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Berserk Button / Literature

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When a character always goes into a rage over a certain minor thing, you've hit their Berserk Button.

  • From the short story "City of Specters" in The Accusation, Gyeong-hee's son freaks out at the sight of Karl Marx posters, something Gyeong-hee desperately hopes to keep under wraps. Given that they live in North Korea, the consequences of authorities finding out could be dire.
  • Age of Fire:
    • RuGaard hates being called by any derogatory nickname, and finally snaps when called "Batty" (because of his pet bats) to his face by one of his fellow trainees in the Drakwatch, turning what started off as an ordinary brawl into an Unstoppable Rage as he takes on all three of his bunk-mates at once. Then again, it's understandable when you consider the fact he was without a name as a hatchling and as The Unfavorite was flat out told by his father he didn't need or deserve one.
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    • Shadowcatch, the dragon who eventually becomes the adult RuGaard's bodyguard, takes the giving of an oath seriously, and is infuriated by the concept of betraying an oath once given.
  • Zoe Durant never sees red in Ahriman Trilogy until her mage is facing an unfair schoolyard fight.
  • Whenever Sunny does something that resembles her maternal grandmother in Akata Witch, Sunny's father takes it very, very badly.
  • The Alice Network: Finn loses control and gets into a fight when a stranger badmouths gypsies.
  • Animal Inn: Val can get very... passionate about animals who are abandoned or mistreated by their owners.
  • Animorphs:
    • Best not to insult Andalites around Ax...his arrogance will start to come out. Also don't compare Andalite technology to Yeerk technology.
    • Claiming to be an Andalite bandit around Visser Three will probably get you missing some body parts very soon. Ditto with just failing him in general.
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    • Never, and I mean NEVER get in Ax's way if he wants the delicious and narcotic food he loves SO much...cinnamon buns.
    • Tom's status as a Controller was always a source of tension, but it doesn't really reach boiling point until the second-to-last book:
      Marco: ...We'll be sitting ducks if Tom turns the Blade ship on us, and we all know that's his plan.
      Jake: It's not Tom! IT'S NOT TOM!! It's not Tom, don't call him that! It's the Yeerk, it's the Yeerk in his head, NOT MY BROTHER!!
  • Anne Shirley's hair, especially if you compare it to carrots. She's violent about it. Poor Gilbert...
  • Rob in An Outcast in Another World tries to let most things roll off his back (especially due to his precarious social situation). When someone claims that he hasn’t faced any hardships, he...loses his composure for a bit.
  • Bazil Broketail:
    • Purple-Green has three — reminding him of his clipped wings and inability to fly, mocking his skill with a sword and questioning his worth overall. They are all quite understandable sore spots, given the existential crisis he has to constantly face after being rendered flightless and robbed of his previous life and all the trouble he has with adapting to the new one.
    • Alsebra has a couple.
      • She is infertile and bringing up this fact is a sore spot for her. Downplayed in that she has enough self-control not to go into a flying rage about it and she's wise enough to recognize when somebody is intentionally trying to provoke her (like Purple-Green does at one point).
      • Also, she absolutely hates openly asking her dragonboy for anything, or apologizing to him. She definitely prefers to just order him around.
      Jak: [after Alsebra asks him for a favor] Hey, you don't ask for help too often. Usually, I just hear "hey, you! Fix that!".
      Alsebra: [snarls furiously]
    • Don't you dare threaten soldiers under Eads' command. Especially when you are a religious fanatic, trying to enforce your worldview on others.
  • Jack London's famous novel The Call of the Wild features a grizzled older sledding dog named Sol-Leks, with one blind eye. Buck, the mutt protagonist of the novel, takes a nasty bite when he approaches Sol-leks from his blind side and is careful never to do it again.
  • Vice President Parker P. Pants of Cats vs. Robots doesn't like being called "P.P." Pants. When President Quinn called him that, he angrily shouted "Do NOT call me PEE PEE PANTS!".
  • CHERUB Series: Do not call Yosyp Kazakov a Russian. He is not Russian, he is Ukrainian.
  • Chocoholic Mysteries: As discussed in Castle Clue, don't ever call Lee "stupid" or any variant thereof. Years of people being surprised that she has both looks and smarts, and of being laughed at for her malapropism, have left her with a deep-seated need for people to recognize that she is an intelligent person. Consequently, being called "stupid" leaves her in a seething rage at the person who does so.
