7 Storytelling Pet Peeves

Below are a few of my storytelling pet peeves:

1) When magic saves characters. If magic is a normal part of the world the author has created, magic rules should be explained and then not breached to save a character’s life.

2) When characters seemingly come back to life. Unless resurrection is a major theme in the story, characters should die when it is reasonable for them to do so. That is my greatest criticism of The Lord of the Rings. Gandalf should have died on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm.

3) When female characters are sweet, precious angels. I am speaking to YOU, Johanna Spyri (author of Heidi), Charles Dickens, and Eleanor Porter (author of Polyanna).

4) When there is religious stereotyping. As a Catholic, this irks me to no end. Not all priests are awful people. Not all monks are assassins. Not every historical fiction novel set in Medieval Europe needs to have lovely Catholic characters, but I have met a few good Catholic priests. They exist.

5) When the Virgin can’t wait to be “sexually liberated”. This bothers me a lot. I know that sex sells, and that people have sex, but once in a while I’d like to read a book in which a female or male character chooses to be or is OK with being celibate.

6) When the single or married (but always female) secretary becomes de facto a love interest. This bothers me because I see it as a misogynistic trope. Why are secretaries always hit on by their bosses? Why do authors assume that a secretary wants to get into her boss’s pants?  Why are secretaries always female? Geesh. This needs to stop.

7) When there are glaring historical inaccuracies in a historical fiction work. The word “historical” is in the name of the genre for a reason.

What are your storytelling pet peeves?


11 thoughts on “7 Storytelling Pet Peeves”

  1. Really? You don’t think Gandalf should have returned? I agree that many resurrections are badly handled (and I might be convinced to include Sherlock Holmes in that), but I think Gandalf’s sacrifice and then return are a very important aspect of LOTR. His work was not done — the battle with Sauron was really his battle, since he was the guardian of Middle Earth, and so he was returned because his business was most definitely unfinished.

    If Gandalf had stayed dead, how do you see the rest of the story playing out?

    1. I actually don’t know what would have happened? Gandalf is such an important part of the story. He is one of the great heroes of The LOTR. Maybe that scene should have been left out of The Fellowship of the Ring. I love Gandalf. He recognizes his limitations, unlike Saruman. I want him in the story. But on the bridge, I think it was reasonable for him to die.

      1. Yes, it was reasonable for him to die. And he did. He told Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, “Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.” My take has always been that he did actually die, and then was reborn, in a way — he says, “Naked I was sent back — for a brief time, until my task is done.” The Powers That Be of Middle Earth sent him back, but that doesn’t make his sacrifice any less sacrificial. Gandalf didn’t know he was going to return.

      2. I never thought about it that way. I am currently rereading The Fellowship. I never thought that Gandalf’s resurrection might be a major theme in the story, intentional. I will post a reflection on Gandalf’s resurrection after I finish The LOTR.

      3. Of course, you could say that instead of dying, he descended into the underworld to wrestle with the Balrog and overthrow him, and then returned to earth, never having actually died. But I prefer to think he really did die, not knowing he would be resurrected. His resurrection showed Aragorn in particular that evil does not have to triumph, and that Aragorn himself could rise from obscurity to claim his rightful place as King of Middle Earth.

        I’ll be interested to see what you think when you through the whole trilogy!

  2. #3 is definitely one of mine as well, and Dickens is one of the authors that immediately springs to mind. It really puts me off as a reader, particularly when I think about all the Victorian ideology that lies behind those sorts of characterisations. Of course, the saddest thing is that it still happens today (perhaps with different results, like you pointed out with #6 🙂 ).

  3. Agree with #1 (to an extent — how do you feel about Harry Potter, then?). In general, I cannot stand when authors employ deus ex machina — gah, such a sign of laziness/poor craftsmanship… Gandalf should have died? That’s just cruel. 😛 Absolutely agree with #3 (although I have such a soft spot for Dickens), and I don’t have enough experience with #7 but I imagine it would bother me as well.

    1. In Harry Potter, magic is used a lot, but the magic spells are defined so that’s fine.
      I explained my view on Gandalf’s “resurrection” in a previous comment. I am currently rereading The Fellowship so I may like that part more this time around, especially if Hamlett is right that Gandalf’s resurrection is a key part of the story-a major theme even.

  4. Oh,I hate it when someone is resurrected in a book.It feels so Bollywoodian…
    Resurrection is why I’ve stopped taking Naruto seriously.Pain kills most people in Konoha,and every reader is stunned,heart-broken and starts qualifying the manga as epic,but afterwards,after being smoothed by Naruto’s speech,Pain resurrects everybody!! What was the point of killing the characters then?
    And…for the final part of Naruto,the author has had the great idea to resurrect every enemy Naruto and his friends have defeated!! -_-
    He is milking all the possibilities of his fantasy world,but doesn’t realise how much less credible he has made it become!

    I too hate it when people end up having sex with one another.Sex has become invasive in our world,that I don’t like seeing it in a thing so noble as a book…

    As for your disdain at precious and sweet female characters,you should read some books from Kafka! You certainly won’t be disappointed – as far as your pet peeve is concerned! 😉

  5. Heyy I live this post!
    Yes, magic is great. Yes, resurrecting characters are just awesome, they have me so worried 😮
    Never have paid attention for female characters.good points on 4 and 5 haha and on 6.
    I think mine are definitely raw emotions and I love rollercoasters in books.

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