Bookish Pet Peeves #1: Unrealistic Story Aspects

I’m so floored by the response I’ve been getting from my discussion posts, and I just want to thank everyone for reading and participating! I’ve loved reading all of your responses. In light of this, I’ve decided to do a little series of discussion posts titled “Bookish Pet Peeves”; I wanted to take the time to highlight elements of stories that really don’t work for me and why. Hopefully, you will find it interesting and have some cool insights to share!

The pet peeve I wanted to focus on today is unrealistic elements in a story. Now, this may sound really weird, especially when you consider that my primary genre is fiction. There have been countless times when I say that a book was unrealistic and people say “What did you expect, it’s fiction!” I’ve even received very rude and negative comments about that on Goodreads!

But I’m sticking to my guns about this: books need to be realistic, regardless of their genre.

What do I mean by something being unrealistic? Well, I’m mainly referring to how believable something is. And no, I don’t mean the actual premise of the story. What I’m looking for is how believable the characters and plot development is. This may sound confusing, especially when you are dealing with fantasy or sci-fi genres. I don’t mean that the story can’t have dragons or magic or anything else that bends reality. But I want the progression of the story to be realistic. I don’t want the plot to jump all over the place and for conclusions to be made that don’t make sense. When I’m talking about realistic-ness, I’m talking about things that can’t be explained away because of world-building.

So what about characters? Well, I’m looking at the way they talk, at the way they interact with others. If your character is 30 years old but acts or talks like she’s 10 and there is really no reason given as to why this is, that goes down in the unrealistic column. Or if the story is supposed to take place in medieval times but all of the characters use modern slang, and this isn’t explained somewhere, this is going to be an issue for me.

Another thing that can bother me is if the author is either heaping on all of the good or bad luck onto a character. Yes, characters can get lucky or unlucky with whatever they are going through. But seriously, every single bad thing just has to happen to them? Or they just sit there and all of this good stuff happens? Can you see why I’m not down for this? It just doesn’t allow me to form a strong bond to the character or even take them seriously. In real life, people struggle and fight to get to where they want. I expect some of that in books, too.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that you can have inconsistencies within books that make it hard to believe that these interactions or events can really occur. Either this is because the author doesn’t explain this in their world-building or because it is literally going against their world-building. It’s important for writers to remember that readers need to believe in the story and the character. Without this, there can really be no connection between the reader and the novel.

These are just my thoughts on this topic. If you want to read more about this, I strongly urge you to check out Jackie’s post here! It’s a fantastic post and she has brought up some awesome points!

But now, I want to hear from YOU!

Are there any unrealistic story elements that you have come across? What did you do? How did it affect your feelings towards the book?

Is this a pet peeve for you or is it something you can live with?

Comment below and let’s discuss 😀

0 thoughts on “Bookish Pet Peeves #1: Unrealistic Story Aspects

  1. I think you’re so right with all this! I find, particularly with contemporary books, that what had potential can be ruined by inconsistencies. Mental health is an example that springs to mind, like when falling in love can cure crippling anxiety etc!

    1. Yes to this! I recently two-starred a book because the main character keeps professing that only her and her love for her boyfriend can cure his mental illness, and her point of view doesn’t change at all throughout the whole book.

      1. oh gosh that sounds dreadful – two stars is generous! My most disappointing one was Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen which was so good and funny all the way through despite being about anxiety (a really good portrayal too!)…then she fell in love and magically all was well. It’s so disappointing!

        1. Arghhhh why do they do this?!?! I love flawed characters but they have to be portrayed right throughout! Thanks for telling me about this book, now I can avoid it!

      2. Wow I would have just given that a 1-star. I hate how mental illness and other types of health issues are conveyed in novels; while some do a good job, most don’t. It needs to change because it’s just unrealistic and it propagates this idea that mental illness can be solved easily to people who are unaware of the challenges associated with mental illness. I’ll be writing a post about that and I can’t wait to hear what you think!

        1. I gave it an additional star because the author’s prose was beautiful and I guess her heart was in the right place? It was just so, so, so horribly executed. Sigh.

          Eager to read that post! I love reading stuff by book bloggers talking about mental health in books, it’s usually a subject not always touched upon!

          1. That was really kind of you. I feel so bad when a book has tons of potential but then has terrible execution… but what do you do, right? Gotta be honest!
            Haha I’m still writing it, I want to make sure I address everything. Mental health is such an important topic and I feel like so many authors are eager to incorporate it into their stories but they either do it for the wrong reasons (tokenism) or they don’t research it properly and stereotype the issues.

    2. Oh my gosh, yes! One of my other posts will be discussing how books portray mental health and illnesses, but it bothers me so much when an author is like “this character has low self esteem and depression but look, this boy/girl has told our MC they are beautiful and now they are cured”. It is so annoying because that’s just not how it works! It’s why I stopped reading contemporaries; I want realistically portrayed characters and I rarely get that!

  2. Loved this Vee! For me I’d say something that’s a huge pet peeve of mine is how in a lot of books you still see the girl needing to be saved. Now we’ve come a long way as more books have stronger female leads who kick ass but it’s still something that comes up. In real life – I’ve never had a guy save me from doing anything! It doesn’t happen also it’s kinda downgrading to us girls saying how we need to be saved all the time. How about we save the guy for once or another girls helps us out because girls need to stop tearing each other apart.