  • Merely being around the fluffy bunnies of a particular cartoon universe turns the main villain of Craig Shaw Gardner's Cineverse Cycle into a ranting Gargamel expy.
  • Don't show interest in the Author Avatar if you are looking for Franco Rocafirme in Conciencia y Voluntad, or you risk a monumental beating.
  • For the love of all things holy and French, do NOT make fun of Cyrano de Bergerac's nose. You will be publicly outwitted, humiliated, and stabbed.
  • Crabbe: Franklin ends up inadvertently pushing Mary's by digging through her bag. This is because it contains all Mary's private things, like info on the boyfriend Crabbe thinks that Mary killed.
  • The Crosses-Boy's Counselor: Sitara confides to Dover that the years-long estrangement between her mother and aunt is so bad, and the lack of contact with or information about said aunt so complete, that her mother will lose her temper at the mere mention of the aunt. Sitara recalls that she once asked about the aunt when she was 10 years old; her mother's response was to flog her with a belt.
  • The Diabolic: Nemesis kills absolutely anyone and anything that threatens Sidonia, no exception, despite Sidonia's own feelings on the matter. Nemesis was genetically engineered and imprinted on Sidonia to be the perfect bodyguard, so this makes sense. However, she also reacts this way to the idea of Sidonia being in danger. At one point while Nemesis is posing as Sidonia, two people try to date rape her. She decides to let it happen to cement her cover... only to realize that if Sidonia was here, she'd be the one getting raped. She flies into a rage and nearly kills the rapists before she remembers that this will damage her cover, and settles for force-feeding them their own drugs, which puts them into comas.
  • Discworld:
    • Don't even think about damaging, or threatening damage to, the Librarian's books, unless you fancy having to flee to the other side of the continent. The Librarian's reaction is so reliable that this warning has become official policy. He's also very insistent on being called an ape and not a monkey, at least by anyone other than Ridcully.
    • In Night Watch, Carcer — a rather psychopathic villain who would rather kill you for your watch than ask you the time — becomes inordinately angry when his rank of Sergeant is abbreviated to "Sarge".
    • Subverted in Hogfather, in which the villain Jonathan Teatime (who will usually kill people for no reason at all) gets very mildly annoyed when people mispronounce his name (it's pronounced "teh-ah-tim-eh"), at one point tiredly commenting "Please don't try to distract me."
    • The monk Marco Soto in Thief of Time has a very un-monk-like mass of long black hair. He is a calm, tranquil person... unless you try to touch it. The real life person the character is based on and named after is much the same way. Not that you'd want to touch his hair anyway. It eats combs, people. In the same book Pratchett actually refers to this trope, although by another name:
      Everyone has their own private exemption clause. "But not on a Sunday," "Only if I feel like it" or in this case "Not the hair. Nobody touches the hair, okay?"
    • Never mess with a wizard's hat. Even the normally harmless, cowardly Rincewind will go ballistic on you if you touch his hat.
    • Lord Vetinari — the sober, serious, Magnificent Bastard Patrician of Ankh-Morpork — sentences mimes to death-by-scorpion for crimes against humanity.
    • Don't deliberately keep your clock excessively fast if Jeremy Clockson visits you a lot.
  • Mr. Marson in DO NOT TAKE THE SHELLS flies into a rage when he sees Harris wearing a necklace made from the eponymous shells, calling it "witchcraft".
  • Azrael in Dragon and Damsel has one: mentioning other dragons, or bringing up that he's the only dragon in the castle, sends him into a rage.
  • Angels in The Dresden Files are generally extremely pleasant in demeanor and very much the Good Guys. There are two things that can piss them off. 1: Insisting that they make a choice. Angels cannot choose, at all, and are a little bit pissed about it. 2: Shortening their names. Names are power, and they are very powerful creatures. Dresden finds this out when he calls Uriel "Uri." Considering the two letters he chopped off mean "of God," you can understand why the angel was displeased.
