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Top 10: Things That Set Me Off/Things Not to Say to Me

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Soooooooo…this month’s Top Ten post is all about how not to piss me off. These are in no particular order. They all piss me off equally.

Welcome to the unloading.

10.) The phrases; “But her emails…”, “How much damage can he do in four years?”, “There’s a system of checks and balances in place.”, “I’m not racist, but…”, “Trans women and men aren’t real women/men/are mentally ill/are perverted/etc”, “Global warming is a hoax.”

Just. Fucking. Don’t.

9.) Any iteration of  “So you write porn?”, “When are you going to write a real book?”, “So, like Fifty Shades of Grey?”, When are you going to write something I can read?”, “Are the sex scenes from personal experience?”, “How can you call yourself a feminist if you write romance?”

Again… Just. Fucking. Don’t.

8.) The Pain Olympics (not those horrible videos you can never unsee – seriously, do not google them)  also known as “One Downing” – there are always a few of these types in most people’s circles. Could be a co-worker, a family member, a person you deeply regret ever becoming friendly with, but they all have the same M.O.: You’re in the midst of what you think is a conversation, but before you know it, the Pain Olympics have begun. It goes a lot like this:

Scenario 1:

You: *sad because your cat died*

Pain Olympiad: “That’s too bad. Once, my cat was kidnapped and held for ransom and after I took out a loan for a million dollars to pay the ransom, they took my money and sold my cat to a foreign dictator who said he was going to make a hat out of her. At least you got to say goodbye to your cat.”

Scenario 2:

Coworker: “Hey, haven’t seen you in a while.”

You: “I’ve had a cold. Didn’t want to give it to anyone else, so I stayed home for a couple days.”

Coworker: *strips off work attire to reveal Pain Olympiad uniform beneath* “Last year, I got a cold and spent a three months in the ICU and the doctors had to take half my lung. You’re lucky you didn’t get that.”

You get the picture. Whatever it is, they’ve had it soooooooooooooo much worse, and they want to give you all the details about how their experiences are so much more horrific than yours. In normal conversation, we all share things to let others know they’re not alone in whatever they’re experiencing. One-Downing is a little different in that these people tend to be in desperate need of all the sympathy and acknowledgement that they’re the biggest and best victim of all.

7.) Vaguebooking. Either say it, or don’t. I get that sometimes people have things going on in their lives that they’d like to talk about, but they can’t because there may be other people involved, or they just don’t know enough about an upsetting situation to make a definitive statement.

What makes me beyond ragey is the vaguebooking (or any social media) for attention thing. The kinds of posts that are designed to make everyone feel like they need to fawn over the poster. Examples include things like:

“Well, I guess I know who my real friends are.”

“*sigh*”

“I can’t believe someone would be so mean.”

“Sometimes you have to learn who you can trust the hard way.”

Unless any of those statements accompany a photo of your dog stealing your steak, just don’t. If you’re having a bad day and could use some sympathy, fucking own it. If you’re pissed at someone, own that, too.

6.) The phrase, “Well, it’s not like you have a real job.” There are some people who are under the misguided impression that people who work from home don’t actually work and have all kinds of free time for things like babysitting, or driving them places, or endless phone calls, etc. Bitch, between writing, editing, coaching, audio prepping, website creation and maintanance,  and other client assistance, I’m currently putting in 12 -18 hour days, 7 days a week. Don’t tell me I don’t have a real job.

5.) I understand how incredibly difficult it is to find the right thing to say to someone who’s grieving, but I promise you, “God needed another angel” is never ever the right thing to say. Especially to those grieving the loss of a child.

4.) I believe that often adversity can make people stronger, more resilient–it’s certainly been true in my life. But that growth typically isn’t noticeable or appreciated until well after the fact.  So when others learn of something awful occurring in the life of someone they know, like say,  a cancer (or some other debilitating disease or life circumstance) diagnosis. Saying things like, “God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle” or “You’ll be stronger for it” or calling a disease a “health opportunity” because you’ve got that life coach mentality is never ever the right thing to do. If the person in question expresses interest in your life coaching philosophy, bring it up then. But if not, calling a cancer diagnosis a “health opportunity” is not a road you want to take.

3.) Okay, so I’m a fat woman. This is not secret. I’m not particularly happy about it, but overall, I’m healthy (I have the test results to prove it) and I’m working hard on self-acceptance, and when I don’t financially need to put in 12-18 hour days, I’ll work more exercise in. If I make a crack or mention something about being fat, for the love of kale, please don’t say things like, “You’re not fat, you’re pretty.” or “You’re not fat, you’re so nice.” While, I understand that you may be attempting to be helpful or kind, the way that comes off is that you equate fat with ugly  and meanness. In addition to being incredibly hurtful, it’s not a good look for either of us.

