What Grinds My Gears: Writing Wednesday edition

Hello, hello, hello!

Lately I’ve been making an effort to get back on top of my reading. There are currently 18 books in my To Be Read pile.


But — butbutbutbutBUT — I’ve started every book in the pile (so I guess it’s really a “to be finished” pile…) and I’ve finished a few other books lately. The most recent one I finished was this year’s winner of the Baileys Prize, Lisa McInerney’s The Glorious Heresies (GREAT novel). I’ve decided to revert back to reading one book at a time because I was getting a little overwhelmed by reading, writing, and new-jobbing all together; it’s actually been nice settling into one book without switching to a new one. Especially when it’s a good book.

But I’m here to talk about the things that can make books bad — for me, at least — that I’ve seen in some of the fiction I’ve read so far this year.


Here are a few things that grind my gears.

Overusing a character’s name in dialogue.
“Hey, Phil.”
“What, Ted?”
“I just don’t think going to the flea circus while a tornado’s ripping up the ground is a good idea, Phil. Know what I mean, Phil?”
“Yeah, Ted, I know you’re right but…I just can’t shake the feeling that I’d really regret missing it.”
“Yeah, Phil, I get that, Phil. But, Phil — PHIL — it’s just not worth risking your life over, y’know? Phil? Phil?! YOU HEARING ME, PHIL?!?!?!?!”
“Yeah, I got it! Geez! …Ted.”


Once I’ve gotten to know someone, I don’t need to use their name constantly, or at all, while talking to them. Even if we run into each other somewhere. I’ll just say hi, not “Hi [insert name here].” But even if I let the “name as part of a greeting” thing go (because some people do that), the rest is just unnecessary. If the characters have been well-developed, I don’t need to be reminded of who they are in every line of dialogue, or of the fact that they know each others names, or that the dialogue I’m reading will cover a serious topic. Yes, you might have one character say another’s name for emphasis in the midst of making a point — this makes sense (in the right context). But four or five times in one conversation? No. Please stop. This is one reason why one of the books in my TBF pile has been moved down the list. I needed a breather.

Losing the plot.

I hate when I’m giving 110% of my attention to a story — it’s got me hooked, I’m totally on board — only for it to veer in a compleeeeetely different direction. And I don’t mean an unexpected twist. Those are great, and hard to come by now as I think that technique was single-handedly exhausted by M. Night Shyamalan. But what I mean is, when you’re following the thread of one narrative only to find that the actual point of everything was over here in this other narrative that the first one lead you into against your will, and basically everything you learned in the story you thought you were reading is absolutely useless.


It makes me feel like a fool. A fool who didn’t just have the rug yanked out from under me, but was pushed backwards (as the rug was being yanked) by the person who hates me the most, so I could trip over the person who hates me almost as much as the first person as they crouch on all fours behind me, giggling. Then they both cackle as I scream “NOOOOOOOOoooooo!!!” up to the heavens. Yeah. That.

Pointlessly withheld information.
You know those stories that relentlessly hint at something? Something Earth-shattering that the narrator reeeaaally wants to tell you, but it just isn’t the right time yet? But you gotta keep hearing about the thing you’re not allowed to hear about yet because they want you to keep reading. So you turn every page, your butt creeping closer and closer to the edge of your seat. By the time you reach the page with the reveal, you’re practically levitating in front of your chair. And then you read the words, “My grandmother’s middle name…was Mildred!” DundunDUUUU– wait. What? That was it? THAT was your big mysterious news? Really?!

Often, the longer I’m forced to wait for the one juicy tidbit that’ll make everything else in the story crystal clear, the more underwhelming that tidbit is. Waiting pages and pages for something clever/weird/random/amazing, only to have it be something you predicted ages ago, OR something so overused you don’t even care about it, is kinda the worst. Withholding info can be SUPER effective when you’re not reminded too often of the thing you don’t know yet — just often enough for it to gnaw at your brain like a mildly rabid weasel. But if a narrator beats me over the head with “Ah, ah, AHHHH! Not yeeeeet!”, it just feels like they’re taunting me. In fact, I bet they’re in cahoots with those holes who tripped me in that other section. Jerks.

But that’s just me.

What grinds your literary gears?

Happy Wednesday!

18 thoughts on “What Grinds My Gears: Writing Wednesday edition

  1. Overuse of description. Unless it’s relevant, I really don’t care to know that the heroin is wearing a pastel color — with a — and — every time you mention her, unless she’s a SUPA model.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. the name thing – that drives KC crazy in shows or movies. he’s always like PEOPLE DON’T REALLY TALK LIKE THAT and i’m like KC, calm down KC it’s all good I get it KC and then he gets mad at me. haha.
    i don’t like when books withhold things either. like, you don’t have to tell me everything up front, but i hate when they say something like ‘the incident’ or whatever and then it’s not revealed until later. i’d rather you didn’t mention it at all, and then reveal it – like many millions of books do. hinting at it does not make me want to keep reading, it makes me think of the book like i think of attention seeking facebook statuses lol. basically yes, what you said. don’t keep hitting me over the head with it!
    there are a ton of things that grind my literary gears haha but of course i can’t think of any now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahaha. “Calm down, KC. I get it, KC.” Honestly, that’s not a problem I’ve seen much of in books, but this time it stood out a lot b/c it was in a book that was shortlisted for all these major prizes this year and everybody and their grandmother seems to love it (I’ve only heard one person review it unfavorably). But I haven’t found a single thing to love about it in 100 pages, and that name thing was the straw that broke my back lol. And YES — I totally agree that the best way to deal with withholding is to not mention it at all. That way the reveal will really smack you in the face with how surprising it is. But if they haaaave to mention it… just do it once. One and done. Don’t keep telling me that there’s something you’re not telling me.

      I have more book gripes, too, but I didn’t want to sound like too much of an ogre so I picked three, hahaha.


  3. 1) I’m really invested in Phil and Ted now and need to read the rest of their tornado adventure. NEED.

    2) Have you ever met someone like that in real life? Someone who uses your name ALL THE TIME FOR NO REASON. I think it was marketed once as a psychological tool to make people like you and do what you want them to do, but it just makes my creep radar go ballistic. UGH.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahaha. Phil and Ted spent the evening in a bathtub in the basement and lived to attend future flea circuses. I actually have met people like that! You’re right — it sounds like something you’d learn in business school. Or in a seminar on how to sell vacuum cleaners door to door.


  4. Pingback: Pantsers & Plotters | acrossthehogsback

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