  • In Dune, the typically mild-mannered and mirthful Gurney Halleck briefly flips out at Paul for mentioning not being "in the mood" for fighting, and proceeds to precipitously turn up the heat in their sparring match, to the point that Paul is alarmed by his sudden fury:
    Gurney: [...] But I've warned you that not even in play do you let a man inside your guard with death in his hand.
    Paul: I guess I'm not in the mood for it today.
    Gurney: Mood? What has mood to do with it? You fight when the necessity arises — no matter the mood! Mood's a thing for cattle or making love or playing the baliset. It's not for fighting.
    Paul: I'm sorry, Gurney.
    Gurney: You're not sorry enough!
  • In the 87th Precinct novel Ice, "man of the cloth" Brother Anthony does not take kindly to people who don't think his somewhat... er... ample girlfriend Emma is as sexy as he thinks she is. And don't think for a second that Emma doesn't return his affection. Tim, the novel's Big Bad and Brother Anthony's killer, found this out the hard way after he got off scot-free for his main crimes; she killed him in return.
  • Riph Raph from Farworld is not a lizard. He breathes fire.
  • Fate/Requiem: Koharu F Riedenflaus hates having her family's competence questioned in any way, no matter how minor. After a battle, when Karin offers to help heal her injuries, she gets angry at the implication that the Reidenflaus' treatment methods were not enough.
  • Fate/strange fake: Hansa Cervantes really idolizes the Burial Agency, a team from the Holy Church that specializes in hunting demons. While fighting Jester Karture, Jester mistakes him for a member of the Burial Agency because of his fighting skills. Hansa gets really angry and says his skills are nothing compared to a real member, so he perceives mistaking him for a member as an insult as it belittles their skills.
  • Forest Kingdom: In book 4 (Beyond the Blue Moon), the dog Chappie does not like being mistaken for a wolf.
  • In the novelization of Galaxy Quest, after Jason is rude to some fans, one suggests they start a Star Trek club.
    Silence fell. Brandon's eyes were cold and steel was in his voice.
    "Don't EVER say that to me again!"
  • In The Girl from the Well, the ghost Okiku hates the number nine, which relates to the circumstances of her death. When confronted with a set of nine objects, she flies into an Unstoppable Rage until one of them is destroyed.
  • Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi:
    • Asking the orphaned Jin Ling if he didn't have a mother to teach him manners is sure to send him into a rage.
    • It's not a good idea to call Jin Guangyao the son of a prostitute. Nie Mingjue doing so may have had something to do with his untimely death. Jiang Cheng's verbal evisceration, in comparison, was getting off easy.
      Wei Wuxian: Looks like being called the son of a prostitute is really Sect Leader Jin’s weak spot. No wonder you killed Chifeng-Zun.
  • Examined in the Guardians of the Flame book The Sleeping Dragon, the first of Joel Rosenberg's stories about a group of college kids transported to a fantasy world. A dwarf warrior needs to go berserk to break the group out of a bad situation. He understands that he needs to find a point of anger and build on it. Cue flashbacks to life back on earth, where he was wheelchair bound with MS. Not enough, no matter how deep he goes. Finally in despair he finds the button "So here I am, just as helpless as I've been my entire life." Last words of the chapter: "He went berserk."
  • Harry Potter:
    • Professor McGonagall really hates it when people play dirty, particularly in Quidditch matches. On several occasions she's shown to forget herself in rage when she witnesses foul behavior (the most notable incident happening in the third book, when several Slytherin players attempted to sabotage a Gryffindor/Ravenclaw match by dressing up as Dementors to scare Harry, who justifiably sics his Patronus on them for the effort — and she didn't think the Patronus alone to be punishment enough for the offending parties). Word of God has it she used to play Quidditch at Hogwarts and was very good at it until a Career-Ending Injury in her last year due to a Slytherin player who played dirty.
    • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix badmouthing her father or The Quibbler appears to be one for Luna, although she isn't the type to fly into a rage. But it does cause a major change in demeanor, which, compared to her normal dreamy, imperturbable personality, is fairly noticeable.
    • If one values his/her own life and dignity, Don't! Ever! Call! the Centaurs! half-breeds!, or else they will go berserk.
    • Sirius Black is so Hot-Blooded that it's almost difficult to tell specific berserk buttons apart from his normal behaviour but he has several:
      • Don't threaten or hurt Harry in front of him, ever.