2.) “This is a Christian nation.” Hard NOPE! One of the ideals this country was founded on was religious freedom and the separation of church and state. We need to adhere to that. STAT.

1.) Other random things that set me off are;

People who lie–especially when their story changes depending on who their audience is and what they want from them.

People for whom literally every last thing in life is a goddamn competition–not people who try to better themselves, people who have a pathological need to prove their superiority to others–even those they supposedly care for

People who are awful to their children and view them as extensions of themselves or belongings as opposed to individuals.

People who leave their animals out in extreme weather.

People who try to impose their religious views on everyone else.

People who constantly assume the victim role and refuse to take responsibility for their own shit.

People who plagiarize or otherwise take credit for someone else’s work.

Okay, so…I’m thinking I should probably stop now. I’ve got a ton to do today, and I need to get moving. Feel free to share what sets you off. An be sure to check out Gwen’s post and see what sets her off, too.

Top 10 Ways to Lose Me as a Reader

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Once upon a time, I finished every book I started. Then, I realized that my time is more precious than that. And once I drop an author mid-book, with very few exceptions, I don’t usually pick them back up again. But here are some ways to lose me as a reader of romance.

I’m focusing specifically on romance since that’s mostly what I write and a lot of what I read. Also, these are in no particular order. I hate them all equally.

10.) Awkward Dialogue.  If dialogue is consistently clunky, stilted unrealistic, or otherwise unfortunate, I’ll tap out. I know that sounds picky, but I read to escape into other worlds. But I can’t fully immerse myself in a story if the dialogue is bad.

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I did a dialogue presentation at my local writers group last summer and then uploaded it as a series of blog posts. If you’re interested in listening to me rant, you can find part one here.

9.) Too Stupid to Live (TSTL) Characters. This is a special breed of character. They’re especially prevalent in paranormal romance and romantic suspense, and even more frustrating, 99 times out of 100, the character is female. This is the character who proclaims herself to be strong, independent and self-sufficient. She can take care of herself, goddamn it. She’s also the target of a coven of angry witches/a pack of werewolves/a nest of vampires/a collection of mafia assassins/crooked cops or all of the above. The hero inevitably warns her that she shouldn’t leave the safe house/meet up with that sketchy sounding dude who says he’s got info on the real killer/go to Taco Bell. Our TSTL character does all of those things. Why? Because she needs to prove that she’s all kinds of independent, doesn’t need a man, etc. She doesn’t need a man. However, she does need is a fucking brain. Just because that advice came from a dude doesn’t mean that it’s categorically bad. Inevitably, the heroine goes out and does something dangerous because she’s got something to prove. And equally inevitably, she ends up needing the hero to rescue her. Prove your independence and ability to care for yourself some other way, and quit making stupid fucking choices.

Sometimes, characters take risks and go out in the middle of a witch-vamp-shifter-hitman-dirty cop-covered minefield. But it’s because the situation calls for it. If they don’t risk themselves something even worse could happen. But not to make a damn point.

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8.) Alphaholes. Why?!  Why are these bag-of-dicks characters still a thing?! WHY are these “men” considered romance hero material?! Let’s looks at the alphaphole checklist: Bitter and jaded about women and love? Check. Misogynistic? Check. Self-absorbed and mostly concerned about matters of the dick? Check. Tortured past? Check. Manipulative as fuck? Check. Considers heroine his property which voids her ability to speak to other men ever, wear clothing/have occupation/hobbies/thoughts he doesn’t approve of? Check. Check. Check. And super check.

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7.) Character Inconsistency. Now, I’m not saying that characters shouldn’t grow and change during the course of a story. That’s expected. Desirable, even. The thing I have a big old problem with is when a character is established in the beginning of a story begins acting utterly completely opposite to what’s been demonstrated as their personality. Certainly, there are things that will cause a person to react in a way that’s a little out of the norm. But when the characters personalities are like pendulums, swinging wildly out of control, from one extreme to the other, with absolutely no discernable reason for the seeming multiple personalities, I’ve gotta put that book down and back away.

I think I just had a bit of an epiphany as to why that happens, and if you’re still reading my rantiness, I’m about to share. I think that sometimes, the characters and the plot an author comes up with don’t mesh as well as the writer anticipated they would. And in an attempt to keep the plot going in the direction the author wants to, the characters are forced to react to each other/the environment/story events in a way that keeps their idea for the plot on track. The problem is, those characters are behaving in a way that’s utterly inconsistent with what’s already been written. The characters are basically being sacrificed for in order to adhere to the plot.

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6.) Same Freaking Characters – Somewhat Different Plot. I think all writers have certain character types that they gravitate toward, and that’s cool. I know I do. I like writing academics or creative types – I have a lot of those. I’ve also written the occasional therapist, cop, sportsball player, carpenter, knight, barista, accountant, musician – oh, I guess that’s a creative type, DNR officer, business person, vampire hunter, priest, doctor, detective, god, librarian, costume director, well, you get the idea. There’s a lot of variety here. And I think their personalities are all pretty varied, too.

