I would love to welcome Abigail from All Things Urban Fantasy – a wonderful review site with lots of great features – to the floor. Abigail is here to talk about her Top Ten Urban Fantasy Pet Peeves, so I will leave you in her excellent hands.
Have you ever finished reading a book and realized you’ve been scowling for the last half? Have you ever wished you were physically capable of vomiting out of your eyes just so you wouldn’t have to read and more of a book that is the literary equivalent of a kick in the crotch? Then I feel your pain. I don’t have a litmus test that I use to gauge each book I read, but I do have a list of pet peeves that I can’t help but be aware of when I read. Some of these aren’t limited to urban fantasy/paranormal books, they bother me regardless of the genre I’m reading, but urban fantasy books are particularly guilty of them. And sometimes a book can get away with one or even two of them, but any more than that and the book begins to degrade rapidly in my opinion. I’m sure your list of pet peeves is different from mine, but that’s what comments are for, right?
My top 10 urban fantasy pet peeves:
1. Sex breaks
Sex breaks are when two characters inexplicably stop in the middle of the story, often during time sensitive dire situations, to have sex. Sex breaks are rarely isolated incidents, if one occurs you can typically expect two or more to follow. Sex breaks are easily distinguished from sex scenes in that they neither contribute to the development of the characters involved nor do they advance the plot of the book.
Exaggerated example from the totally-made-up-not-an-actual-book: “Fangs with Dick and Jane”
Dick gazed at Jane with naked desire on his face, “Jane, baby, I know that even as I speak the vampires are closing in on the children’s orphanage/blind puppy shelter, but a man can only take so much.” He eyed the backseat of the car significantly.
Dick’s burning stare heated Jane’s flesh and she knew she could not deny him. Did not want to deny him. Surely the orphans could fight off the vampires for a little while, she reasoned, and the puppy population was getting a bit out of hand lately. Jane met Dick’s eyes and undid the first button on her blouse.
[insert 3-6 pages of vehicular sex]
“I knew we’d make it in time,” Jane said as she staked the final vamp. “The vampires only drained half the orphans and 2/3 of the puppies. I don’t think anyone else could have done better.”
Dick nodded as he surveyed the carnage. “A few of the puppies are going to need immediate medical attention, but…”
Dick gave her his sexiest smile. “Some of these beds are now permanently vacant.” A few soft whimpers escaped from the injured orphans lying on the floor.
Jane smiled and backed towards the closest bed.
[insert 3-6 pages of dorm room sex]
2. Covers that lie
Defined as: Cover art (good or bad) that misrepresents/has nothing to do with the actual book.
Example: Minor offenses include tattoos on a cover model that the character doesn’t have, or weapons that the character never uses. More glaring examples include wrong hair colors, or wildly inaccurate clothing.
3. Blurbs that lie
Defined as: Implied/stated subject matter from the blurb that does not appear in the book, or significant subject matter from the book is not mentioned in the blurb.
Example: A romantic/sexual subplot is implied but either does not appear in the book or is not as much of a focus as implied. Conversely, when little or no romantic/sexual subplot is mentioned on the blurb when a majority of the book is romantic/sexual in nature.
4. Whiney heroines
Defined as: Heroines who consistently complain about their situation either in word or thought rather than seek out solutions, or who refuse to even try in a dire situation.
Example: A heroine with special abilities is the only one can save herself/others in a given situation and instead of acting she drones on about her inability and requires copious amounts of coaxing, rallying, and ego stroking before she will reluctantly attempt any action.
6. Wimpy heroes
Defined as: The opposite of Alpha males, wimpy heroes contribute little or nothing to a given situation. They offer little to no support either physically or emotionally to the heroine and often require saving/rescuing from a situation of their own making.
Example: The hero is often normal in the sense that he possesses no supernatural abilities whereas the heroine is supernatural. He must be given orders for his own protection and can require supervision/aid at any given time.
7. Lust not love
Defined as: when two characters see each other, evaluate each other based solely on physical appearances, and without any other information decide/vow eternal love. Copious amounts of sex typically follow.
