Wednesday, June 2, 2010

context and continuity

pet peeves.

we all have them. some of us have lots of them.
and you've probably already guessed i'm one of those with a long list.

some of my pet peeves are just harmless annoyances:
when people say "i could care less" instead of "i couldn't care less".
when drivers don't wave thank you when you let them pull out in front of you in bumper to bumper traffic.
when someone misses the trash can when throwing their garbage away, and they just leave it on the ground.

and some of my pet peeves push my buttons to the point of irrationality. like my book pet peeves:
i HATE it when someone borrows a book and breaks the spine.
i HATE it when someone tells me the ending of a book that i'm only just halfway through.
i HATE it when someone tries to converse with me when i am clearly reading.

and i have author pet peeves. and these pet peeves seem to haunt me years after i've read the novel, silly as it may sound.

for instance, about four years ago i read the chicklit novel time after time. as someone who is admittedly 80s obsessed, i was looking forward to reading this book since it had some fun 80s flashback references.
but the book opened with a conversation in italics, between two girls, discussing a boy and his betrayal.
when the font goes back to normal, we see the book is actually written in first person, and that the main character is at her reunion. now, she was NOT one of the girls having the preceding conversation, nor was she the subject of it. in fact, the two girls never reappear in the book and their conversation is never referenced.
that is the sort of thing that REALLY annoys me.
i can only guess the author was trying to "set the mood" but the only mood that came over me was a foul one. we've all heard the importance of the opening page, and this one just seemed to be one huge non-sequitur.

i also hate when an author opens in a certain time period, and never goes back to it.
for the life of me i can't remember the name of the YA novel (i probably blocked it out) or who wrote it, only that the author wrote under a latino pseudonym because he didn't think anyone would buy a book about chicano culture written by a jewish male.
anyway, this novel opened with a drunk twenty-something man driving up a hill to look down at the valley below him. it was the valley where he grew up, and within the first five pages we are smack in a flashback and reading about the narrator as a teenager. the entire book is about his experience as a teen. at the conclusion of the story, the narrator (still as a teenager) lets the reader know he has a lot more adventures, but ends the book with this statement: "but that's another story for another time."
end of novel.

uh, WHAT!?!
you can't start a novel in the present day, tell the story in a flashback and never come back to the present!
well, i guess you can since that's what this author did, but it bugged me immensely. so much that i still get quite heated when i think about it.

it's true that as a writer you can write a story in any way, shape or form you want.
and as a reader i can be selective about which authors i will give my time to.


SkippyMom said...

My pet peeve about books [especially library books] are people that EAT while reading. I don't need to know you had cheezits for snack on page 115 and thanks for spilling your cocoa on page 325, 326 and 327, beyotch. ICK and it drives me nuts.

And I would be screaming during the last instance. How annoying was that? Argh.

BTW - how the heck are you :D heehee

KarenG said...

Oh these pet peeves are making me LOL. (Hope writing LOL isn't one of yours, it annoys my kids when I do it LOL) I have so many book pet peeves that of course I had to go into publishing as a business so I can make some real changes in how it's done! Omigosh the crap that's put out there now! You mentioned a few of them that annoy me also. I guess it's people trying to create something new. There's nothing new, they're all the same stories so just tell the story already!

Dawn said...

Although you're my new best friend (hello 80s obsessed!), we will not be sharing books as I, cough, sometimes do crack the spine. My friend Karen, however, would applaud you.

I also have a LONG list of pet peeves. But my biggest one is misuse of "your" and "you're" -- Argh!

So tell me, darling, which 80s movies can you quote word for word?

mi said...

skippymom - i hate that, too! which is precisely why i don't go to the library anymore.

kareng - no, the writing is mr. write's pet peeve, haha. and the kidlit's! i can only get any real writing done when they both are asleep!

dawn - *doing a simon lebon 80s dance* i also hate the your/you're misuse and want to commit hari kari when i find i've done it myself!
oh - and breakfast club, sixteen candles and the neverending story are all movies i can supply the dialogue for, haha!

Christine Fletcher said...