      • Don't accuse him of being a coward.
      • Don't talk about James and Lily negatively.
      • Don't rub his mistake with naming Peter Pettigrew as Secret Keeper in his face. Peter Pettigrew's name alone seems to fill him with murderous rage.
    • Never insult Albus Dumbledore in front of Hagrid. This makes sense considering when he was expelled from Hogwarts after being falsely accused of opening the Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore was the only one who believed in his innocence, and gave him a job as gamekeeper. Incidentally, this is what convinces the Dursleys to drop Harry off at the King's Cross station—it just so happened to be on the way to the place where Dudley is to have the pig tail Hagrid had given him for it surgically removed before his first term at Smeltings.
    • Go ahead and mention anything even remotely magic-related in front of Uncle Vernon. I double-dare you.
    • Hermione gets mad when you refer to her organization as "Spew" (it's S.P.E.W.), though she occasionally does it herself a few times.
    • Never threaten Albus Dumbledore's students in front of him, the only time we ever see Dumbledore get angry at Umbridge-a Sadistic Teacher who represents the regime that have been slandering him for months, and who is slowly taking over his school-is when she manhandles Marietta.
    I cannot allow you to manhandle my students, Dolores.
    • In The Order of the Phoenix, when Voldemort is about to kill Harry, who is effectively Dumbledore's surrogate son, a very angry Dumbledore emerges from the Floo Network and turns Voldemort's gloating session into a very one-sided fight for his life.
    • Harry REALLY doesn't like being left out of the loop or not being informed about things. So much so that, in the fifth book, he flips out completely at Ron and Hermione when he finds out the reason he never got any letters from them over the summer was that Dumbledore made them swear not to tell him anything.
    • Viktor Krum hates seeing the sigil of the Deathly Hallows because it’s more commonly known as the dark wizard Grindelwald’s mark. He has to be talked out of dueling Xenophilius Lovegood (who is using it in its true sense) in the middle of a wedding when he sees him wearing it because he thinks he’s a Grindelwald sympathizer. He tells a disguised Harry that he once taught some boys at school a lesson for drawing it on the wall. Though to be fair, he doesn't know what it's actually supposed to mean and Grindelwald killed his grandfather.
    • DON'T call Madame Maxime a half-giant (even if she is one).
    • Do not EVER insult Neville Longbottom's parents to his face. Likewise, badmouthing Harry's parents in front of Harry is also a bad idea.
    • Harry also gets really fired up about intentional Parental Abandonment. In the seventh book when Lupin finds him, Ron, and Hermione at Grimmauld Place and wants to come with them, Harry asks why he’s abandoning his pregnant wife. Lupin says they're better off without him and says that James would have wanted him to protect Harry. Harry gives him a pretty vicious What the Hell, Hero? and tells him that James, who gave his life for his wife and child, would probably think that his old friend was a coward. Hermione tries to get him to apologize and he won't do it.
    • Lord Voldemort has two buttons that will send him into a flying rage:
      • Unless you happen to be Albus Dumbledore, don't use the name "Tom Riddle" in his presence if you value your life. Harry doesn't so much press it as much as breaks it during their final confrontation, blatantly referring to Voldemort continuously by his real name and nothing else. The book makes it clear that Voldemort had no idea how to react to it. Voldemort either goes by the name he made up for himself, 'the Dark Lord' by his followers, or 'You-Know-Who' by those who fear him. The reason he hates using his real name stems from the fact that he and his wizard mother were abandoned by his Muggle father as a child, causing his mother to die in despair.
      • Don't lie or beat around the bush in front of him. Even as a child, he ordered people to "tell the truth" in a harsh manner that managed to unnerve Dumbledore.
  • From A Harvest of War:
    • Touching a Wild's food is a good way to commit suicide.
      • Don't even touch your Wild friend's food without their permission unless you want to be yelled at.
    • Queen Thyll has a bunch:
      • Don't take it too far when questioning her judgment. You don't have to be a Yes-Man but know when to STOP.
      • The word "economy".
      • Any implication that she's not a contender for World's Most Beautiful Woman.
    • Downplayed Trope with Ayan: Cussing will get her most violent reaction to anything: shouting.