Example: Characters meet in chapter one and after no more than a few words are exchanged (sometimes no words are exchanged at all) the characters are inexplicably head over heals in love. Often several paragraphs of physical descriptions are given and characters will complain about uncontrollable attraction and then decide on the next line that it must be in love. We as readers are just expected to accept that this spontaneous declaration of love is real and ignore reality.
8. Info dumping
Defined as: When an author cannot think of a natural way of explaining or relaying information in a creative/interesting way, and must ‘dump’ large passages of back-story/world building etc. At readers in large, unnatural chunks.
Example: Characters speak to each other in unnatural manners reminding each other of information they would be well aware of; Typically in the beginning of a book, an author will relay a character’s back-story when it does not relate to the story; or when rules, distinctive of world building are explained in encyclopedic fashion in large, dull chunks.
9. Sex excuses
Defined as: when authors invent unnecessary obstacles for their characters that can only be overcome by having sex.
Example: A character must have sex with various people in order to unleash her power; or when characters are compelled mindless physical urges that demand sex. *cough* ardeur *cough*
10. Token fantasy/urban elements
Defined as: when a story has only minimal urban elements in what is really just a dressed up fantasy story and vice versa.
Example: Characters may use cell phones but everything else is gowns and castles; a character travels from a modern setting to a magical traditional fantasy world and stays there until almost the end of the story; a contemporary character with a minor magical ability that is never explained/justified and has little to no impact on the story as a whole.
So those are my ten. What are some of your urban fantasy pet peeves? How many are enough to ruin a book for you?
I agree and I have another. It is the sudden rush at the end. You see it the series books. The pacing is going along just fine and then in three pages the book suddenly ends and not necessarily in a cliffhanger. The ending feels rushed like the author neared a word count and had to end the book. Those books make me want to toss them across the room (of course my Kindle would not appreciate it!)
Thanks for the great article. The puppies / orphans had me cracking up.
Great list, Abigail! I agree 100% with all 10.
I’ve got a few additional pet peeves:
 Fighting/Hunting Attire From Hookers-R-Us – Heroine wears skimpy, skintight leather outfits and stilettos to fight/hunt the bad guys with no protective gear whatsoever.
 Dangerous Situation(s) But No Real Danger – heroine is rarely in any real danger despite the severity of the situation because either her fighting abilities and/or supernatural powers are (unrealistically) unsurpassed by others or she always gets rescued in the nick of time by someone else.
 The B*tch Syndrome – in order to be tough, brave, and kick-ass the heroine is portrayed as a bitch that cusses like a sailor and has a cocky, in-your-face attitude.
 The Greedy Libido – heroine is attracted to, and mentally drools over, every other male character she interacts with (even some of the bad guys). Similarly, practically every heterosexual male she encounters wants to get into her pants.
 The Uber Alpha Male – the heroine’s primary love interest is bossy, possessive, overly jealous, and arrogant. Tear away the sexy, muscled exterior and he’s a creepy jerk.
I agree so much with this! While most of the things I can forgive, I absolutely hate when blurbs lie. I remember picking up one book that sounded like a girl struggling with her growing powers, and it ended up being a book about how she needs to have sex with 2-3 guys to awaken her power.
I guess my biggest pet peeve is when the heroine has a boyfriend, but has someone else on the side, and another person, and another person. And the guys are either okay with it, or they are not. If they are not, then they are bad people. It’s not fun to read and I only feel bad for the guys.
Ha! Great list, and fabulous guest post, Abigail!
@Sharon – there are a few that have info-dumped and are still considered great authors. Granted, it’s usually their first novel and they’ve learned their lesson, but I can see how it happens.
@Bella – There’s suppose to be a love triangle in the Fever series? I had to think about this, but I don’t think I’ve ever read the blurbs for any of those books. They were raved about, so I just picked them up.
You all have me curious as to the book for #9. The one is obvious to me (yes I’m a fan), but someone needs to have sex with multiple partners in order to unleash her power? Do tell…which book?
