Five Pet hates

Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.

What are your top five writing mistakes? Either mistakes you make or mistakes that make you cringe when you see them in print?

First, some of the ones I have been guilty of, then a couple of my pet hates.

I tend to overuse certain words. Each one of my books will have one word that I seem to use in every sentence. It can be a different one in each book, an innocuous word like so, probably, seem. For some reason, they become part of just about every sentence that I write.

I’m getting used to the message from my editor, telling me which word I’ve overused in the latest manuscript I’ve sent her.

Then there are the plot holes. Try as I might the odd one creeps in, especially as series develop. And, as all good conspiracy theories tell you, there’s always someone watching.

“Didn’t you say ****** in *****.” someone will say. Then they move in for the kill, “and then you said ***** in ******, well, that doesn’t add up.”

Never mind that it’s three books later and that character is now dead. That’s my cue for some frantic checking. I used to agonise over changing it. Now, as long as it’s not too crucial, I leave them in; just to see how many other people spot them. Occasionally I offer a prize to anyone who can tell me when they see a mistake. After all, who has a perfect memory of what happened ten years ago? Or five-thousand years hence, on another planet?

Connected with that is a contradiction in setting, or describing the same place in different ways. For instance, saying a place can be seen from a point, then saying (or inferring) that it can’t. I know I’m guilty of doing this, which is ironic as I hate it in books that I’m reading.

Situations that are glossed over. I think we all know the expressions “with one bound, he was free,” or “the rest was easy.” They are a hangover from pulp fiction or Saturday morning cinema. With the hero in an impossible position, no effort is made to give him a logical way out. The action simply jumps. I hate that, I like to have an escape route. It may be improbable but there should always be a logical explanation for the character’s situation.

And finally, in this short list, the assumption that I know what the author is talking about. I want an explanation, a basis in fact. It’s the literary equivalent of an instruction manual written by an expert who knows all about the product and assumes that you do too. I don’t mean that you have to tell me everything. I only need to know enough to feel comfortable in the world you’ve created and be able to accept that it’s possible.

It’s a pity we’re limited to five, I could tell you a few more.

Now let me know what you think.

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11 Responses

  1. Stevie Turner

    I used to be guilty of too much explaining, but now wonder whether that’s a good thing? I tend not to explain all these days, as I once read that readers like to work things out for themselves.

    • Richard Dee

      I try to write in the same way that Hitchcock directed. Give the basics and let the reader’s imagination do the rest. That way, it can be whatever they want.

  2. Jack Eason

    The only thing the ‘plot hole’ thing proves is that your book is being read my friend.

    • Richard Dee

      That’s the best way to look at it, Jack 🙂

  3. P.J. MacLayne

    You mean that one great word that worms its way into your head and keeps jumping out onto the page? I know the feeling!

  4. Phil Hutson

    I’m with you on plot holes. But I see the big guns doing it all the time lately. It’s a trend. Like, okay, where’s the Cadillac and the body and the blonde that were here and then…

    Yeah. Echoed words are easy to pick out with Pro Writing Aid, but you have to wade through 10 times more BS than Grammarly. But they make it easy with their reports.

    Or, as and editor once said to me “Thesaurus. Don’t be obscure, but there are a dozen ways to say various standard character behaviors. Use them occasionally.”

    • Richard Dee

      Don’t get me started on Grammarly and commas! I now see minor plot holes as a written representation of our imperfect memory of events.

  5. Roberta Eaton Cheadle

    I enjoyed reading your five irritating things, Richard. If it makes you feel any better, in Charlie and the Chocolate factory, Roald Dahl made the grandparents all in the 90s and in Charlie and the great glass elevator, they were all suddenly in their 80s and Grandma Josephine was only 78 and became a minus. That really upset me.

    • Richard Dee

      Thank you, it certainly has. At least I’m in good company.

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