  • Hercule Poirot hates it when you call him French. ("Eye yam BELGIAN!")
  • Don't interrupt Horatio Hornblower's morning walk on the quarterdeck. When Lady Barbara sends her maid up to invite him to breakfast, he positively explodes. In another book, a new crewman is hustled out of the way by an experienced hand before he can commit the cardinal sin of crossing Hornblower's path. The morning walk is the closest thing to solitude he can contrive for himself, and he tends to get so deep in thought that he doesn't know what's going on around him.
  • The Hunger Games: Just don't mention Katniss to Peeta in the third book. And especially don't leave her in the same room with him.
  • N. K. Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy: Hado becomes coldly furious whenever anyone appears to be giving him orders, even if they're merely requests or ideas phrased as imperative statements. After a millennium magically enslaved to the Arameri Dynasty, Incapable of Disobeying any direct instruction, it's a very sore point, even though he's now free.
  • In the Jeeves and Wooster story "The Love That Purifies" Aunt Dahlia has a bet with a friend that her son Bonzo can behave better than her friend's offspring Thomas while a mutual acquaintance is staying with Bertie; Bonzo is toeing the line so he can be worthy of movie star Lillian Gish, who he has a big crush on. But Thomas is behaving even better and all looks lost — until Jeeves suggests to Bonzo that he speak ill of Thomas's beloved Clara Bow...
  • Journey to Chaos:
    • Don't call Tiza a "lady", not even respectfully. It's always an insult.
    • Don't touch Basilard's family sword, BloodDrinker. He'll notice even if he's unconscious.
    • Don't touch Old Man Aaloon's scrolls. He'll label you a thief and smack you with his staff.
    • Don't call Kallen a "lab rat". She insists that she was a "patient of experimental therapy". This is one of the few things that makes her genuinely angry.
  • Kate Shugak: Because of the circumstances of her mother's death, Kate hates bootleggers with a passion, and anyone she catches smuggling alcohol into dry communities can expect a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown at the very least.
  • Kill Time or Die Trying: Dylan's bald spot is a literal Berserk Button, James in particular likes to press it, or draw on it if he gets the chance.
  • The Kingdom and the Crown: Simeon has one when it comes to the Romans, especially after he was nearly killed by one of them.
  • From The Kingdoms of Evil: Kendrick and anything from Skrea.
  • In the David Gemmell book Legend, Rek's quality as The Berserker first comes out when someone tries to reach into his mind and he loses it in spectacular fashion.
  • In his few appearances in the Dark Elf books by R.A. Salvatore (the ones about Drizzt Do'urden, for those who don't already know), a neat freak Dwarven sage by the name of Fredregar "Fret" Quilldipper has a rather interesting berserk button. Get his immaculately clean clothes dirty at all, or even threaten to, and he will threaten your life at best (to the point in one instance of backing down a battlerager by the name of Thibbledorf Pwent), or will go completely nuts and use his little hammer to beat the target of his rage into a bloody pulp. (This, by the way, will often result in blood and gore getting on his clothes, which causes him to go into an even stronger killing frenzy against the target or targets of his anger.)
  • To High King Kallor Kallor from the Malazan Book of the Fallen, loyalty to people who are, by his own estimation, unworthy of it are prone to get him mad in no time. Spinnock Durav being willing to fight him to the death, just because Anomander Rake asked him to launches him into a fit of rage.
  • Matilda: Miss Trunchbull hates many things, but one thing she apparently really can't stand is pigtails.
  • The Moomins:
    • Snufkin is very much a free spirit and can't stand being forbidden from doing something. This is why he hates the Park Keeper more than anyone else: in Moominsummer Madness, he unleashes a swarm of Hattifatteners onto him, then destroys all of the signs found around the park.
    • Ninny, after being abused by her aunt for so long, turned into such a Shrinking Violet that she literally became invisible. The Moomin family's care slowly causes more and more of her to become visible again, but she only becomes fully visible after her Berserk Button is pushed: she has become very attached to Moominmamma, and doing anything remotely harmful to her, even as a joke, will set her off like nothing else. When Moominpappa tries to prank his wife by pushing her into the water, Ninny explodes in anger, screaming with fury before biting him on the tail.