Now, I’m not talking about series here,  but sometimes, it seems like authors get in ruts where all they write are characters who are billionaires. Or military or former military characters. Or professors. Or writers. Or some form or current or former law enforcement. Or a cowboys. Or fashion designers. Or psychics. Or librarians. Again, I’m not talking series. But just the same kinds of characters popping up over and over.

The same can be said of character types, too. All the guys are alpha and cocky. All the women are kickass, take no shit types. And there’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but if those are the only characters an author’s writing they can get a little stale after a while. Women are strong in myriad ways. Strength doesn’t always have to be about badassery.

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5.) Misandry Disguised as Feminism.  And while I’m on the subject of strong women, I want to touch on feminism in romance for a minute. I fucking love seeing (and writing) feminist characters–both female and male (and gender nonconforming) in my fiction. But here’s something I don’t love. I don’t love when authors confuse or conflate feminism with misandry.  While a feminist can certainly be a misandrist, they’re not always one and the same.  There are some writers who consistently write female protagonists who constantly bitch about men who are lazy, stupid, juvenile, selfish, worthless, pretty to look at–but that’s about it. The characters in the books I’m thinking of aren’t talking about a specific man for whom these things might be true. These are sweeping generalizations leveled at all men, including the love interest. Sorry, but I’m not buying that HEA. Misandry  is no better than misogyny, and I’m not here for any of it.

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4.) Head Hopping. Head hopping makes me stabby. So. Very. Stabby. Pick a point of view and stay there for the scene. Or better yet, the chapter. If you’re switching mid-scene, you’d better have a damn good reason. If you’re writing a romance I want to know what the main characters are thinking in their separate scenes. If it’s important to know about his BFF’s feels, s/he can tell us, out loud with dialogue. Same for parents, taxi drivers, random relatives, coworkers, etc.

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3.) Character Expectation vs. Reality. This falls under show don’t tell, and you see it most often with either character self description or description by the love interests. Often a character’s description of their love interest has no basis in reality. Like take Christian Grey’s description of Ana – brilliant, amazing, remarkable. NOPE. Sorry, Christian. There’s nothing in the text to support those descriptors. Ana is as boring, and honestly, not the brightest. I suppose you could say she’s remarkably weak-willed, but that’s about it.

Then there are the characters who self-describe as strong, independent women who love their jobs/hobbies/whatever and wouldn’t give them up for anything because whatever it is, is intrinsic to who they are as people. But, as soon as there’s interest from a man, all those things that were important to them? The very core of their personality? Gone. For the rest of the story, there’s no indication those traits were ever there.

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2.) Mostly Telling–Very Little Showing. When I was working as an acquisitions editor, I’d see a lot of manuscripts that relied on “telling” as their predominant narrative form. Don’t tell me that the airlock malfunctioned and everyone on the ship was terrified of getting sucked into the cold vacuum of space. Show me their fear – their cold sweat, the dude in the corner hyperventilating, burning up precious oxygen, and the woman who knocks him unconscious for the good of the many. Show me the tiny crack in the heavy tempered glass window, getting bigger and spiderwebbing faster and faster as it spreads across the surface making that ominous little tink-tink-tink-tink sound. Show me what’s happening so I can feel it.

This is an issue in all genres of fiction, but I find it especially problematic in romance. The author is asking the reader to take a journey with them–the journey of watching this couple (or grouping if it’s a ménage or poly novel) overcome their obstacles and fall in love. In order to do that effectively, the author needs to show us what the characters are feeling and experiencing. Don’t tell me he was more nervous than he’d ever been. Tell me that there were so many butterflies careening through his stomach, it lurched and for a second, he was afraid he was going to vomit as she answered the door.

It’s all in the details–and this goes for sweet romance as well as erotic. If the reader doesn’t see and understand what the character is feeling, there won’t be any connection with the characters. Don’t tell. Be like this little demon spawn and show.

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1.) Including Plot Elements Simply Because They’re Popular. This is when an author shoehorns in random things that really have nothing to do with the plot and don’t fit the characters at all. They just seem to be included in an attempt to boost sales. (Now, this may not be the case at all, but that’s how the stories read.) Examples of things I’ve see included in stories where they didn’t seem to belong and didn’t work at all with the narrative/plot/characters. Navy SEALS, over the top tragic backstories, BDSM, motorcycle clubs, stereotypical gay best friend, a stalker, sex clubs/dungeons, etc.

There are plenty of books where any of these elements work perfectly fine sometimes even together (just not all of them at once, please). But like anything else, any element included in hopes of boosting sales/popularity/visibility must be in tune with the characters and the rest of the plot.