Seriously….is that all anyone thinks when the ardeur pops up? Am I the only one who has seen it as a tool to help Anita develop more fully as a character? Or I take it everyone stopped at INCUBUS DREAMS, written off the rest of the series, and hasn’t seen the new character developments? That is one of my biggest pet peeves. When readers disregard a series because of one or two books and doesn’t wait to see what an author does with it. So yes, there was a lot of sex in three of the novels and there does tend to be a bit more than when the series first started, but there are obvious reasons for the ardeur if one only continues reading.
@Marg – I love your list too. The fighting attire is another one that seems to pop up a lot. Why can’t a heroine go fighting in jeans and a tank? Why doe she have to be wearing leather and a halter top? For one, that doesn’t seem like “safe” attire when going up against vampires. *grin*
Great list! My #1 pet peeve is romance novels disguised as urban fantasy, which you talk about in #3 Blurbs that lie. I HATE romance novels, especially sex-filled ones. I’ve been taken a few times by a blurb that in no way mentions the leads will be having sex by page 4.
I agree with most of these but the cover art and the blurb are rarely the fault of the author. They are usually decided by the publisher and are based on what would get ‘good sales’ rather than any link to the story.
SFX once explored the concept of cover art and gave three cover artists the same book and told them to do a cover. They produced three entirely different things, none of them really linked to the plot. Generally you find that the artist has not read the book when they do the art nor has the guy who does the blurb.
Though I think once you get a certain level of fame, you may be able to negotiate a ‘I veto any blurbs or covers’ clause…
The alpha male/non-alpha male thing is an issue. It is almost as if there are only two types of man – those who are butch and those who are weedy. Its the same level of generalisation which says that all women are either pretty and sexy or fat. I think Rachel Caine manages to write men realistically – her male characters are a subtle blend of alpha traits and non alpha traits and both male and female characters have cause to be rescued at points in her books.
As for sex… what if your entire plot is designed specifically so that you can get two characters to shag? I did this recently for a short, though I like to think it was all plausible reasoning and all good character development :)
Great post Abigail!
Some of the things that drive me crazy are when heroines or heros or unnecessarily difficult or stubborn. Sometimes they need to just get over themselves and take care of business.
Oh wow.. I totally agree with the top ten pet peeves.. I found myself nodding at each point.. I agree most when:
*blurbs lie.. I hate that so much.. You intend to read a book that sounds pretty good from whats been read in the blurb.. But once you’ve finished the book, you realise how misleading the blurb is.. And what a waste of time reading a book :(
*lust not love.. What I want to know is.. Are authors really taking it serious when they do this?! I mean.. books that are all just “omg, he’s soooo hot..” or just filled with fantasy sex that they’d wish to do with the other person, are just awful urghhh
*whiney heroines.. I hate reading a book when most of the novel, the heroine moans about her ‘powers’ …. GET A LIFE!
*sex excuses.. I have come across a few books tha use this technique..And I have actually stopped reading because of that.. It’s just not attractive in a book at all :P
Daelith – The whiny/wimpy combination is deadly. And then all of a sudden she’s superwoman? Yeah, it doesn’t work. I haven’t read any of Feehan’s Carpathian series yet, and I’d be leery to start them if that’s what I can expect.
Teresa – I’m all for beta males, they can be a nice change from the typical alphas, but wimpy males are DOA for me.
Melissa – Yes! That one can ruin a great book. I don’t know what the reason is, but to totally change the pace of the book at the end is really hard to pull off successfully.
Marg – Your list is awesome. The hooker-wear is especially bad and yet it is prolific in the UF/PNR genres.
Chotti – I bet we’re talking about the same book. Did she have to play sex slave to her psycho ex in the end?
Jess – Thanks! And double thanks for writing an UF that doesn’t fall into these pitfalls. Can’t wait to read TAKEN BY THE OTHERS.
Jackie – I was talking about a little book called Any Given Doomsday. It actually has several pet peeves in it.
Colleen – I have friends who feel the same way. I like at least a little romance when I read, but false advertising in any form just makes people mad.
