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Discussion Starter #1
So, I don't want to make this topic overly serious.  I'm more thinking about when you are reading a book and you see this one thing describing a character and you just roll your eyes.  Not necessarily looking for what seriously makes a character bad, just more small irks.  Maybe it's something you've just seen too many times, or maybe it's something that never made sense to you, or maybe it's something that just grinds your gears a little tiny bit for whatever reason.  I don't mean to make a topic that is actually negative or disparaging to any one or any book out there, I more just thought it would be fun to say, hey, here's one weird thing that always bugged me.

My one, or at least the one I just noticed in something today, is when a character is good at one skill because they are good at one other unrelated skill.  Like, when a chess player is a master strategist in real life, or when a poker player is an expert negotiator, or when an actor just happens to know Shakespeare by heart, or that slew of "odd genius" tv shows from the 2000s where the main character knew everything about anything they needed to know about.  Bones, House, Monk, Sherlock...that's kinda what I mean.  Like, when Dr. House fixes a car engine with his bare hands I'm thinking, wait, did we cover this or are we just chalking this up to universal genius?
 

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The old-timer who doles out sage advice to our hero. Extra points if she tells a heartbreaking story to illustrate the point. I'd like to see some old folks giving out absolutely terrible advice: ill-informed, rambling, repetitive, downright dangerous. In short, the kind of advice you get from all ages.
 

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The chosen one, who doesn't know he/she is the chosen one. Hasn't the Prince and Princess been overdone?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
chrisstevenson said:
The chosen one, who doesn't know he/she is the chosen one. Hasn't the Prince and Princess been overdone?
Ha, yep the chosen one has gotten old. I don't mind it in older books because I feel like that's just what was going on, but I feel like it would be real hard to make a new chosen one interesting.
 

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Characters who are already badass right from the off. Or gain their skills with a brief ten-page montage of training.

From care-free farmer boy to able to beat the Big Bad in the space of twenty minutes. That doesn't happen in real life, lol.
 

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.

Characters who are only telling the story of weaklings becoming bad*ss, over and over.

The superhero origin movies can't seem to get beyond repeating Peter Parker/Spiderman or Bruce Wayne/Batman losing their family to criminals inciting their reason to continue, every five years a reboot of their origin stories. Now they are introducing completely new superheroes every year because they have an infinite supply of origin stories that way.

Saturday morning cartoons had a new adventure for the heroes every week. Every show started with a powerful hero everyone knew was able to jump tall buildings and yet they kept at that for twenty-two episodes of inspiring villain shenanigans. 

Origin story writing has been overdone -- but yes, there is a balance between over-use of origin stories and Mary Sues with unlimited plot power -- and it has something to do with character.

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NikOK said:
....

My one, or at least the one I just noticed in something today, is when a character is good at one skill because they are good at one other unrelated skill. Like, when a chess player is a master strategist in real life, or when a poker player is an expert negotiator, or when an actor just happens to know Shakespeare by heart, or that slew of "odd genius" tv shows from the 2000s where the main character knew everything about anything they needed to know about. Bones, House, Monk, Sherlock...that's kinda what I mean. Like, when Dr. House fixes a car engine with his bare hands I'm thinking, wait, did we cover this or are we just chalking this up to universal genius?
Similar to this complaint by the OP is the plague of what I call convenient knowledge. A mystery clue somehow relates to bird watching? The MC just happens to know that cardinals have been known to cover themselves in ants. A cake is involved? MC just happens to know the ingredients of an ice box cake. In other words, the MC has knowledge of stuff that the average person on the street doesn't. ... and yet, we're supposed to believe that the MC is also an "average person on the street." Yeah, that's just too convenient. More realistic to have the characters need to scramble and research and ask questions to learn what they need to know.

Another pet peeve I have, which, thankfully, I don't run into that often, is when the author uses the MC as (at least to some degree) a stand-in of himself/herself. I admit, we probably all imbue some part of ourselves in our characters, but when a character becomes an obvious stand-in for the author, or is made out to be the perfect Mary Sue/Gary Stu, the story gets very old very quickly.
 

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When I read, it's usually a romance unless the book blurb really catches my attention.