    The characters and plot I also agree with you, if something happens that isn’t ‘realistic’ it’s noted for later. What people don’t seem to get is whilst we read fiction – it takes many elements of reality into that fictional world and warps them slightly to fit this new fantasy world. So technically speaking, all fiction has an element or more of reality in there. Whether it’s certain values held by the society or perhaps its how this government acts within this story.

    Yes we read fiction to escape reality but we also want to believe that this could be a reality. That is why many of us choose to read.

    1. Haha you’ve hit the nail on the head about the girls needing to be saved! That’s in another post I’ve planned for April, but it is something I hate. I don’t know why an author who starts off with the premise of a badass female has to go and ruin it by making her completely dependent on a guy. Girls can do it all!
      You are so right, reality is infused into fiction because writers draw from their experiences. Even if you are writing fantasy, a writer knows that people act in certain ways or are motivated by certain things. And if you are going to create a certain world, then you need to adhere to the rules of that world (like how gravity works or day/night cycles); you can’t just ignore them when it doesn’t work with your story idea!
      Thanks so much for sharing!

          1. Haha if a man can solve period cramps and periods in general I’ll be impressed like that’s the only thing that would impress me xD *chuckles*

          2. Solving the problems for labor pain would be a bonus as well! But I’m sure we ladies can figure out solutions for these problems without the help of these “macho and intelligent” men LOL

  3. One of the most unrealistic things for me is characters acting terribly and no one calling them out on it. In real life nobody acts selfishly and self-centeredly and is allowed to get away with it by everyone in their lives!

    1. Oh that’s a really great point! I have no problem with characters being psychopaths or bad or selfish but the idea that no one calls them out for it or notices doesn’t make sense to me at all! I don’t think I’ve read any book like that so far but it’s definitely an unrealistic element I wouldn’t want to see! Thanks for sharing!

      1. Recently read an ARC where the main character was just basically horrible throughout the whole book and was using her mother’s death as an excuse to act like a self-absorbed, inconsiderate brat – even to her siblings and her dad, who had also lost a wife/mother, mind. I know the author was just trying to show varied coping mechanisms but I found it super unrealistic how absolutely no one called the MC out on it and she learned “on her own” what a twat she was being.

        1. Oh jeez…. that sounds like a terrible book. That’s so unrealistic and I get that authors can exaggerate situations but there is a point at which it becomes ridiculous… like with this ARC you just described

  4. I’m happy to see that you are planning to continue with the discussion posts, they are great to read and comment on. I think any inconsistencies are not good in books. Like you say its fiction but its escapism fiction so we need to believe and be totally engrossed in the story and characters.

    1. I’m so glad you like them! Hopefully the content continues to be interesting!
      I like the term you used here, escapism fiction! Fiction is an escape for me but I can’t escape into a badly formed world with inconsistencies everywhere. Sometimes I feel bad when I read a debut author’s work that they have self-published and it has lots of inconsistencies… but that is why it’s important to have people critique and edit your work before you publish!
      Thanks for commenting 🙂

  5. I really dislike when someone is supposed to be like 10 years old but somehow they’re using big words and elaborate sentences that an adult would use and it’s not explained how they have this advanced vocabulary. It makes the character unbelievable and hard to connect with them, like you said!

    1. Yes! It happens so often! Or sometimes it’s an adult character who talks and acts like a complete child and there’s no reason why! It drives me INSANE

  6. I agree with all of this, Vee! Damsels in distress tend to annoy me a lot since not ALL girls need saving all the time – and it’s just SO annoying how the guy saves her oh so conveniently.

    Plus is it just me, or am I the only one who thinks guys who conveniently show up at the ”right” time constantly are stalkers? 🤷‍♀️

  7. 100% agree!! One of my biggest pet peeves is when a character with abilities just suddenly knows how to use them perfectly just in the nick of time when the rest of the book was them struggling with the power… Ugh!

    Erica | Erica Robyn Reads

    1. I know!! Unrealistic characters are my biggest problem in novels. I can rant about it all day! I also don’t like it when the author is setting up a dystopian story but explains literally nothing about why the world collapsed into this state. It’s so frustrating to just find out that people are suddenly dying/fighting a rebellion but there’s no background as to why this is happening 😬

  8. Oh my god, I thought I was the only one! I love fantasy books but sometimes they get too carried away with the plot and suddenly it’s not realistic anymore….
    There is this series in which the pot becomes too unrealistic in the end but the characters are so precious and I’m totally in love with them!

    Lovely discussion post and congrats on the new blog series!

  9. I find it SUPER annoying when characters just behave out of character, like suddenly going against their best friend for life for such a small thing without any explanation whatsoever. I need some realistic relationships and interactions!!

    1. Yesssss this is so true! Or when someone tells the MC that a character is evil and they just believe them without questioning anything! Whyyy?!?!?!

  10. I agree 🙂 sometimes things are unrealistic (a lot of the times it’s instalove! Argh)… Sometimes unrealistic is good, like, if it’s a fairytale retelling, some things just NEED to happen, you know? But apart from that, yeah, I totally get what you mean. Especially if it’s a contemporary!

    1. I think the basics really have to be realistic. You can’t have every zany twist thrown into a story just to make it fun; plausibility, to a certain extent, is necessary. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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