(Related to fiction writing, that is. That other stuff is between you and God/The Universe/The police/the neighbour with the restraining order.)
1. Passive voice: I had to put up with enough of this shit in academia. Any attempt to inflict it on my current life will result in the offender being dragged outside and beaten with a thigh-high stocking filled with kitchen utensils.* Knock that shit off. (Edit: some people would like clarification, so here you are. Don’t write, “Jimmy was hit by the car.” Write “the car hit Jimmy.” The first example adds useless words and slows the pace. End side-bar.)
2. Sock Puppets: I’m on to you. Don’t pretend that side character with an inexplicably long monologue only vaguely related to the plot is there for the story. It’s just a way for you to make a point, and a clumsy way at that. You want to make a point, go start a blog like every other maladjusted twat with an axe to grind. I can even give you some tips on how to get started.** But don’t drop that crap on me in the middle of a story. I haven’t been to Sunday School in eighteen years, and I’m not interested in going while I’m trying to read.
3. Tokens: If I see one more shallow, thinly-veiled attempt at inclusion in a work of fiction, I will set the Attack Bees of Violent Judgement on the offender. Gay characters, transgendered characters, polyamourous characters, characters of varied ethnicity, background, or sexuality—they should be characters first. Not shills, not a way to show how cool and accepting you are. If they exist only to fill the mandated ‘not a straight monogamous white dude’ quota, get the fuck out. It’s insulting and annoying.
4. Paper Tigers: If someone’s going to be a bad guy, then for the love of Crom, make them a goddamned bad guy. Don’t pull their teeth. Don’t force them to make choices that help the heroes just because you want the story to go a certain way. If your heroes can’t handle the villain, then they’re not the people for the job. They should go home and hide under the bed while they wait for the real heroes to turn up and kick some ass. Or die horribly. I’m not picky.
5. Born This Way: Related to number four, don’t show me villains without cause. The secret to creating good villains: they should believe they’re doing the right thing. No one sees themselves as the bad guy. Give them a reason why they want to turn the population into viscous gene-spliced soup, and use that. “Because they’re the bad guy” does not cut it. When I come across this crap in a story, I feel like the author believes I’m too stupid to question a character. And then I stop reading.
6. Sad Panda Assassins: Okay, this is kind of specific, but I’ve seen it a few times, especially in fantasy fiction. A serious thought on the sanctity of life and the wrongness of their actions is fine once or twice, but every fucking time? Dude either needs to shut up or find a new profession. Possibly as a flagellant.
Right. That’s my little list of vitriol and bile for the day. So, what’s annoying you about fiction lately?
*Any volunteers willing to check the internet and find out if this is already a thing? I’d do it myself, but I’m all out of mind-bleach.
**Step One: Embracing Your Maladjusted Twat-ness. It’s clear I already have.