Monday, April 10, 2006

& A Rant About Pet Peeves and Names
First of all, Sandstorms has arrived in the Ellora's Cave warehouse and should very soon be available at EC's EBay store,,, and so on. It's my featured release for next month's RT convention... and Syneca's gorgeous cover's featured in a full-page color ad in the June issue of Romantic Times.
Enough shameless self-promotion, because I've got something else to whine about... and that something is NAMES.

Every character has to have one, and I’ve nothing against them. Most of the time. When they’re used so often they whack me over the head while I’m reading an otherwise dynamite story is when I want to remind the author there are such little words as personal pronouns. And words of address other than people’s given names.

Whoever heard real conversations like this one?

“Mark, I’m gonna kill you.”
“Oh yeah? Go ahead and try, Sal.”

More likely it would sound more like this:

“Motherfucker, I’m gonna kill you,” Sal said.
“Oh yeah, asshole? Go ahead and try.”

Or this, as a hot sex scene’s coming to a close?

“Oh, Susie, I’m gonna come.”
“Daviddddddd. Don’t stop!”

Try, “Oh, baby, I’m gonna come.”
“Yessss. Don’t stop!”

My point? People don’t usually address each other by name. In fight scenes, they’re more likely to toss in the occasional epithet, and in sex scenes they’ll use pet names or endearments—or nothing at all.

Now I’m not totally prejudiced against using names—occasionally in one-on-one scenes, to remind the reader what the character’s names are. It’s necessary to use them more often in scenes where there are more than two characters, or where the two characters are of the same sex. Often, when the character’s voice is strong enough, it isn’t necessary to identify him or her by name more than once or twice during a two-person scene.

Overusing character names when they aren’t necessary for identification purposes sounds unnatural in dialogue and reeks of “telling” rather than “showing” in narrative. It pulls me straight out of stories I’d otherwise be devouring and makes me want to toss the books they’re in—into the nearest wall or at the author, if only he or she were handy.

He, she, him, her, his, hers… Short, sweet stand-ins for names! Authors should use these personal pronouns often, whenever there’s not the least doubt as to who the POV character’s thinking about. That’s pretty darn often in scenes where the hero and heroine are alone together. I recently read a sex scene—an otherwise very steamy, yummy sex scene—where my guess is that the two participants said or thought each other’s names at least several hundred times. Those names got me where I was ready to screeeeeeeeeeeam before the scene was done.
End of rant... What jumps off the page and knocks you out of a scene when you're reading?


Lyn Cash said...

ROFLMAO *okay...I'm better now...and will just nod in agreement*

Of course, NOW I have to go back through the WIP and make certain I haven't offended myself or you - lol. But that one is right up there with pet peeves. That and when they all say the same damn thing.

Sam said...

Hi Ann!
Love the new cover - congratulations!! It looks HOT!

I think I agree with you - names pull me out of a story pretty quickly if overused, lol.

Cheyenne McCray said...

It's right there as one of my pet peeves, too. In conversation, people normally don't refer to each other by their names more than once. Drives me crazy, too. The only thing I think I overdo is when I give someone a nickname. Like the hero refers to her as "honey," then I go a little overboard. In D/s books, you can't help it with the "Master/slave" thing,I think. But otherwise it drives me nuts.

Cheyenne McCray said...

Another thing that bugs me is "she shrugged her shoulders." Well, duh. What else can she shrug? So it should be "she shrugged."

Same for "he nodded his head." Another duh. "he nodded."

Irritates me when someone does this over and over in a story!


Ann Jacobs said...

Chey, the shrugging shoulders and nodding heads grate on my nerves, too, but I don't notice them quite as fast as I do an annoying abundance of proper names...or of "she felt, she knew, she saw"...preceding every thought in the head of a POV character.

Melany said...

LOL I'll nod in agreement. Though I've been dinged for not usimg names enough.

As for shrugging shoulders, there was one book I read that used that mannerism for the heroine so much I worried about her getting a hump. And it was never just "shrugged."

Ann Jacobs said...

Hi, Melany--

You've hit on another thing that bugs me--repetition of the same mannerism over and over, way past the point it's needed to establish character. I remember reading a book one time that had the heroine wetting the corner of her lip with her tongue so often I figured she must have something mighty tasty stuck there!