Twenty SciFi and Fantasy Plot Pet Peeves

I was just visiting one of my groups and there was a great thread discussing the common plot devices that drive people crazy when they read Science Fiction or Fantasy books.

I thought it would be interesting to cull some of the pet peeves out for everyone to see. Hopefully, if you are an author, you haven’t made use of any of these plot devices. Here are Twenty SciFi and Fantasy Plot Pet Peeves in no particular order.

1) “Aliens who haven’t got reasonable physiology to explain how they have come by their advanced technology. For example: Fish flipper beings who evolved in the oceans…where did they mine, smelt and build their spaceships?” Micah

2)“If a pair of breasts, lovingly described, enters the bar, only incidentally attached to a woman. If she is there solely to be rescued, boinked, or tortured so that the hero can Avenge Her. Watch my dust, I am so out of here.” Brenda

3)“Extruded Fantasy Product. No more quests with halflings and dwarves in the party, eh? No more vaguely Arthurian mythology in a thinly medieval setting.” Brenda

4)“Books that violate their own rules of magic. That’s a big one for me. Or I can only suspend disbelief so far so if you set a world up in such a way that the whole thing could be easily solved by something logical that no one is doing, that will drive me to drop the book.” Jute

5)“Women characters dressed up in long vests…even worse velvet, long vests with long hair, braided down their backs. Um, of all the trends to rely on plus the ability to create any type of clothing fashion you want, this THIS is what you dress them in?!” Holly

6)“I have developed a real pet peeve for the notion of a kingdom in peril, threatened on all sides by far superior forces, only to be rescued in the nick of time by the rightful king who has lived in solitude for these past (insert number) years. When you think of it, when in history has a vastly outnumbered army won a war?” Chip

7)“Give me female characters who are people and not props, all-human casts (or if you have to have fantasy characters, have a good reason for them not being human), and settings and cultures beyond the standard fantasyland-medieval, and you’ve gone a long way towards getting me to read and like your book.” Kyra

8)“I’m still seeing too much sexism, racism, and other -isms in SFF. Too much gratuitous rape, violence, sex, and profanity also. Each has its place but if you are going to use it make sure it advances the plot and fits the character and time.” Tasha

9)“…when writers set up a world based on those stories out of a different /ancient religion and *get it wrong* for a “plot twist “…it just falls flat.” Rena

10)“Women/girls being depicted as nothing better than male hero bait that need to be constantly saved because they can’t get out of trouble by themselves.
10a) Another pet peeve is the assumption/plot trick that everybody in the galaxy speaks English on the first encounter, without the need for a translation device.
10b) Another pet peeve of mine, are sci-fi/fantasy stories that are used to push the author(s)personal religious beliefs, misogyny or racist views.” Michel

11)“Some variation on this line: “It was hard to believe that such a big [insert noun] could move so fast!” I see that so often in Fantasy and Science Fiction that I’ve often thought I should compile a list. An elephant can outrun you. Stop being amazed that an 8-foot golem or robot can also move quickly. Yeesh.” Trike

12)“In SF stories set in the way far distant future…like tens or hundreds of thousands of years from now…and all the humans are exactly like they are today. Evolution doesn’t exist in the future? WTF?” Micah

13)“The idea that ‘knowledge is dangerous’ in fantasy, and should be controlled by wizards etc. Maybe if you’re 5000 years old, you can take 20 years off and teach some peasants how to read.” Jen

14)“Data dump. Stop the plot to download three paragraphs of detail of the space gun, or the interstellar drive, or the lineage of the True King, and I will fall asleep.”
14a)“Idiot plot. People do not become blithering idiots for ten minutes just so that your plot can crank along. If Gondor is going to war with Mordor, the regime had better be able to make its case on the editorial page of the GONDOR DAILY NEWS. If a multinational corporation is going to Become Evil and Rule the World wearing black leather uniforms, it had better fly with the board of directors and bring the bottom line into the black. (The Death Star was clearly a boondoggle, probably shoved through the budgeting process by lobbyists.)” Brenda

15)“If a protagonist is the best at everything it is boring & unrealistic.” Gordon

16)“Authors who include just a few pseudo-foreign words ( e.g. fay for day) that sound almost like their originals and then overuse them. There is a place for well thought out alternate titles, or even pronouns, but too often it’s unneccessary, badly done, and distracting.” Julie

17)“And, oh yes, on the ‘men are morons and women are manipulative shrews’ thing. I’ve quit reading more than one book because of that (or at least partly; that sort of shallow characterization is usually only one of many other problems with the book).” Kyra

18)“Anthropomorphic aliens, robots, androids, machines and other nonhumans.
18a)“Earth as planet-state that supersede nation-states but so called united earth governments have overly american/western sensibilities.” Smallo

19)“Utopias by definition are boring stories. Here is every utopia story: “Everyone lived happily ever after, the end.” Trike

20)“HUGE PEEVE – The fantasy quest. If I have to read one more tale about a farm boy who can talk to pigs who needs to find the magic ring, save the princess, and, oh yea, he is a brilliant sorcerer and swordsman despite having slopped pig sh*t his entire life because he’s actually heir to a vast kingdom… Really? That’s what you’re going with?” Linda

Good Luck with your efforts. Leave a comment, ask a question and if this was helpful, please share it with your friends!


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2 thoughts on “Twenty SciFi and Fantasy Plot Pet Peeves

  1. Agree with many of these! Let’s dodge the rants about society, too, please. I’ve put down lots of books for being blatant excuses for the author to write in a two-page speech about the evils of (insert modern issue here).

  2. Thanks, this was great. Some of these are dead on. I also get bored with the tour-the-world plot lines that trot the characters about for no good reason other than to fill pages and give them something to do while they have a spat or a bit of a chat.

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