More recently I've realized I roll my eyes every time I see the word 'giggle,' and it's everywhere in romance books. Characters of all genders and ages in different books 'giggle,' and every time I see it now, it's irritating. I sometimes go through my old books and I'm horrified every time I find the word giggle. It has it's place, people probably do giggle in real life, but some authors tend to over-do it for a cutesy effect, which is also something that's growing really annoying.

Another thing, when a character can't respect boundaries, but it's okay, because they're the main character or in the main cast. Like character A knows character B is uncomfortable around them but the author needs them to be together for the plot, so I'm just supposed to ignore that chara B is uncomfortable and chara A knows and ignores that. This is especially when one character is more reserved and the other has to pull them out of their 'shell' even if it's agaisnt their will. I get that it's for the sake of the plot, but as a socially awkward introvert, it turns me off a story quickly.

Finally, overly done 'bad*ss' characters, especially when they're women. Usually, the character is just someone stubborn who argues and curses a lot, that doesn't mean bad*ss for me, it's just annoying. It makes me sad because I'd really love to read great female characters, but some authors try to make their characters too 'cool' and 'different' and independent and in control in a way that backfires for me. These are the kind of characters that go ahead to do something stupid even after being warned against it, because they arrogantly think they can't face any consequences (and they usually end up in a bad situation for it, but of course they miraculously save themselves because they're amazing main characters.)

(sorry, this is long  :D)
 

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In a romantic scene, anyone who 'melts' or  is 'melting' just makes me want to chuck the book  across the room. They're not freakin' snowmen.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Gareth K Pengelly said:
Characters who are already bad*ss right from the off. Or gain their skills with a brief ten-page montage of training.

From care-free farmer boy to able to beat the Big Bad in the space of twenty minutes. That doesn't happen in real life, lol.
Totally agree. I also have a hard time with characters who are bad all the time. I remember reading some Tom Clancey a while back and thinking, okay your tough...okay your tough...okay...uggh. It's made me really love characters who are not otherworldly amazing but who get the job done anyways and save the day.
 

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There's a romance/action series from years ago that I love. And one character... if a person can fall in love with a fictional character, then I fell for him like the proverbial ton of bricks. He was certainly "bad*ass," and earned the description honestly, but readers also saw another part of him, a part that none of the other characters saw. And he didn't want them to see it.

Sorry, this is the opposite of a character pet peeve... it's an example of an excellently-written character.

BTW, a bit of a confession: I thought this thread was going to be about pet peeves we have about writing our own characters. :p To be honest, one of my MCs is a teen girl, and some readers have said she's annoying. Which she is. I just tried not to make her too annoying. (She is a teen girl, after all.... I know from experience that they can be quite annoying. Especially when there's an older brother involved. ;) )
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Jena H said:
There's a romance/action series from years ago that I love. And one character... if a person can fall in love with a fictional character, then I fell for him like the proverbial ton of bricks. He was certainly "bad*ass," and earned the description honestly, but readers also saw another part of him, a part that none of the other characters saw. And he didn't want them to see it.

Sorry, this is the opposite of a character pet peeve... it's an example of an excellently-written character.

BTW, a bit of a confession: I thought this thread was going to be about pet peeves we have about writing our own characters. :p To be honest, one of my MCs is a teen girl, and some readers have said she's annoying. Which she is. I just tried not to make her too annoying. (She is a teen girl, after all.... I know from experience that they can be quite annoying. Especially when there's an older brother involved. ;) )
Ha, I almost like a topic about amazing characters we loved better! But yeah, I think a bad*ass character can work just fine, I just like to see the other side sometimes. No one is bad*ass all the time. You can't, I don't know, pick out birthday presents for a friend and be bad*ass about it. I like it if there's depth and I like it if it's earned.

And, if we are doing our own, then I definitely have had a few who were maybe too fickle. I really love the idea of a character who stumbles through life but steps up and saves the day when things get real. I do really like the idea, but it's a little hard in practice. Readers have to enjoy the stumbling through life chapters, and heh, not everybody will enjoy that. It's a pet peeve, but it's a pet peeve that I really want to try to make work someday.
 

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I cringe when POV characters have the amazing ability to report bra cup size. Or exact height. I imagine them walking around with a tape measure.

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I definitely understand the weariness with cliched origin stories, and stories about overpowered characters being unrealistically good at everything, typical superhero tropes, etc - BUT, it also pays the bills.

