HALLIE EPHRON: My 'walk-aways' are wonky things like sliding viewpoint and profligate use of adverbs. Also use of dialogue tags like "she averred" or "he pontificated" or "she complained" -- really almost anything but "said" and "asked." Also too many characters too soon, and the author hasn't written artfully enough for me to keep them straight without making a list. I'm out of there...
ROSEMARY HARRIS: I've put down books if I see more than one or two exclamation points on a page. Stop shouting at me! And telegraphing when I'm supposed to be excited, afraid, schocked!!! (Annoying isn't it?)
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: My pet peeve - and I run into this from time to time reading romance - are male characters who act like women in a man suit. You know, the character who is a super-macho ex-Navy SEAL tycoon, but who puts aside vital business meetings to spend time walking the heroine's puppy. Or he shares all his feelings with his BFF. Or he talks and talks and TALKS all the time. I mean, all you Reds are married, right? Does that sound realistic to you?
The reverse problem appears in thrillers written by male authors: the woman who thinks/acts/sounds like a guy in a skirt. A LOT of thriller bestsellers are guilty of this. I always want to say, "Guys. You're writers. You can observe the opposite sex. If you can imagine an attack on an Al-Qaeda stronghold, you can imagine what it's like to be a woman.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Julia, MY husband talks and talks and talks all the time. But he's certainly not guilty of any of the other guy-in-a-skirt things:-)
Hallie, I am with you on the sliding viewpoint. That is probably my biggest pet peeve, although there are writers who use it that I like so much I read them anyway. Just proves there is always an exception. Too many adverbs. Tagging dialogue with silly adjectives!!!!! (Did I mention exclamation points?) "She moaned" might have a place in a romance novel but NOT after a line of dialogue.
And I really, really hate heroines (or heroes) who do really, really stupid and unnecessary things. If you are going to go down in that dark cellar, alone, when there is a serial killer lurking, it had better be because there is a child trapped in there and you are the only person that can rescue him in time...
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Funny how the sliding viewpoint is so annoying. I'll say wait--the main character CANNOT know what that person is thinking! Or going from head to head in eachparagraph. Dizzying.
Also--being cranky here: too much dialect, dropped g's and attempts at southern or cockney or brogue that get in the way of the dialogue. Tell me the person is southern, have them say y'all or bless her heart, and then be done with the drawl. Logic--If I say to myself--she would NEVER DO that! Done.
Oh! One more thing. For me, at least. Entire prologues or whole big sections in italics. Seriously. I won't even read it. Talk about the parts people skip!
JULIA: Oh, prologues. Stab me in the eye and be done with it.
RHYS: So what about you, dear readers? What makes you stop reading?