  • Misery: Novelist Paul Sheldon crashes his car in the isolated mountains of Colorado and breaks both his legs, though he is taken into the mountain home of former nurse Annie Wilkes, who claims to be the number one fan of his Misery romance novels starring Victorian airhead Misery Chastain. As it turns out, Paul has grown to despise the character (seeing her as a Canon Sue) and plans to kill Misery off in a final book so he can move on to write a gritty crime thriller instead. When Annie finds out from perusing his draft, she goes ballistic. She reveals a psychotic side and demands he write a new novel that undoes Misery's Death by Childbirth. Alone and helpless before his "carer", but confident believing that Annie won't outright kill him until she can find out how Misery's story ends, Paul begins a fight to try to find a way to escape his predicament and write a book that matches Annie's standards without provoking her Hair-Trigger Temper.
  • Destinee Hope Darwin in Mr. Hook's Big Black Box is sweet, innocent, childlike and pretty much impossible to offend or upset in any way, bar one: calling her Monty. She has good (if slightly spoilery) reasons for getting mad about this, but it's still pretty much the only thing that actually makes her genuinely angry.
  • In The Name of the Wind Professor Lorren is an almost completely stoic man, so much so that Professor Exl Dahl has a running bet that no one will ever get him to smile. However, God forbid you ever, EVER threaten his books in any way, shape, or form. Kvothe got off lightly.
  • In Needful Things, don't call Danforth Keeton "Buster." He just might kill you. And not "just might," as his wife discovered when she did it.
  • Nowhere Island University has Salim, an Al-Qaeda terrorist. He really doesn't like it when you imply that he's Ax-Crazy, especially if its combined with suggesting he's not that different from various people he hates.
  • In One Of Us Is Lying, Cooper being publicly outed turns out to be this for Mikhail Powers, the journalist making a series about the murder and who also is gay and was outed against his will. His coverage of the investigation changes abruptly.
  • The Other Kind of Roommate has its entire opening scene describing the aftermath of Alex and Xander's latest argument, during which utterly everything in their apartment was smashed during the fight — including Alex's face. The reason? Xander didn't get to go Starbucks.
  • William Maldonado's Outsourced has the main character, Isaac Fisher responding poorly to assertions that his wishes are just a phase.
  • Phule's Company: Do not criticize Sgt. Escrima's cooking unless you're a masochist or enjoy hospital stays.
  • In President's Vampire, Cade is usually calm and composed, not to say serene, but whenever Johann Konrad appears in vicinity, his Red Oni, Blue Oni relationship with Zach gets instantly reversed and he's inches short from killing the man on spot.
  • Eugene, from Purple Hibiscus, does not like it when you question Christianity.
  • In Puss-Cat Mew, you don't EVER diss the title character in Joe's hearing. He will turn you and your companions against each other and then kill you.
  • Raise Some Hell: Oliver's power is to literally push people's berserk button, although later he learns to control how hard he's pressing it.
  • Belinda, the Princess Classic from Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock. Just sneak up behind her and cut off a lock of her hair — just one, to mess up the symmetry! Go on! It'll be fun!
  • Sawyer Snipe in Robyn Manx's novel The Rebel practically never gets angry...unless you insinuate that his band's music is drug-induced.
  • The Secret Garden: Colin hates when people look at him.
    • He also has one connected to finding lumps on his back until Mary tells him in no uncertain terms that he doesn't have any.
  • Shadow of the Conqueror:
    • After being a Grumpy Old Man for so long, Daylen absolutely hates it when people boss him around or refer to him as "son/kid," and is positively incandescent with rage when Lyrah calls him a "pubescent troublemaker."
    • Most of Lyrah's trauma buttons double as Berserk Buttons. She also initially thinks that her hostility towards Daylen is this, and even apologizes for judging him based on who his father is and how he looks. Then she finds out that he is the man he claimed was his father, and the hostility she felt was more than justified.
  • Also by Brandon Sanderson in Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, the shades that haunt the titular forest have a few: kindling flame, and moving quickly at night. The latter has some leeway, the shades' eyes will open and glow green signifying interest before they attack and you can simply stop and hold very still until they lose interest but the former will instantly enrage any shades nearby (signified by Red Eyes, Take Warning) and they will proceed to kill first the one responsible and then anyone else nearby unless they can get behind silver quickly enough. Even a single drop of blood shed and exposed to open air is enough.
