking to each other are not inanimate loudspeakers. These phrases also often substiture for the eternal repetitive "he said/ she said".
Now at Page 125 of John Lescroart's The Ophelia Cut and there are already two "small smiles," pages 100 and 123. Still reading and crossing my fingers. If I run into more, I might cross my eyes.
Exclamation marks! Ever!!
Flashbacks. Can't stand them, don't want them.
Now we're getting warmed up!
I try to avoid flashbacks, but sometimes nothing else works. I can seldom read present-tense narration, though.
That's another one; present-tense narration. For me, it just doesn't convince. I mean, how am I to fool myself into believing that THIS is happening now, if I can look out the window and pieces of Mars are not wheezing down from the sky like giant fire balls? Nah. The fictive dream only works when my mind, willing to dream as it is, dis not made to feel underestimated.
My two major pet peeves are sound effects and stage directions in prose. I've actually seen writers use "knock Knock" and "Bang." These are fine in children's books, but have no business in adult novels. A writer should be able to describe gunfire or someone knocking at the door.
I try to use the word BLAMMO! at least once in every Nicholas Colt book.
Get. If it's not in a dialogue then I don't want to EVER read it. It is the laziest word in the English language and one of the most abused. I don't think people even get what the word means anymore. For example you don't get married. You are just married. I have found English speakers need to use superlatives in every sentence. It drives me nuts. I'm trying hard not to make these mistakes, but it's so hard when I hear/read them all the time.
10 words to cut from your writing? I read the article, too. Not helpful. All the words are right in their places (except possibly "amazing") and those places aren't necessarily dialogue. "He got up" for example. You can replace it with "He rose," or "He stood up" or "He got to his feet." Getting out of bed is even harder to rephrase. "Get" in the sense of "understand" is colloquial. Getting married is an idiomatic expression.
"Just" was another of the forbidden words, by the way.
Writing peeves about style happen when people misuse words, overuse words, don't get the tone right, or develop habitual phrases.