Biggest turn-offs when reading fics?

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by IronParrot, Oct 28, 2001.

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  1. IronParrot

    IronParrot Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Aug 2, 1999
    I think this would be a good way to approach the issue of identifying things that everyone needs to work on, without having to criticize specific works.

    My biggest turn-off: bad mechanics. I'm not talking about the occasional spelling error or verb agreement flib - even I do it sometimes. I'm talking about things like punctuating dialogue properly, consistent capitalization of names, appropriate use of commas. It's just incredibly distracting, and no matter how strong the plot may be, this kind of blemish on a story makes it unreadable.

    I also have a small pet peeve with excessive use of italicized thoughts in a third-person story. That applies to basically all fiction, though there are some that make up for this narrative cheat by strengths in other elements - Jordan's "Wheel of Time" comes to mind.

    Unnecessary and gratuitous torture is also a no-no in my books. I steer clear of those.

    Your turn.
  2. Melyanna

    Melyanna Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jul 19, 2001
    All the things listed above are big turn-offs for me, since in high school I picked up the nickname "Queen of Grammar". Plus, everything, including torture, needs to have a function in the plot. And if you're going to use that much in the way of thoughts, write in first person.

    My biggest pet peeve, though, is when people don't put spaces between paragraphs. With less-than-perfect eyesight, I find large blocks of text REALLY hard to read.
  3. Kitt327

    Kitt327 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Dec 23, 2000
    Wow, great thread.

    My biggest turn off? Mara Jade. Ug!!

    Nah, just kidding. I'm not that shallow. :D

    I guess it would be if the first post of the story doesn't grab my attention. If it contains too much description of the surroundings, without introducing any characters or situations.
  4. FlareStorm

    FlareStorm Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Nov 13, 2000
    Introducing too many characters. I realize everyone wants to use their own creations, but six new characters in a short story gets confusing.

    Really long sentences with bunches of commas. Break them up into smaller sentences.
  5. Jane Jinn

    Jane Jinn Jedi Knight star 5

    Jan 12, 2000
    Poor characterization really turns me off, especially when the Jedi don't act Jedi-like.

    Earth slang and cussing in fics makes me wince.
  6. Gandalf the Grey

    Gandalf the Grey Jedi Knight star 6

    May 14, 2000
    My biggest pet peeve should be easy to guess.
  7. The Butler

    The Butler Jedi Padawan star 4

    Oct 18, 1999
    Bad dialogue is a turn-off. I dislike dialogue with little accompanying description--most people I know aren't disembodied voices. :)

    I'm one of those sadists who appreciate good angst. As a result, I dislike it when a character commits some crime, asks for forgiveness, and is forgiven, all within a few sentences. Unless the person who forgives is a monk, priest, or grandparent, I don't think that's likely.
  8. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Chosen One star 9

    Mar 26, 2001
    My turn-offs? The NSSO can probably list them off far easier than I, but here goes anyway.

    Bad grammar. From the titles that say "Your the Daughter of Who" to every AU that starts with the premise of "What if _______ WAS". These people don't seem to care one whit if their prose makes sense, as long as they don't have to work hard at it.

    Bad spelling. Mostly on names. Liea. Jania. And then there's the "Clibourne Syndrome" (in honor of a character in "A Raisin in the Sun" that no one consistently spells right), where they don't know the spelling, so they use about 6 different ones.

    Bad "Action." I can actually remember reading a scene where it said "Luke ran up the ramp and hid behind a tree." Or, my favorite, "She ran up into the ship and saw guys in white walking around and pushing buttons." Both written by a purportedly intelligent American. I don't mind reading fanfiction, I think it's a fantastic hobby, but at least be logical or creative.

    Cut-and-dried emotion. You know the type. The fics that don't have emotional development other than "she screamed." "He burst into tears." But mostly ones that express one emotion and refuse to deal with the how and why.

