The Most Annoying Character Traits

04/02/2015 Discussions 29

The Most Annoying Character Traits

One thing that can completely ruin a book for me is annoying characters, and there are certain character traits that just make me want to scream. Therefore, I decided to make a list of the character traits that annoy me most, and I’d love to know yours!

Excessive self-involvement

One sure-fire way to make me put down a book? Have it written in the first person and basically read like this: me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me…and you get the idea with that. Excessive self-involvement is one of the traits I dislike most in real life people, so I certainly don’t want to see it in fiction!

Excessive selflessness

What is it with certain characters (namely YA heroines) and their determination to sacrifice themselves for everyone else? And is it just me who can usually see another way around it that the character seems to be oblivious to in their determination to martyr themselves?


If I was going to scream and throw a book, it would be because of a whiny character. Why can’t they just STOP COMPLAINING? If a character whines about everything then there is no way I will feel any sympathy for them when something worth complaining about actually happens!


For me, there’s a fine line between characters who are deep and insightful and say beautiful things and those who are downright pretentious. I personally feel like the difference is whether or not the characters have substance – are they just talking in elaborate metaphors and making grand statements about life for the sake of being ‘literary’, or because there is actually some meaning behind it?


A quality possessed by many a fictional best friend! The thing that annoys me about this is that it is pretty much always a trait given to a character to throw another into their shadow – and I really can’t stand those ‘loud and outrageous’ vs. ‘quiet and timid’ best friend pairings! I just think it’s a pretty overused plot device, and always ends up falling a bit flat.

Forced quirkiness

Don’t get me wrong – I love quirky characters! I just love genuinely quirky characters, not over the top, overly contrived characters where it is obvious the author has just thought: how can I make this character weird? I know! They can have five different colours in their hair, wear three hats and love playing the bagpipes and collecting tea cosies!

Bad-boyness (if that’s such a thing!)

The ‘bad boy’: he’s rebellious, mysterious, charismatic, messed-up and not quite like anyone else! Oh wait, hang on…I guess he’s kind of like that other bad boy in that other book…and the one in that TV show…oh and that film…and I guess every other bad boy ever. BORING!

So those are the character traits that annoy me most. What are yours?

29 Responses to “The Most Annoying Character Traits”

  1. Fari @My Little Corner of Books

    Ooh! I definitely agree with the self-absorbed characters! I know about being a little selfish and stuff and I even want that (I don’t really like it when the characters are the all giving, kind and such) but when the world is ending, everybody’s dying and you may be the only one who can save them (well, I can understand why they might feel self-important…) perhaps you can worry about your hair later or smth! I also don’t like it when the characters are just so incredibly important when they’ve done NOTHING. They’re just born with all this amazing powers and shit and can beat Everybody EVER. I think that’s completely unfair because usually, I like a side character more and think that if THEY were born with this amazing power rather than the MC, they’d actually be doing some good.

    Pretentiousness is the reason I didn’t like TFIOS. If you did, don’t kill me but seriously…

    OHMYGOSH!!! YES!! My friends and I are weird… not OVERLY weird like dancing on top of random car roofs while wearing a gazillion rainbow coloured scarves, clown shoes and 4 baseball cap and stuff but when characters do do things like that, we love to laugh at them, because that is so fake!

    The thing is… Why is it that they always have to be “bad boys” to be funny or sarcastic or bad-ass? Can’t a normal, perfectly nice guy make me laugh and kick some villainous ass? Sure, they can. So why is it that usually the nice guy is so overly nice and boring and the bad guy actually has some personality… as well as a gazillion inner demons. *sigh*

    Anyway, great post!! Love it! <3 😀
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    ~Fari @ My Little Corner for Books

    • Laura

      I really hate when characters are considered really important for no reason too! And I think if they have some sort of superpowers and can beat anyone then you never really feel like they are in danger, so it’s not like you’re on the edge of your seat like ‘will they or won’t they make it?”
      And although i did quite enjoy TFIOS, I know a lot of people who found the way the characters talked a bit pretentious, and I can kind of see why. I also read Looking for Alaska by John Green, and although I really liked it, I didn’t really like the character Alaska very much because I thought she was kind of pretentious as well. It seemed like she thought she was really deep and insightful, but personally I disagreed!
      And the over the top weirdness definitely comes across as so fake! I’d say I’m fairly weird myself, but I definitely don’t dance on car roofs wearing rainbow scarves or anything!
      I would love to see some funny nice guys in books too! Part of the thing with the bad boys seems to be that they have banter and a bit of a love-hate relationship with the heroine at first, but I don’t get why they necessarily need to be a ‘bad boy’ to do that.
      Glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for commenting!

