Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Reading Quirks

So I've eaten an ungodly amount of peanut butter M&ms today, and consequently have decided that I am a disgusting human being, and no one in his/her right mind should ever let me near a bag of chocolate candy again. It was ugly. Little bits of pastel-colored hard candy shell flying everywhere....

Anyway, while I was on this speckled Easter M&M binge and considering my blog post for the day, I started thinking about words and phrases that I hate to see in books. You know, those personal pet peeves that make you stop reading immediately so you can have a nice shudder while you wish that particular word or phrase could be banned from the English language.

So, just because I woke up with a headache and am feeling cranky, here are the top ten phrases that creep me out and that I promise never to use in my writing, with commentary. Feel free to add your own. Just don't feel picked on if you've used some of them in your own writing, because EVERY READER HAS THESE. If we all tried to avoid every reader's pet peeves, we'd be left trying to create an entire book solely with the words "the" and "puppy."

10. Once again, I just have to mention the use of the word "shapely," particularly in the male point of view to describe some attribute of the heroine's. People generally don't use "shapely" in conversation, so this word sounds antiquated and weird to me, and it always pulls me out of the story.

9. "She gave herself a mental shake." This is actually my friend and Avon author Suzanne Macpherson's pet peeve, but she called us all on it so many times while we were in a critique group together, I can't deal with it now. I keep picturing that wide-eyed, teeth-gritting little cartoon Suzanne used to draw in the margins next to any use of that phrase, generally accompanied by the question, "Did it hurt?"

8. The adjective "spunky" referring to the heroine, or any woman, for that matter. No woman wants to be described like a yappy puppy.

7. "She raised her chin in defiance." Could we make our heroine sound any more like a petulant little girl? File this one in the dictionary under "overused." If I want to defy someone, I'm going to be doing a lot more than raising my chin, that's for damn sure.

6. "Nubbin." I don't care what the context is. It is my opinion that using this word is just sick and wrong. Yes, even in that episode of Friends.

5. "Button of flesh." I KNOW what the context of this one is, and can I just say, eeeuuuuww? (Pausing here to do a brief "I'm so creeped out" dance.)

4. Anything that has the hero doing something "like a cat." I put that in my first awful, awful manuscript, and my friend and Intrigue author Sue Peterson promptly gave it the smackdown. With good cause. Your hero is not a cat. And for that, we should all be grateful, because who wants to spend the rest of her life cleaning some dude's litter box?

3. "Panties." OK, I know this one is a little ridiculous, so I acknowledge that hating this word is just a quirk of mine. It probably doesn't bother most people. But if you think "underwear" isn't feminine enough, may I suggest "pantalettes" as used by author Wendy Lewison in that classic, THE PRINCESS AND THE POTTY? (Yeah, Maggie and I are potty training right now. Sorry.)

2. "His eyes bore into hers." Sounds like he has drills coming out of his head.

And my personal, number one phrase that I promise never to use is:

1. Anything along the lines of "he wanted to fall to his knees and howl at the moon." Overdone, overwrought, and totally purple. Homeboy needs to grow up and stop being such a drama queen.

P.S. OK, it's not a word or a phrase, but I also don't get pregnant heroines who aren't the least bit body conscious. If I were in their shoes, I don't care how hot the hero is, I'd be all, "Don't touch me. Don't touch my waist. I'm a whale, don't look at me. Don't touch my waist. Am I fat? Don't touch my waist. You think I'm fat, don't you? I said don't touch my waist." Then again, I can usually deal with this one, because the book is, after all, supposed to be an escape.

Done now.


MaryF said...

I like "panties."

The ones that get me are "Impossibly," like "Her eyes were impossibly blue." Clearly, they are not.

"Not to mention." Really? Don't mention it.

I have more but I must think further.

Tracy Montoya said...

Oooh, I think I've used both. Now I'll probably watch for those. Maybe this post wasn't such a good idea.... :-)

If you think of any more, Mary, feel free to share!

MaryF said...

LOL, Tracy! Also, heroines nibbling their food.

MaryF said...

Clearly you've hit on one of my peeves - I thought of two more ;)

his flat male nipples - what other kind of nipples would he have?

completed the outfit - you know, when the author is describing what a character is wearing. I don't know why this bothers me except maybe that I have no complete outfits

Tracy Montoya said...

The nipples one is gross, Mary! I totally agree. As for completing the outfit, maybe the Queen of England has complete outfits--with her cute little hats and gloves--but for your average woman, it just sounds frumpy. Good ones!

I had thought of another last week while my family was here, but my memory being what it is, I forgot it.

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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