    Senseless torture. Jane knows my beef with all fics on the premise of OBI-WAN, SHIRTLESS AND SCREAMING! If you're going to ruin someone's life, do it well and do it for a reason.
  9. JediGaladriel

    JediGaladriel Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 3, 1999
    Use of 20th century slang, or inappropriately informal dialogue. The GFFA is really ritualistic. Even Han's self-consciously hipshot way of talking is very stylized. Suddenly having them talk like they're all sitting around a Starbucks shooting the breeze annoys me.
  10. Ty-gon Jinn

    Ty-gon Jinn Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jan 12, 2000
    Okay, first off, can I "Ditto" everything DarthIshtar said?

    I'm also annoyed by story elements that don't go anywhere. Okay, so this character made a significant discovery about himself. Why even write that part if he's not going to use his new knowledge later on in the fic?

    I don't mean an incident that furthers the plot without further consequence- if it fits in with some of the other action, I can see past having one or two that doesn't come back up, I'm even guilty of that. But when something is distracting, taking the reader off in one direction, I as a reader want to go that direction instead of forgetting about the path.
  11. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Chosen One star 9

    Mar 26, 2001
    Amen, Ty-Gon.

    I forgot to mention the smutfactor. As head of the NSSO, I run into a few members of the AAEF or the HCEB. I don't see how gratuitous sex enhances a story. Or even the inclusion of it for plot's sake. It's casually abusing the rights of procreation and I am apalled by it.

  12. Vergere

    Vergere Jedi Knight star 5

    Jul 19, 2000
    definiely the grammar. UGH...i don't how great the plot is, the grammar/spelling overshadows that.

    the other huge thing would be using Earth objects and attitudes(except for humor). some people just can't seem to pull themselves far enough away from Earth to describe the GFFA accurately. i once read a fic where two teenagers went to prom together. i didn't even know the GFFA had proms...and if so, it wouldn't be the same name.
  13. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Chosen One star 9

    Mar 26, 2001
    lol. I hope that fic wasn't my addition to Alderaan's Death, Volume 2. That was a scene with two teenagers going to the Equinox Ball.
  14. Rokangus

    Rokangus Jedi Knight star 5

    Oct 18, 2000
    Glaring grammar and spelling errors are distracting, but I won't hate a fic because someone put a comma in the wrong place. If I can breeze through a fic without being constantly distracted by errors, I'm fine.

    I agree with the idea of a story going nowhere. It's hard to get interested in something that doesn't have a real conflict.

    I also find it kind of boring when some just goes right into some action without a little intro for the story to get the reader caught up with what is going on. Sometimes these come off as really choppy and it's hard to tell what's going on and sometimes even harder to get attached to the characters.

    I also find it disturbing when people start to contratdict stuff in their fics. It's rare, but every now and then it's like someone forgets that they did something earlier in their fic and then go on as if it didn't happen.

    And lastly one minor problem, meaningless deaths of important charaters. This is also pretty rare, but every now and then an author will off an important established EU character for seemingly little other reason than they don't like them. That and they carry out the death in a cheesy and meaningless way. I find that if you don't like an EU character it'smuch better to play off that character (like I do with Borsk in my fic) than simply kil him off and be done with him. I think fics can have a lot more potential if there is some real conflict going on between characters who are on the same side.

    My 2 cents
  15. Gandalf the Grey

    Gandalf the Grey Jedi Knight star 6

    May 14, 2000
    [puts up hand]

    I'm guilty of killing characters I don't like. Of course, I also kill characters that I like.

    I don't have a problem with character deaths though, provided that they're well done. Hamlet is one of the greatest stories ever told, and it can be summed up in two words as ?Everybody dies.?
  16. Rokangus

    Rokangus Jedi Knight star 5

    Oct 18, 2000
    That's my point. Sorry if that wasn't clear. I am okay with character deaths as long as they're given the proper attention they deserve. It's when it's handled in an immature or inappropriate manner that I take issue.