Areteus – Your totally right which is why I rank those two as slight pet peeves. Authors often have no say in those decisions. And if the book is good, I tend to forget any cover/description issues. I’m glad you brought up Rachel Caine because your absolutely right, she does pull off non-alphas who are still strong.
Jen D – I have no patience for characters like that. Step up, grow up, or shut up.
Lena – Since we’re so like minded, you’ll have to tell me some of your favorite books :)
Lori Handeland’s UF fails to pass the pet peeves?! For some reason, I wasn’t expecting that.
I only read the first of Feehan’s Dark series and it had both the pet peeves I mentioned, so I never read another one.
Hi Abigail – I like this new Top Ten list idea. Speaking as a fellow list-addict, I find that it’s a fun way to sum things up. I suppose my biggest beef lately with UF is how most stories feature only one woman at the center of the action, and all other women are so secondary as to be almost nonexistent – they’re usually victims, hookers, or some kind of support role/servant. It’s pathetic. I want to read a story that isn’t afraid to show some strong female relationships.
Rebecca – Have you read Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax series? Yeah, they are secondary characters, but she has some great strong females joining Jax in a lot of the action.
My pet peeve (and this has thrown me off two series now): The main character (usually the heroine) is some how the vortex of all these horrible events. In a matter of weeks she’s been kidnapped, stalked, arrested, nearly murdered several times, etc. Sometimes this happens over a span of books (which almost makes it worse – can’t something good happen to this woman?), but if you follow the time line, it’s been less than a year. Now, this can be acceptable if there heroine has a reason for getting into all these tough spots. Parhaps she’s a mercinary or a paranormal police officer. Fine. But if she’s just a normal individual, say a mechanic or a waitress, why is she the epicenter of such nefarious plots.
Pet peeve number two (and this coincides w/ number one): the heroine is apparantly Aphrodite reincarnated. She’s irrisistable to multiple males and species of males. Much tention arises b/c the vampire and the warewolf and the ghost and the other vampire or warewolf think she’s the hottest thing since sliced bread. To make things worse, the author actually has the heroine bounce around between all these men (also in a very unrealistic amount of time – unless the heroine is kinda loose – which the author makes at odds w/ the basic morals of the character).
Sorry this was so long. BIG peeves on my end. I won’t buy either of these series again. And they’re super popular.
Abigail – Wonderful guest post and fantastic subject. Agree with all your top tens. We have to LOUDLY applaud your number one reason, Sex Breaks, and love that apt phrase too. We hate these not only for the reasons you stated but also because they pull you completely out of the storyline. It’s like poor Charlie Brown getting the football yanked away, Aargh!
Our following peeves are directed mainly at the publishers because like Areteus said so well previously, there are so many things that authors have no control over (what a surprise for us when we learned this after going to our first convention). Fisrt peeve is when a book is re-released under a new title with new artwork, or it is an omnibus under what appears to be a new title in a series by one of your all time favorite authors. Thankfully this is getting easier to figure out with author sites and reader blogs, but it just happened to us last weekend, luckily we figured it out before expending any money. The other is when you discover a series but find out for example that the title you just came across is actually the sixth in the series and then find out the first two books are no longer being published. It’s like telling new readers your not important and should have been with us from the beginning when we started a few years ago. Sticking with the last peeve and scenario, the discovery of a new series, your so excited but this time you can’t figure out which book is first in the series. Why can’t publishers just list series books in order and make it easier for a new reader, it would probably lead to more sales, and frankly it just makes common sense.
Whew, we feel much better now.
Thanks again Abigail!
Oh, agreed on the sex breaks! (although I have to admit that when I read that, the words that went through my head were “Stop! Hammertime!”)
I tend to struggle with overbearing alphas who force “their” females into submission. And the standard hot-chick-in-leather-with-tatts rather bores me after a while. I understand that publishers want to give an indication of genre, but surely they could branch out just a little?
#1 and #2 I co-sign on.
I agree with the list. Maybe a few sex scenes is ok but when a woman starts having sex just because. Oh and I also don’t like all the drinking and drugs that they do. I read one book and will not read the others.