  • "The Silver Codex": Hanlowa is the Muse of Horror so it's not a good idea to piss her off by calling her a demon. She knows what scares even the demons of hell.
  • Father Jerome of Smaller & Smaller Circles will quickly blow up when Surrounded by Idiots.
  • Julius Norreys in the Society of Gentlemen series is usually a detached Gentleman Snarker who avoids getting involved with his friends' problems or petty drama whenever he can and is quick to dismiss others, but the second someone might hurt or endanger his lover Harry, he does not hold back. It often makes his friends suddenly remember that he was once a military officer.
    • A more comical example, when Julius and Harry have a bad falling out, Julius ends up picking a yelling match with him in public... because Harry bought an ugly puce coat.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Craster reacts extremely poorly to the suggestion that he may be illegitimate: "WHO CALLS ME BASTARD?"
    • If you dare mention the fact that he isn't a lord to "Lord" Vargo Hoat, or, heaven help you, mock his thpeeth impediment.
    • Like Craster, Ramsay does not react well to any mention of his low birth. Just using the word "bastard" or "Snow" in his presence will likely lose you the skin on your face, if he's in a good mood.
    • Lord Tywin Lannister hates being laughed at or made the subject of any kind of fun. He cultivates a reputation as The Dreaded, so this doesn't happen to him often, but it supposedly stems from his troubled youth when his father Tytos was reduced to a laughingstock that almost led House Lannister to ruin with his weak leadership. By extension Tywin hates seeing any Lannister being laughed at, although this is more about preserving family dignity than any kind of personal concern for them.
    • To be very effectively loomed over, call Sandor Clegane a "Ser". Or, how about suggesting he and his brother have a lot in common? Or, you could try making crass jokes about fire or alcoholic consumption?
  • Barbara, the hero of the Special Circumstances series, is rather nice and accepting of others' religious beliefs. If someone speaks badly of Christianity, however, all bets are off.
  • The Spirit Thief: Demonseeds revealing their presence send every strong spirit in the area into a murderous rage, resulting in a literal Everything Trying to Kill You.
  • The Stand:
    • Stu does not take kindly to doctors who don't do full disclosure and keep him locked up.
    • Randall Flagg does not take kindly to drug use. Just don't go there unless crucifixion appeals to you.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In the Wraith Squadron books, Tyria Sarkin, the worst pilot in a squadron of Last Second Chances, responds to a teasing offer from a squadmate that he hack into the database and raise her scores by lunging over the table, bringing him to the ground, and repeatedly punching him in the face. Her Reasonable Authority Figure, while putting her on report, tries to get her to explain herself, but she doesn't. He'd thought she was the steadiest of the new recruits. Later she confesses to being the victim of a scam during training — she'd struggled with her scores, her best instructor wanted to have her get him an X-Wing to sell on the black market, and when she refused he revealed that he'd been boosting her scores all along, and if she turned him in he'd turn her in. So she did nothing and graduated at the bottom of her class.
    • The Yuuzhan Vong hate inorganic technology, and especially hate droids, going out of their way to destroy any they encounter. Late in the war, a droid model is designed to deliberately mock the Yuuzhan Vong, looking just like them and having the warcry, "We are droids! We are superior to the Yuuzhan Vong!" The Vong find this so infuriating that spies at the droid's public demonstration immediately break cover to attack. The droid proceeds to kill them all. With most of its weapons disabled or set to low power.
    • In Survivor's Quest, Luke muses on the fact that it is a bad idea to mess with his wife Mara's ship. It was damaged and temporarily disabled and Luke says it will not be good if she ever catches up with the guy that did it.
    • Do not Jedi Mind Trick Han Solo. He got very angry at Luke in The Truce at Bakura and warned him never to do it again.
  • The Stormlight Archive: The Parshendi have a race-wide Berserk Button. They hate it when the bodies of their dead are disturbed, to the point that they will endanger the living in order to protect the dead, and they always step respectfully around the corpses of their men on the battlefield. The Parshmen, the docile Slave Race version of Parshendi, share this quirk. They're allowed to take care of their own dead, as it's the only thing they seem to be passionate about.
