Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction

While Looking for Annoying People in My Novels I Found Me

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Annoying FloIn a recent blog by Marty Coleman called “Have You Annoyed Anyone Lately,” I found a lot to consider. His point was that your characters cannot all be perfect, because if they were it would be quite annoying—the wrong kind of annoying.

He points out that as writers we need to create conflict to keep our stories and our characters real and interesting. Conflict doesn’t happen when everyone is nice to each other all the time. Boredom happens. Conflict creates drama and tension. Boredom creates naps. And Flo from the insurance commercials.

When I began to look more closely at my stories, I saw that many of my main characters were nice, maybe a little too nice. Perhaps, because I find a lot of annoying people in my real life, I subconsciously didn’t want them to show up in my books. Powerless to change them in real life, maybe “editing” their personalities made me feel powerful in real fiction.

Upon further study of my work, I realized I did indeed have one very annoying person in both novels. It is the protagonist. This discovery excited me. I felt vindicated.

However, I noticed something else. Since my novels are written from a first person point-of-view, often my protagonists are a lot, well, like me.

Ergo, I am annoying. Often, I want to slap my protagonist (ergo, me) for being so stubborn, so angry, so impatient,  so prideful, so petty, so slow to get it (ergo, me).

Like right now. How annoying is it to use the word “ergo” three times in one paragraph?  Sheesh.

I’m asking my readers, “What do you find annoying in an author or a story?” Let me know . . . please . . . so I won’t do it.

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4 thoughts on “While Looking for Annoying People in My Novels I Found Me

  1. Preachy characters who, through their voice, the writer tries to better your life. Ugh.

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  2. Wordiness. Most book are, in my opinion, too long. Also, an overly-chatty voice that inevitably devolves into stream-of-consciousness. We all need more of that invaluable 4 letter word: edit, edit, edit.

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  3. I agree with both of the above. Character who preach when it’s very obviously the author talking through them can be annoying. (Not that it’s wrong for characters to have strong opinions, of course, or for a story to have a message.) And so much fiction could do with a bit more editing, especially self-published.

    I had one Amazon review of my novel Falling Girl which said some of the characters were annoying. I was dying to contact the reviewer to ask what they meant, but I was conscious of the ‘don’t reply to reviews’ rule. But it’s made me a bit paranoid. One of the characters was meant to be somewhat annoying, but not all of them …

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    • Hi Christopher,

      First, thanks for commenting. Now, on the subject of reviews, a few days ago, I finally heard back from a friend who’d read my last manuscript, a manuscript that’s gone through three critique groups, a professional editor, my agent, and a number of beta readers. I’ve gotten positive feedback and great reviews from most–except for this friend. She disliked my protagonist so much that it seemed to spoil the whole story for her. It’s so hard not to defend your work (or your characters) when that happens. I had to take a deep breath and thank her. I also told her I would keep her comments in mind in case I heard something similar again. I won’t change something major on the word of one person. Like you, though, I wanted to understand how she could come to that conclusion.

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