Referred to by the Smart Bitches.

Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo suggests, “before you sit down to write a novel, you make a list of everything you love to see in novels. When you write your own novel, you should put the stuff from your list in there. Then you should make a second list of everything you hate to see in novels. When you write your own novel, you should make sure none of the stuff from that second list creeps in when you’re tired.”

Sounds like a good idea to me. Here we go (in no particular order):


  • Two people from wildly different backgrounds finding each other and falling in love and overcoming it all to stay together.
  • Pirates. But not the soft and squishy kind. Give me some grit and “Arrr” over Dukes or privateers any day. Ruthless, bloodthirsty and unscrupulous. Yes, please.
  • Gladiators. But not Russell Crowe (although he is yummy) or any other kidnapped nobleman. No, no. I want me some Spartacus. Slaves who are stuck and have to fight their way up from the dirt, not men who started at the top and have toppled. The gladiator world was so fascinating I wish someone would actually explore that life instead of taking the nobleman shortcut.
  • A well-developed world. Something so organic and logical that I don’t notice all the wonderful world-building details of the world until after I’ve finished reading.
  • Snappy dialogue that makes me giggle out loud at work (a’la Jennifer Crusie and Georgette Heyer)
  • Seemingly realistic plots that devolve speedily into farce and ridiculous situations. (Like The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer which just gets more outrageous. Ooh! The Unknown Ajax too. Those books make me laugh out loud every time).
  • Humble, self-effacing, kind-hearted protagonists (particularly heroes) who see the beauty of life and what a precious gift every moment is.
  • Clever, dry-witted old reprobates with a twinkle in their eye and a wine-flask up their sleeve. (Cadfael, Robinton, Llewellyn, how I love thee).
  • A good chase scene over a rickety rope bridge.
  • Sneaking great writing and fantastic insight into the human condition into those allegedly trashy “genre” books I’m always reading. ;P
  • A heroine who gives as good as she gets. And doesn’t take crap off anyone.
  • Writers who aren’t afraid to have their teenage characters swear.
  • When the hero tells the heroine he loves her in a way besides words. I can’t think of one from a book at the moment but like how Spike on Buffy took care of Dawn and basically grew a soul to be worthy of her. *swoon*


  • Big Misunderstandings in romance novels that could be resolved in a page if the parties involved would just TALK TO EACH OTHER but instead they spend the last half of the book, uncounted chapters, being apart and mad at each other because the author couldn’t come up with an actual conflict!
  • Alpha heroes who control and condescend to their heroines. Who always assume the worst and never let the heroines explain themselves.
  • TSTL heroines who are only there to make the hero look better. Who go upstairs after they hear mysterious noises. Who are only there to get into trouble so the hero can rescue them.
  • Heroines who feel guilty for wanting to live their own lives and/or not being a doormat to their families.
  • Slutty baddies (always women) going after the sweet young heroine for no apparent reason just to “get” the hero. Um…then shouldn’t you be going after the hero? Oh! And don’t compound the problem by even having the characters in the book recognize how ridiculous your plot point is!
  • In fact, using promiscuity as a shorthand for evilness. Can we please find an actually villainous trait for our baddies and start flogging that horse instead of this one?
  • Head-hopping. Such as when I think I’m reading a book in third limited and I’m busily reading a scene in the heroine’s POV only to headhop over to the blacksmith or town drunkard or whatever
  • Starting a book with an action scene only to fill the next THREE CHAPTERS with infodump and “As you know, Bob” dialogue. If you can’t do better world-building and character development than that go away and stop publishing until you can.
  • Heroes raping heroines because they can’t control their lust.
  • Addendum to above: Heroines feeling a “spark of pleasure” in the midst of being hella-raped. No. Just no.
  • Serial killers who go after hot young women because of mommy issues.
  • Screwing over the integrity of a historical figure’s personality and/or story to sell more copies of your historical books.
  • Teenagers in otherwise realistic books skirting around using the bad words. In fact, skirting around swear words in general with teen fiction. Most teens swear. A lot. I’m sorry to say this but most of them do not default to “Oh fudgesicle” when the parents aren’t around.

And that’s probably more than enough to be going on with, eh?



2 thoughts on “Likes/Dislikes

  1. Cindy says:

    “Oh fudgesicle”, I like that. Your lists made me laugh. I’ve never considered writing down what I like and don’t like about books. Definitely a good way to keep yourself from falling into the trap and writing something you would have sworn against not too long ago, and then further annoying readers with your endeavor to follow trends. I am working on a new book that will hopefully be neither cliche nor boring (though it will probably not have pirates, darn!) so I might just try your trick. Thanks!

  2. Moth says:

    Glad my lists amused you. They were pretty fun to write. 🙂 And useful. I realized I had the hero in my MS being jerky and assuming the worst about the heroine, and so I promptly went in and changed that part of the book.I highly recommend this exercise, a fun way to kill some time.

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