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.

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"Reading submissions the past few days, I've come across more of this than ever before. I wonder why?" he asked pensively, running bent fingers through his long gray hair.

I also saw some good adverbs, I.J. Not many, but some :)


Yes.  Useful items to suggest attitudes that the words don't convey.

Thought of another one.  I don't care for woo-woo. Anything supernatural makes the entire story unreal, and that's not something you want for a murder investigation.

Yes, when one gets over the line into the spooky, I leave.

I can't stand what is happening with comparatives and superlatives. I think my dentist can tell when I have been grinding my teeth over horrors like "most well known" and "most high profile."

That second one if doubly offensive, because "high profile" is vague. Do you mean prominent, famous, or notorious?


Yes.  Plus profile is a noun, not an adjective.

Weak, stupid female characters who need to be saved.

I will never, ever accept the use of "impact" as a verb, or the idea that consequences, results, or an aftermath can be called "impacts." Out of all the language rot of the past 30 years, this is the one which irritates me the most.

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 think most stage directions are unneeded. "She got out of the car, turned right and walked into the house." Unless there is something significant to her right, we don't need that added bit of stage direction which may come from former playwrights becoming novelists.

I'm also seeing character lists in the beginning of a book. Again that sounds like a play to me.

I agree on your first points. But I have to use character lists.  I write mysteries set in Japan. Western readers get lost among foreign names.  They need a place where they can remind themselves who this character is.

Thanks. I hadn't considered that point.

I included a partial character list in my upcoming novel, as a pronunciation guide. The book takes place in a heavily ethnic area, and the way names are pronounced there is not intuitive to anyone who's not from around there. I wanted the names to help to establish the setting, but not to put off any readers.


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