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Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ lists to find out what makes them ditch books and authors. Jess, Kris, Gwen, and Deelylah.

Tropes I Hate in Fiction and Why: A.K.A. Bron Unloads (Again)

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There are sooooooooooo many tropes I loathe (quite a few I love, too) but it’s all about the ranty loathing today. I’m gonna break it down by genre. Well, that’s a lie. I’m gonna break it down by the genres that I write because otherwise, I’ll literally be here all night.

Romance

  • All Women Are Competition – I’m putting this in romance, but honestly, it appears in about every kind of fiction, but it’s huge in romance, erotic romance, and YA, and I am sick to fuck of it.  I really hate when other women exist in stories as tools to show the reader how much better the heroine is than the hero’s ex, or his secretary, or a romantic rival. These other women are usually portrayed as conniving, grasping, hateful bitches who are in competition for the hero’s affection.
  • You’re Not Like Other Girls – This trope also belongs in erotic romance and YA, too. This is meant to show the reader the same thing as All Women Are Competition – just what a special fucking snowflake the heroine is. We get it. She’s your heroine and she’s awesome. We want to like her, too. But there’s something that’s a little disconcerting about a hero evangelizing about the heroine (silently, because he’s an alphahole who doesn’t share his feels) in a way that disses all other women (basically rates them as substandard) in order to reinforce how super-shiny-special the heroine is.
  • Instalove – To be fair, this is another one that could have gone into YA or ER. It’s also pretty self-explanatory. I just don’t buy a Happily Ever After after characters have only known one another for three days.

Erotic Romance

  • It’s Fine for the Heroine to Have All the Sex Ever Because Soon it Will Be Love but Any Other Woman Who Does That is a Slut – Okay, so this one is a bit of a mouthful as far as tropes go, but I fucking hate hypocrisy like this so much! How does that even work? Especially in the erotic romance genre? It’s the sister trope of All Women Are Competition and You’re Not Like Other Girls. But it reinforces that not only is the heroine super special, but the laws of nature (or the laws of the novels where this trope appears) don’t apply to her. And also, she’s winning ALL the competitions that theses other women didn’t even know they were part of.
  • Alphaholes – I’m really not a fan of the darkity-dark-dark-dark hero who’s basically a giant bag of dicks. They’re emotionally unavailable, arrogant, ruthless, cruel, jealous as fuck, creepily controlling, and often stalk the heroine, yet, the heroine can’t help but be attracted to these gems. They can be billionaires or bikers – sometimes even both at the same time.
  • Magic Peen/Magic Vag – Either the hero or heroine is super emotionally fucked up by some past trauma, but by the end of the book, they’ve been made emotionally whole again by the power of the peen (or vag). The sex cured them.  (OMG – random side note: Remember the old He-Man cartoon? He-Man would whip out his little dagger and holler “By the power of Greyskull!” and his dagger would grow into a sword. Now, every time I come across the magic peen trope, I’m gonna be thinking of He-Man. This is not going to end well for me, friends.)
  • Billionaires – So often, the billionaire trope ends up reading more like money porn to me. So far, there’s been one exception to this rule for me, and that’s been Neil Elwood. I’m sure there are probably others, but I’m so turned off by the trope that I’d be unlikely to pick them up without a strong recommendation from someone I trust.
  • Instantaneous Orgasms Over Virtually Nothing – Sexual arousal is a powerful, powerful thing. Also? It’s a pretty good time. It has a lot to recommend it, really. However, when the heroine orgasms over the barest sexual touch, it doesn’t read realistically. Perhaps, there’s a person out there who can come because someone stroked their arm. Perhaps, you’re that person. However, most of the populace isn’t that person. Most of the populace is going to look at the Instaorgasm, roll their eyes and mutter, “For fucking real?!”

Young Adult

  • Magical Girl – In paranormal YAs, the heroine is rarely an average girl who gets caught up in extraordinary events. She’s usually secretly (unbeknownst to her) a witch, a fairy/faery, a vampire, an angel, a demon, a weresomething, a vampire slayer, etc. and the story is all about how she was really special all along.
  • Love Triangles  – Nope. I feel like the main reason this exists is to show the reader that even though the heroine thinks she’s nothing specials/not pretty or popular or whatever enough, she really is because OMGTWOBOYSWANTHER. How about we just, I dunno, explore this character’s worth in ways that don’t rely on whether or not she’s found desirable by boys?

Okay, so, I know there are a ton more, but these are the ones I’m unloading on today, because it’s nearly 9pm and I have a ton of things left to do in my bullet journal for the day. I’m sure we’ll revisit this topic another time, and I’ll have more tropes to bitch about, but in the meanwhile, how about you share some of your most loathed tropes with me. What really gets your undies in a twist?

In the meanwhile, be sure to check out Torrance and Deelylah’s posts, too!

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