Ooh, love this post. One of my big reading peeves is an antagonist who's only there to be an antagonist. I recently started reading a YA fantasy in which, first scene, the protagonist is in a fight. We're not told why he's in a fight. We're clearly supposed to hate the antagonist; he's described as having a "vicious snarl" and he "bellows with rage." (Another huge peeve--cliches. Originality, people! It won't hurt your brain!)

So we have this very detailed blow-by-blow (literally) description of this fight, but I'm up to pg 10 and I have NO IDEA WHY THEY'RE FIGHTING. For all I know, the protagonist called the antagonist names and threw rocks at his little sister.

I'm not going to care just because the author thinks I'm supposed to. Show me WHY, people! MAKE me care!

Oh, and while you're at it, lose the cliches.

Never got past the first chapter in that book. Ended up on my sell-back stack for Powell's.

*sigh* I feel quite better now, thanks. :)

Random Thinker said...

I have lots of pet peeves. "all of the sudden" , "exspecially" and I also hate "your" being used instead of "you're". I loan lots of books out and just consider myself lucky to get them back.

I'm sure authors read with a different eye than I do. I know my sister, a former waitress, is exspecially (hehe) hard on the wait staff. I do hate endless descriptions though. Love James Michener but probably have skipped over 40% of every one of his books since he loved to describe landscapes down to the dew on each blade of grass.

mi said...

christine - i have only JUST recently learned to put a book down and quit reading it when it's just not working for me. i used to force myself to continue, for who knows what reason.
i don't think i could handle ten pages of a fight. not sure i can handle ten pages of any one event at all!

random thinker - "volumptious" is one if forgot to mention. and i hear it just about every day so i'm scared it will soon be deemed correct english.
and yeah - i haven't done michener for that reason. heck, i LOVE atlas shrugged but i still skip john galt's big speech every time i read the novel.

Dawn said...

Sigh. Simon. So awesome.
And Breakfast Club? LOVE it. I can add Outsiders, Princess Bride and Lost Boys to your list. Oh, and Top Gun. Shhhh.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

My pet peeve is when people make notes in library books and even highlight entire passages; I see this all the time in the university libraries. It bugs me because those books don't belong to the students who damage them, and it ruins the reading experience for the next person who borrows the book.

mi said...

dawn - all we need is a pile of smash hits and tiger beat, and we're good to go!

neurotic workaholic - yes! that's incredibly rude, and especially annoying when you realize the notes and highlights aren't even of real use!

Janet Johnson said...

LOL! Too funny. I can't believe what gets published sometimes. Maybe it's just not a first novel?

My pet peeve . . . leaving dirty dishes on the counter when the dishwasher is empty as empty! That and finding the toilet seat up. ;)

Jen said...

OH MY GOSH! I'm so with you on the one where they don't thank you when you are gracious enough to let the car pull out in front of you! It drives me crazy, my blood is boiling just thinking about it! More or less because it happened like six times last night!

Excellent points with the way stories are told. It truly is all based on preference but for me if you start in the present, go to flashback mode and never come back to the present I'll probably never make the mistake of picking up your story again.

Thanks for visiting my blog! Consider yourself to have one extra follower!

mi said...

janet - i hear you about the dishes! and i also hate when instead of changing the trash, people just let it pile up (i especially hate this in coffee shops).

jen - thanks for coming by! and i hope for the next month no one lets those cars pull out in front of them!

Johnny Rojo said...

I share a number of your pet peeves, particularly when people fail to give the "courtesy wave" when driving. Chicago has some of the worst traffic in the country, literally, and I much appreciate when someone does something civilized, and make sure they know I appreciate.

One of my big pet peeves is when I see a sign saying "Ten Items or Less." Maybe because I was a teacher for 15 years, it annoys me that it doesn't say "Ten Items or Fewer." And of course, I go ballistic when someone has way over ten items in those lines, or worse, has one or two items and gets in a long argument over one of the items, making sure that whatever time I saved by getting in that line is gone.

Another big one for me is being interrupted while speaking.

Johnny Rojo said...

Oh, and it drives me nuts when someone says something "literally" is something, but actually isn't literally.