  2. Maddy

    I can not stand that best friend trope. It’s either a) the best friend is bursting with personality that makes me wish the book was about them, not the hero or heroine; or b) they are the boring counterpart to the “wacky, zany, one-of-a-kind” MC and is there just to make the MC more “wacky” by comparison.

    • Laura

      Yeah, I really don’t get why friendship pairings in books always have to be complete opposites! Sometimes totally different people can be friends in real life, but a lot of the time I think friends tend to be quite similar, so I really can’t understand why there’s always a ‘wacky’ one and a ‘quiet’ one.

  3. Kaja

    This is a great post 🙂 If I had to pick the most annoying trait from your list, it would be the selflessness. Why do girls always have to be the voluntary victims? Gah.
    I like a bad boy if he’s fleshed out, but they’re mostly not, so you’re totally right.

    I dislike characters who can do everything – they have awesome, unlimited superpowers, are really smart, funny *and* self-deprecating at the same time. Nobody’s perfect!

    • Laura

      When I was writing this list, the selflessness one was actually one of the first I thought of, because it does really, really annoys me!
      And I hate when characters can do everything too! No one can relate to a ‘perfect’ character, and they just end up being totally two-dimensional and unbelievable.

  4. Lina

    This is quite a good list here! I’d say that of these traits, excessive selflessness is by FAR the most annoying.

    In YA these days it seems like every heroine is an extreme Katniss! Always trying to save everyone they love from everything, and not ever giving a thought to themselves. And you’re right, they’re usually so oblivious that the people around them constantly have to be their safety net and remind them no to be so reckless with their own lives, though the heroine usually rejects this. This starts to grate on me soo much after a while — don’t they have any self worth?? No one we know in real life is *this* selfless. It’d be better to see a heroine with more self-confidence and self-worth, because this is more realistic and more complex.

    • Laura

      I definitely agree. The excessive selflessness is definitely one of the ones on the list that annoys me most, because it really is just so unrealistic! And I think most people in real life would consider every option before self-sacrifice, and only do it if it was absolutely necessary and the only way to save their loved ones, but it seems like some of these heroines just really want to die for someone!

  5. Stevie Larwood

    I definitely agree with you on the best friend pairing part. It’s a rather tired old tale without a doubt. Plus I hate how they always describe one as devastatingly beautiful (always the cookie cutter best friend sidekick role) and then write off the protagonist as plain, only to give her a make over half way through the story. It makes me want to hurl the book across the room. On top of that, this scenario always seems to happen in super popular YA and I wish people would stop falling for it!
    I am however a sucker for a miserable character that whines their way through the book. I think that may just be me being selfish because it makes me feel better about me own musings regarding life (haha)! But saying that, I prefer it when it’s down with a humorous approach – if the core of the story is appropriate for such a genre.
    I must say though that this list is pretty spot on!

    • Laura

      It’s so true that there is always a beautiful vs plain dynamic with those best friend pairings, and I think a lot of the time it’s so there can be some kind of jealousy going on within the friendship. And the make-over thing really annoys me! That’s basically like saying there was something wrong with what the plainer, quieter one was like in the first place, and she should be more like the other one.
      And I think I can deal with whining more when it’s humorous (and i do quite like funny grumpy characters!), but on the whole it does annoy me!

  6. Ardelia

    Yes to all of these, especially the self-involvement and selflessness. (Apparently, I want characters to strike an even keel between the two, or at least not lean one way or the other too much.) It especially bothers me when a character agrees to sacrifice his/her life for other characters like it’s no big deal. They don’t even bat an eye. If that were me, I’d have done a cost/benefit analysis to see if I should vote someone else as sacrifice.

    • Laura

      I totally agree with you! I feel like in real life, most people wouldn’t exactly be volunteering to do the sacrificing! And it would definitely be way more of a big deal. I mean, this is their life! How can they just be like ‘whatever, no big deal’? It doesn’t even make me think they’re noble, it just make me think they’re kind of stupid!

