Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

The biggest writing fault I come across

Got a question/comment about the creative process of writing? Post it here!
User avatar
Justin Swanton
Reader
Posts: 173
Joined: February 2012
Location: Durban, South Africa
Contact:

The biggest writing fault I come across

Post by Justin Swanton » Thu February 9th, 2012, 7:41 am

For me it's using adjectives like fireworks: an attempt to artificially heighten up a scene or action when understatement or simple statement would do the job better:

'She suddenly jumped to her feet and desperately cried out in a deafening voice...' compared to: 'She jumped to her feet and cried out...' No contest.

So much potentially good material is ruined by this. I come across it all the time and thought it worth mentioning here - in a constructive spirit.

Anyone else with a pet peeve?

User avatar
DianeL
Bibliophile
Posts: 1029
Joined: May 2011
Location: Midatlantic east coast, United States
Contact:

Post by DianeL » Fri February 10th, 2012, 1:22 am

I'd agree about over-description (but suddenly and desperately are adverbs, a much-maligned part of speech, though not everyone uses them beautifully). :)
"To be the queen, she agreed to be the widow!"

***

The pre-modern world was willing to attribute charisma to women well before it was willing to attribute sustained rationality to them.
---Medieval Kingship, Henry A. Myers

***

http://dianelmajor.blogspot.com/
I'm a Twit: @DianeLMajor

User avatar
LoveHistory
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3751
Joined: September 2008
Location: Wisconsin, USA
Contact:

Post by LoveHistory » Fri February 10th, 2012, 3:24 am

I dislike redundancy (such as 'continue on') or when people use a wrong but similar word (like 'less' where it should be 'fewer').

Also misuse of "I" and "me." That one drives me nuts.

User avatar
Justin Swanton
Reader
Posts: 173
Joined: February 2012
Location: Durban, South Africa
Contact:

Post by Justin Swanton » Fri February 10th, 2012, 3:36 am

[quote=""DianeL""]I'd agree about over-description (but suddenly and desperately are adverbs, a much-maligned part of speech, though not everyone uses them beautifully). :) [/quote]

Oops - that was a clanger. :o
Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus.

Author of Centurion's Daughter

Come visit my blog

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 2440
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Post by Margaret » Sun February 12th, 2012, 7:28 pm

A boring background dump that reads like a history lesson and stops the plot in its tracks. Although I like history lessons, I prefer to read them in the form of nonfiction. In fiction, I'm looking for story, character, and thematic depth - preferably something emotionally moving.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sun February 12th, 2012, 8:40 pm

wasting my time on 'fill' scenes. Some writers just have to put in 'what came next' instead of moving to the next important event. It reminds me of a relative who starts a story about a flat tire disaster, and then uses up your time telling you what he had for lunch while he was waiting for the tire shop to open.
Just cut to the relevant parts.

annis
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4585
Joined: August 2008

Post by annis » Mon February 13th, 2012, 4:19 pm

The "As you know, Bob" syndrome, where one character spends a lot of time telling another character stuff he would already know as a way of providing information to the reader - another form of info dumping. There are more subtle ways of doing this.

User avatar
Ludmilla
Bibliophile
Posts: 1346
Joined: September 2008
Location: Georgia USA

Post by Ludmilla » Mon February 13th, 2012, 5:04 pm

[quote=""Margaret""]A boring background dump that reads like a history lesson and stops the plot in its tracks. Although I like history lessons, I prefer to read them in the form of nonfiction. In fiction, I'm looking for story, character, and thematic depth - preferably something emotionally moving.[/quote]

As a reader (not someone who writes for a living) this bugs me, too. I read a sample of something this weekend that suffered from a similar problem. The author was clearly wanting to "teach me" about the period, and I felt the author was neglecting theme in favor of educating me. Of course, I only read a sample, so maybe the author improved as the story went along. It's probably very hard for authors to balance story with informing their readers about necessary background. So often, the info dump doesn't even feel organic to the characters or the story. I hate it when they use dialogue as info dump and have their characters speak in ways they would not have spoken to one another (the "as you know, Bob" Annis refers to). Drives me batty! Of course, I also realize dialogue is hard to do. There are writers who are good at it, but there are also very good writers who struggle with it, I imagine.
Last edited by Ludmilla on Mon February 13th, 2012, 5:19 pm, edited 3 times in total.

User avatar
Justin Swanton
Reader
Posts: 173
Joined: February 2012
Location: Durban, South Africa
Contact:

Post by Justin Swanton » Tue February 21st, 2012, 6:06 am

Another irritation I keep coming across: characters who have extreme emotional reactions that are out of character: "Cowed by womanly vehemence, Belisarius gaped in silence" - this from a tough, Roman teenager who regularly gets into scrapes which he invariably wins and which his father approves of, and who has just had a dressing down from his mother and aunt. I tie this to the excessive use of adjectives (and adverbs!) as an attempt to artificially heighten a scene.
Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus.

Author of Centurion's Daughter

Come visit my blog

User avatar
Justin Swanton
Reader
Posts: 173
Joined: February 2012
Location: Durban, South Africa
Contact:

Post by Justin Swanton » Thu March 8th, 2012, 4:16 pm

Another one: characters who speak an English that is out of sync with their social background and milieu. I'm talking about characters who historically did not speak English, like the Romans, Britons - in fact anyone before the 18th century, or anyone from any period who lived outside the British Empire and North America.

This is a difficulty for the historical novelist, as he/she must make up the idiom and accent of his characters, bolting contemporary forms on to past societies. I think it needs to be done with restraint, just enough so the reader gets the flavour of the character's social background, but not too much so he starts sounding like a Westcountryman or (worse) a New Yorker transposed into the past.
Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus.

Author of Centurion's Daughter

Come visit my blog

Post Reply

Return to “The Craft of Writing”