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Guest Blogger: Ann Jacobs (Contest)
Friday, October 19th, 2012

Just FYI! I’m participating in a Studio Art Tour this weekend with my mom, aunt, and daughter. We’ve spent months getting things ready to display and sell. Wish us luck! If you’d like to see what we’re doing, be sure to check out my Facebook page this weekend. We’ll be posting pics and giving updates. Should be fun! ~DD

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What’s Your Pet Peeve?

One of my pet peeves when I read is character names popping up all the time, even when it’s perfectly clear who is talking or thinking.

Of course every character has to have a name, 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 there are 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.”
“David, don’t stop!”

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

My point is that 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 characters’ names are. It’s necessary to use them more often in scenes where there are more than two characters, or where the two characters in the scene are of the same sex. More 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” instead of “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, her—these are 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 is 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 scream for mercy before the scene was done.

Unnecessary use of character names is one of my pet peeves. Tell me what jumps off the pages of books and knocks you out of the scene when you’re reading in a comment, and I’ll put your name in the hopper for a free download of my latest Caden Kink book, SHOTGUN RELATIONS, as soon as it’s released on September 21.

Ann Jacobs

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5 comments to “Guest Blogger: Ann Jacobs (Contest)”

  1. Mychael
    · October 19th, 2012 at 10:07 am · Link

    Yes!!! You put into words one of my biggest issues, whether I’m reading or editing. To add a bit more to the list: pet names (baby, honey, sweetie, etc) can even become too much when used nonstop. I’ve recently come across this while editing a short story and it drove me absolutely batty.

  2. ELF
    · October 19th, 2012 at 9:12 pm · Link

    Good luck with the display and sale DD, I know it will be even more complicated given that your mom is injured so I hope it all goes smoothly.

    Thank you for visiting Ann. Overuse of names, too much description of the action (she walked through the door, she put her purse down, then she took off her coat, she put the keys down on the table…etc.) and too many typos can all drive me nuts and discourage me from continuing to read the story.

    elewkf1 at yahoo dot com

  3. Mychael
    · October 19th, 2012 at 9:40 pm · Link

    Elf: In editing, we call those ‘stage directions’–another quirk that drives me nuts as an editor. lol

  4. Stacy Wilson
    · October 19th, 2012 at 10:55 pm · Link

    I actually STOP reading for a moment when the over use of names pops up. And the repeat word or wording of certain things/acts? SCREWS my head up! I actually over analyze then and interject, sometimes verbally, that they could have used these words instead of repeating themselves. Using more clinical words for descriptions of body parts? HATE it! KEGEL muscles….pelvic floor muscles??? COME ON!!! Uh oh…I am almost on a rant, sugar!! :p

    Off my soap box now. 😉

    Stacy Wilson

    dragn_lady at yahoo dot com

  5. Delilah
    · October 20th, 2012 at 7:45 am · Link

    I have a strange pet peeve, I know. I HATE the phrase “Heat coursed through her veins.” Blood courses through your veins. Plus, it’s sooooo overused. I’ll admit I have a time or two, but no more. Writers, try to use something a little more original. :mrgreen:

Comments are closed.