    An example: "(Insert character name here) opens a door and is killed by a (insert random act of violence here)" Obviously for a character who might be considered 'cannon fodder' this could work, but for someone like Corran or Thrawn? (I choose these two randomly) It just doesn't sit well with me. And again, this is a rare occurance, so maybe this isn't such a big problem for people.
  17. Vergere

    Vergere Jedi Knight star 5

    Jul 19, 2000
    oh no, Darth Ishtar! [face_shocked] i was talking about a completely different fic!
  18. Padawan_Di-Lee

    Padawan_Di-Lee Jedi Padawan star 4

    Oct 15, 2000
    I agree completely with both of The Butler's points. In addition, I don't care for major characters that just seem to act on impulse all the time with no indication of what their motives might be, or if those motives are made to be too shallow. It all goes to character development.
  19. Eldritch009

    Eldritch009 Jedi Padawan star 4

    Apr 1, 2001
    I guess I'm guilty of using too many comma's, long lines and probably some bad grammar. I could blame it on MS Office, but that's too easy. I'm writing the stuff.

    I think the trick is to have a beta who knows what he/she is talking about in terms of grammar.
    Especially for people who's native language isn't english, and want to write a fic (puts up hand), should get a beta for that.

    Also, the constant jumping from plotline to plotline in one single post...that is a turnoff for me. One, maybe two. That's the limit for me.


  20. Fluke_Groundwalker

    Fluke_Groundwalker Jedi Youngling star 5

    Aug 11, 2001
    Bad grammar/spelling. (The two usually go hand-in-hand.) Particularly spelling. If you don't know how to spell something, look it up in one of those old fashioned books, called dictionaries. They're pretty helpful. Or, if you insist on staying "new age," go to

    Also, overuse of swearing. While I don't mind swearing in general, as most of my fics contain swear words, I don't like a swear word in every other sentence. For example:

    Luke almost #@$$#@% his pants, as he saw the huge @#$@%@% monster bear down on him. The monster swung one of it's big @#!%$%$ tentacles, and knocked Luke on his @$$.

    That just doesn't fly for me.

    But the biggest turnoff is torture in stories. Why must characters be tortured? I don't want to read "Obi shirtless, screaming in agony and pain," or "Qui barely clothed, on his knees, begging for mercy."

    Please. That takes absolutely no talent.

    There. I'm done ranting.
  21. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Chosen One star 9

    Mar 26, 2001
    I absolutely agree with the swearing. Someone our discussion group at submitted a story that was supposed to reflect war a la Viet Nam. Every other word was a swear and, while the action was hauntingly realistic, we couldn't stand his dialogue.

    On character deaths. Ever since I murdered Yoda and shot General Rieekan in the back of the head in my first story here and then went on to write ATWP which just defies explanation on that front, everyone approaches one of my stories with the apprehension of seeing someone they like die a gruesome and horrible death. Well, I don't do senseless deaths. Every single character death, whether minor or major, is part of the character development of the others. I think that's where death should be used.

    And as for torture, I have the same stance that I do for character death. Make it have meaning. Never for pleasure.
  22. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 9, 2000
    Okay, I've got to agree with all of Darth Ishtar's first post. ESPECIALLY torture. (I don't mind angst so much).

    I don't mind italicized thoughts every now and then. But not great long passages.

    Oh...can I throw in "Mara Sue?" Where the main female lead is always married to/has a child with/love affair with/one night stand with (INSERT MAIN CHARACTER OF CHOICE HERE). A certain red-headed Sith assassin is the prime example of this. If there's gonna be Mara Sue, at least try to be subtle?

    (One reason I generally write/prefer all- original characters).

    As to too many "new" characters, I've gotten in the habit of drawing up (and occasionally posting) a list of "Dramatis Personae" to help the readers keep track. Mostly because as the author I lose track! I try to stick to no more than 4 main characters, including the villain, and toggle back and forth between POV.
  23. Obischick

    Obischick Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Aug 25, 2001
    Okay, I have to admit, if I don't find a title interesting, I probably won't read the story. And I also admit, I give Handmaiden fics first priority, only cuz there are so few of them (okay, not entirely the truth... :D )

    As you guys said, really bad grammer. I can't stand when people act like they have no concept of language in the first place. If you can't spell or use grammer, why write?