  7. Jackie

    I am not a fan of the brooding, bad boy antagonist. They’re cliche, and I never really understand why they’re so angsty (or why the female main character is attracted to them)!

    • Laura

      No, I never get the attraction with bad boys either. Especially when there’s also usually some nice guy they’ve totally brushed aside who isn’t all moody and angry!

  8. Ella

    You summed it up pretty good for me. I think one other thing that drives me crazy is when the characters are described as so perfect looking. Especially guys. Don’t get me wrong, I love a sexy looking man BUT I’d also like to fall for a book boyfriend who is more realistic. Give him a crooked nose or something!

    • Laura

      I know what you mean! I like characters with flaws too and I find that some of the most loveable characters are usually the ones with something quirky about them (e.g. that crooked nose!). I also don’t like arrogant characters (which I totally forgot to put on the list!) and I think super good-looking characters usually know they’re good looking and can be kind of full of themselves!

    • Laura

      I have never read Lola and the Boy Next door, but a forced quirky character would definitely put me off (especially being the main character)! I just think quirky characters are so hard to get right, and some authors go way overboard with them and make them so weird that they are just unbelievable.

  9. Inge @ Bookshelf Reflections

    I’m pretty sure I love everything about this list. One of the things that annoys me the most is the selflessness – the need to go off on adventures alone, and your friends can’t come, because it’s going to be too dangerous, so I’ll go by myself. NO. You’re not superhuman (and even if you are, no). You can’t save the world all by your onesies, especially when you’re 16.

    Also the whininess. How many whiny, brooding, “woe is me” characters are out there? It’s so annoying to be stuck inside a head like that for an entire book. You kind of want to shake them.

    • Laura

      That whole ‘you can’t come with me, it’s too dangerous thing’ is so annoying! It kind of makes them seem kind of full of themselves and self-important (even if they are being all self-sacrificing), because they must actually think they are superhuman if they are going to handle all these crazy life or death situations single handedly. Plus you know the person they tell to stay behind is going to turn up anyway, because they always do!

  10. Terri M., the Director

    I read a book where the preppy girl was suppose to learn a lesson and the entire book was her complaining about how hard her life was after the HUGE event. By the end of the book, I had no sympathy for her. Those are the worst reads for me–the lesson books where the main character really doesn’t learn the lesson.

    Terri M., the Director
    Second Run Reviews

    • Laura

      That does sound pretty annoying. If the entire point of the book is that the character learns something and then they don’t then it seems kind of pointless!

  11. Bee

    You’re hilarious!I’m still laughing at 3 hats and bagpipes. Such an interesting post and I agree with a lot of these! Like whiny or pretentious characters. I didn’t like Augustus Waters in the fault in our stars because of his pretentiousness. Great post! <3 Bee @ Bee Reads Books

    • Laura

      Glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂
      And I get what you mean about Augustus Waters. Although as a whole I quite enjoyed The Fault In Our Stars, I did find him really pretentious – especially the thing with using the unlit cigarette as a metaphor. That was pretty ridiculous!
      Thanks for commenting!

  12. Leo McKane

    Okay, I’m really late to this, sorry!
    Anyway, love the post and I agree with everything, especially the pretentious bit. I hate books where teens ruminate on the “meaning of life, the universe and everything” with deep (often meaningless) metaphors.
    Tell you what I hate, though. I hate those books where there is the “hipster, outcast” heroine who only has one friend…who is a guy. Authors, what’s wrong with girl friendships? Seriously, why is it so difficult to write one? We ladies love each other, we form friendships, I promise. We’re NOT in competition with each other!

    • Laura

      That’s OK! Welcome to the discussion 🙂
      I totally agree with you! I would love to see more female friendships in books (and I’d really like to see more books in general where friendship is the focus as opposed to romance). Generally though the relationships between female characters in books does tend towards the competitive, usually with the atypical ‘hipster outcast heroine’ (with her one guy friend/love interest) pitted against the ‘two-dimensional, horrible popular girl’. It’s such a shame, because for the most part being a girl isn’t like that at all! Most of us are lovely! 🙂
      Thanks so much for commenting 🙂

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