For as much as people talk about a lack of originality out there, their actions as readers say something different. The stuff sells. Across all genres, it's pretty much the only stuff that sells. The same sameyness flies off the shelves. Everything looks like everything else, and not by accident.

In absolute droves, you'll hear people say they want the bespoke experience of an improvised gourmet meal from a capable chef, and if you stopped someone on the street they'd tell you exactly that, but then once dinner time rolls around you'll find them parked in the McDonald's drive-thru - for various reasons. Same thing with entertainment choices, books included.

Take Jack Reacher as one example. There are countless others on the the bestsellers lists. As it stands, the worn out aspects of commercial fiction ain't so worn out when it comes to sales. As an author trying to make a living, I can't ignore that, even though certain, tired aspects of characterization, etc do bug me.

What can ya do?
 

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"Aha, that was in my plan."
"Well, what about ..."
"And that.."
"Well what about..."
"And that, too."

I hate perfect villains who've outmaneuvered the hero a dozen times through sheer deep cleverness even before the action begins. I find them dull as dirt.
 

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When the protagonist is hard for me to like because the writer has gone to great lengths to make them too likable. For example, in the book Winter World. The main character always says the right things, is liked by all, never breaks under pressure, is a genius, and gets what he wants very easily. The entire book teases along a reason for him being imprisoned and by the end you find out it was basically an unjust verdict and his crimes was loving his family too much.

I hate too-perfect characters.
 

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Songs....

I don’t care if your character is the next version of Prince.
Please just be an author. Don’t try to sell a song too.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Corvid said:
I definitely understand the weariness with cliched origin stories, and stories about overpowered characters being unrealistically good at everything, typical superhero tropes, etc - BUT, it also pays the bills.

For as much as people talk about a lack of originality out there, their actions as readers say something different. The stuff sells. Across all genres, it's pretty much the only stuff that sells. The same sameyness flies off the shelves. Everything looks like everything else, and not by accident.
This is probably very true. It makes me feel kinda bleh inside, but that doesn't mean it's not right. I guess there will always be a decision when you sit down. Do I write something safe, or do I write something that might not sell? Fresh new things can do well, but the newest rehashed action drama will probably have a better chance right off the bat.

Douglas Milewski said:
"Aha, that was in my plan."
"Well, what about ..."
"And that.."
"Well what about..."
"And that, too."

I hate perfect villains who've outmaneuvered the hero a dozen times through sheer deep cleverness even before the action begins. I find them dull as dirt.
Or that thing where the villian gets captured on purpose. I'd love to see one time when they were like, wait, my evil plan fell apart and now I'm actually just captured for real. Nooooo
 

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NikOK said:
This is probably very true. It makes me feel kinda bleh inside, but that doesn't mean it's not right. I guess there will always be a decision when you sit down. Do I write something safe, or do I write something that might not sell? Fresh new things can do well, but the newest rehashed action drama will probably have a better chance right off the bat.
When it comes to storytelling in any medium, I think the idea a lot of the time (all of the time?) is to rehash without making it look like a rehash, even though savvy enough consumers will always be able to tell. There's probably no getting away from it while still remaining commercially viable in 99% of cases.

Reminds me of that YouTube video from a few years back, "Every Story is the Same". Not sure of the rules of linking stuff like that here so I'll refrain, but it's worth looking up.
 

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Jena H said:
BTW, a bit of a confession: I thought this thread was going to be about pet peeves we have about writing our own characters. :p To be honest, one of my MCs is a teen girl, and some readers have said she's annoying. Which she is. I just tried not to make her too annoying. (She is a teen girl, after all.... I know from experience that they can be quite annoying. Especially when there's an older brother involved. ;) )
I have a character (teen boy) who's a whiny little b. It's just who he is (when the story starts, at least). Once I fleshed out his backstory, I understood why he was that way. Hopefully I can give him a satisfying growth arc through the story. Hopefully readers won't get fed up with him before we get there.

As far as character pet peeves when reading, I guess I'd say I hate TSTL characters. So, so many books hang the plot on characters making stupid decisions. Often, making them repeatedly. Or otherwise doing things that aren't logical or smart. I hate that. "But people do make stupid decisions in real life," people say in defense. Yeah, well, I don't want to read about stupid people. I want to read about people I can admire or at least find fascinating, and stupid people are not.
 
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