    Pointless death is another thing that bothers me. (this is coming from the girl who made up a huge family for Rabe, then killed most of them off. But it had a purpose, I swear. Palpatine killed them because of her father....and, that's all I'm gonna tell you. If you're interested, go read my fic. :D )

    Something else that bugs me is when "authors" make Qui/Obi/Luke/Han have sex with some random girl and it has no point and then the author has some really long angsty thing going....I think it has to do with my personality. I can't stand stories that have no plot/point. Again the question, why did you write it in the first place if it has no point? If you write a pointless story cause you had ONE idea for ONE scene, see if you can make a GOOD story with that scene in it.

    Okay, done ranting for now

    ~Obischick :)

    [edit] Sorry, but one last thing. I don't have a problem with this, but why do Han/Obi/Qui/Luke always have the story where they have random sex with random girls (especially Obi), while Leia and Amidala/Padme never have that kind of fic? Are people afraid to "unpurify" them? Don't get me wrong, it doesn't bother me, but are all the sex writers female or something? *sigh* I need to stop typing now....
  24. Gandalf the Grey

    Gandalf the Grey Jedi Knight star 6

    May 14, 2000
    "A certain red-headed Sith assassin is the prime example of this."

    I assume you speak of Shira Brie, the first and only red-haired Sith assassin ;)

    Seriously though, to a certain degree I think that Mary Sue-ism is less important in Star Wars than in other formats. A character almost has to be larger than life to stand in the same pantheon as Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda, Palpatine, etc. The characters so far beyond the average person in terms of power and experience that they are practically Gods in their own right. Anakin Skywalker marries a Queen, Luke is the son of his own worst enemy, they can use powers beyond mortal comprehension with a mere thought, etc.

    When creating a character to interact with one of them as an equal, the new character must be able to pull their own weight. Otherwise, I for one tend to feel more pity for the character than empathy. I think it is possible to go too far *cough*Anakin Solo*cough*Kyp Durron*cough*, but making a character smart, good looking, talented and strong in the Force isn?t so bad. After all, Anakin, Obi Wan, Luke, Leia, Mace and Qui Gon have all four, and Han and Padmé have three. For someone to play an important role on the galactic stage, they need to have the proper tools at their disposal.
  25. Vonn

    Vonn Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jun 3, 2000
    I don't like recycled ideas. I've read too many stories that have the same type of characters, thrown into the same type of scenarios. If anyone has seen the Young Indy episodes, I think they are a prime example of taking a popular character and putting him in situations that most would not have expected.

    I also agree with IronParrot's comment about italicized internal thought. I personally think italicized text as internal thought is a modern fad and should be cast aside. There is plenty of old literature that portray thoughts without italics. We should learn from them.

    However, my biggest complaint is people who use sentence fragments to bring some kind of poetic flow to their prose. First of all, in my opinion, sentence fragments are ALMOST NEVER acceptable. I usually bend on that rule when it comes to dialogue, but that is it. Secondly, putting in those kinds of phrases only makes it more blatant that the author is trying to manipulate the reader's emotions. The reader NEVER likes to feel manipulated, and therefore it needs to be a lot more subtle than that.

    My second biggest complaint is the word "depression." Never use it! There are certainly at least a thousand different combinations of words that can convey the ultimate emptiness/sadness than that one word. This came from my critique of Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire, because he used the phrase "wave of depression" too many times to describe a moment of UNMOTIVATED melancholy. In fact, using that phrase at the very beginning of his novel is what turned my off of his trilogy from the start.

    That's all I can think of right now. I sure hope I won't be able to think of anymore. I'm probably the harshest critic I know.
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