When you get down to the nitty gritty all fiction is just making crap up. Whether the author is writing realistically or not, the world is still fake. That’s okay as long as the fake world is believable and functions in a logical manner. Harry Potter’s world is fake. So is the world of Shakespeare’s King Richard, although he is based on a historical character. The actions in both are understandable within the context of human nature. The reader understands why Harry went right and Richard so horribly wrong.
The biggest offenders are the latest glut of dystopian novels. The authors have no understanding of basic human psychology or motivation. Characters act irrationally. The worlds they inhabit make no damn sense; politically, psychologically, economically or otherwise. Settings are idiotic as well as impractical and could never function. On the other hand if magic existed, Harry Potter’s world could, too. It’s fake, but feels real.
Apostrophes & Unpronounceable words
D’Chtulk, g’g’duba of the Mmor’a’c’z’anits, wielded his mighty blorknog. “Fraaaanaka,” he screamed.
Tolkien invented a whole new language. There are no Tolkien's out there writing now. If an author has to add a pronunciation guide, the story is bad. Vowels are free. Add a few. Apostrophes feel no pain. Kill them with a blorknog. While we’re on the subject, what exactly is a blorknog? A sword. The hero’s pet name for his genitalia? I don’t know. I don’t care. Neither does anyone with a dash of sense.
Sex instead of chemistry
Sex is not romance. If you don’t know the difference, stop reading right now and get counseling immediately. In erotica, sex matters. In romance, sex doesn’t. You can have it, or not have it. With good writing, the lack or addition won’t affect the story. Sex never makes a bad story better. The only importance is the chemistry between the hero and heroine. If they don’t have an emotional and intellectual connection along with the physical attraction, the sex in the story comes across as either sad, creepy, or exploitive.
Men are different than women. Seriously people, they are. Not so, according to many authors who write supposedly tough female characters. Yeah, these gals fight like the men. They talk like the men. They walk like the men. Hell, they are men, only with boobs. It drives me crazy when there is no discernible difference between the sexes. Just because a female character wields a weapon and curses, doesn’t make her either tough or memorable. I find her annoying.
Confusion can also occur because there are too many characters. I once read a good one hundred page novelette that would have been a great novelette if it weren’t for that fact that it had over thirty characters. I kept having to flick back and forth trying to remember who all was whom.
Which leads me to the last item...
A physical description shouldn’t be required to tell the difference between every man, women, or child in a story. Dialog should do that alone. Each character needs to be a unique voice on the page. You should get a good sense of gender, age, economic status, and other variables. Characters that sound alike have no separate personality or identity. If dialog can be switched around between men and women and not sound weird, I’m ready to pitch the book across the room.
I have plenty more, but a good rant is exhausting and I feel the need to lie down.