Writing Pet Peeves

There are certain writing tics that many authors have adopted that drive me crazy.  They are popular to the point of cliche.  I’m not sure why these images prompt a nails-on-a-blackboard reaction in me, but they do.  You?

“In her pjs and socks, she padded into the kitchen.”

I get it:  the difference between clunky shoes and soft feet is a sound you can hear.  Pad, pad, pad.  And it’s paw-like.  Animals have paws, paws have pads.  Yup.  Hate it.  Can she not glide into the kitchen in her pjs? Or drag? Or maybe schlump? Or make no sound?  Pad pad pad.  Hate hate hate.

“She popped an olive into her mouth.”

Anything small and round must “pop.”  A grape, an olive, a cherry, presumably by definition a jalapeno popper.  The arrogance that goes along with this move is what gets me.  The sense of “Ha! So there.”  No one in real life “pops” food into his or her mouth; this only happens on TV or in books.  In real life, we don’t use food as a tool to make a point because it is too yummy and someone might take it from us.  Except maybe celery.  It is an excellent pointer, and who really cares if someone steals your celery?

“A smile played about his lips.”

Has anyone ever seen this?  Have you?  Think about this.  A smile is part of the lips; it is formed by them, so either it is there or it isn’t.  It may be a small smile (which, granted, is a hideous alliteration), or a hesitant smile (nice), or a reluctant smile (also nice), or a mocking smile (beastly to receive but effective from an author’s standpoint).  I really resent the idea of this non-existent thing playing with my body parts.

Sun dancing on my skin, however, is quite lovely.

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