A Writing Pet Peeve

We all have things we don’t like as readers. I know my writing is certainly not to everyone’s taste. (Which is why it’s so important to find your readers, not just any readers.)

Anyway. I ran across one of those pet peeves today and I don’t think I’ve shared it here before, so thought I would real quick. It’s the “trying too hard to find another way to refer to someone” problem, which usually involves the use of “the” in front of some identifier.

There’s a very, very popular author who does this with their own character talking in first person, which is even more bizarre to me, but the example I saw today was actually with someone referring to a dog.

Here is the passage:

X’s crate rattled. I…looked down at her. The Golden nosed the latch again….I sat up and gazed at the dog….The retriever sighed and lowered her chin onto her front paws.”

What would’ve flowed right by for me is:

“X’s crate rattled. I…looked down at her. She nosed the latch again….I sat up and gazed at her….She sighed and lowered her chin onto her front paws.”

And, again, I certainly have my own writing issues, so not meaning to call out this particular author, but it is something that I as a reader find very jarring.

Both of the times it’s been noticeable enough that it threw me out of the story have been with trade-published books in first person, so maybe this is considered an acceptable technique, but it doesn’t work for me because I think it’s not good character voice.

I’ve had my dog for almost ten years and I never think of her as “the dog” or “the Newfoundland”, especially not interchangeably with her name and referring to her as she. I might refer to “the St. Bernard” when a dog I don’t know approaches, but not with my own pet.

In the same way I never think of myself as “the X” whatever X is, which was the other one I noticed. I think in that case it was “the Assassin”. But I might think of a stranger as “the cop” or “the doctor”.

Anyway. Something that bugs me I thought I’d share.

Author: M.L. Humphrey

M.L. Humphrey is an author who has been published under a variety of pen names and across a variety of subjects and genres. You can contact M.L. at mlhumphreywriter [at] gmail.com.

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