  • In Tim Dorsey's novels Torpedo Juice and Shark Skin Suite, using Molly's guest towels — at least if you get them dirty — could get you dead. Molly is not your maid.
  • John Collier's short story "The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It" features a man acquitted of killing another man for no apparent reason. Some time later he is relaxing with a friend, musing on all that happened; in the course of things the friend offers to make him a cocktail. The man begins to give him instructions on making a specific type of drink, in particular giving a dash of nutmeg. He is very particular about the nutmeg, because a man that would dare to leave out the nutmeg, the man that would dare do such a vile thing...
  • Trapped on Draconica: Zarracka can't stand the song 'goblin queen' because she had to play the role of 'goblin queen' whenever she played with her sister, Daniar. Singing it in her earshot drives an already sadistic girl to homicidal fury.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Ned Land discovers that he must never surrender to The Empire while Nemo is The Captain at the Nautilus.
  • The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign: The White Queen does not like it at all when the target of her love, Kyousuke, mentions another girl's name in front of her. Even if it's for perfectly innocent reasons. However, later books suggest that this is actually a facade. At one point, she disguises herself as someone else and hears Kyousuke say other girls' names repeatedly, without breaking her act. After revealing herself, she even talks normally with one of the girls in question.
  • In Esther M. Freisner's Unicorn U., someone addresses the Good Is Not Nice Blood Knight Lady Swears-a-Lot Mama Bear titular unicorn as "Goldie" (the name by which she was introduced) one time too many. Her name is Fluffy, which is Unicorn for "shining vengeance," and anyone who has the temerity to make fun of it is going to get that explained to them the hard way.
  • In Up in the Air, don't try to cash in Ryan Bingham's frequent flyer miles. Just don't do it.
  • Urban Dragon: All dragons have a hair trigger on their berzerk button, which makes them so hard to slay. If you don't kill one with the first shot, the collateral damage can span entire cities.
  • In Vampire Academy, calling Janine Hathaway's relationship with Abe, "you just screwed him". She punches Rose in the face for that one.
  • In Vintage Murder by Ngaio Marsh, it's really not a good idea to call Doctor Rangi Te Pokiha a Māori a liar. Or use the N-word to his face.
  • If you ever find yourself in the world of Warrior Cats, do not attempt to touch Jayfeather's stick. He will murder you.
    • Better not mention Yellowfang's ShadowClan origins, or Raggedstar's father, either.
    • Please don't break the warrior code in front of Hollyleaf. Otherwise, she'll shout at you.
    • Never mention Tigerstar's name in front of Bramblestar.
  • The Way of Kings: When Kaladin gets really desperate, he straps Parshendi bones to his armor to distract the Parshendi while his men charge their lines, unarmed and unarmored. The entire Parshendi army starts shooting at him, to the point that they ignore Sadeas' army even as he's killing them.
  • Lanfear of the The Wheel of Time does not take kindly to being addressed by her real name. It's Mierin Eronaile, by the way.
    • That's nothing compared to her meltdown if you insinuate that Lews Therin/Rand doesn't love her or slept with another woman.
    • Demandred's Start of Darkness happened because he found himself perennially Overshadowed by Awesome compared to Lews Therin Telamon. Do not tell him he's second best, ever. Also, don't try to kill Lews Therin (or Rand, by extension) without letting him have his shot.
    • Keeping with the theme of the Forsaken, don't tell Moridin that he's irrelevant. He's also liable to throw offers of redemption square in the face of the person making them.
  • A childhood, non-violent version in When You Reach Me when Julia goes off on Miranda after Annemarie has a seizure at school. She calls Miranda an idiot about seven times in the course of a minute.
  • Due to hideous mistreatment on his part, the title character of White Fang goes insane when laughed at for much of the book.
  • For Elphaba in Wicked, Animals, animals, even insects are a bit of an obsession. She has a major freakout when Killjoy goes after Chistery, as well as when the children at Kiamo Ko are bothering him.
  • In The Witchlands:
    • Merik has a Hair-Trigger Temper, but the quickest way to make him furious is to insist on chit-chat when there are serious matters to be discussed.
    • The Kritians in general have a chip on their shoulder regarding their neighboring country, to the point where the guide mentions that one should never mistake a Kritian for a Portollan.