TEN FICTION TROPES THAT MAKE ME CRAZY
1. Episodic series with no series arc
The mystery genre has done these to death (no pun intended). I respect readers who enjoy this format. We should all have the choice of reading what brings us pleasure. But there’s a fresh deluge of these formula books monthly—many of them publisher-dictated concept write-for-hires—and they take up so much bookstore shelf space, there’s little room for anything else. Yes, I resent them a little.
2. The Feisty Heroine
Give me courageous and intelligent, or if you must, cynical and bitchy. But save your feisty females fashioned from a laundry list of charming quirks for some other reader.
3. Which reminds me, idiosyncrasies do not a character make
This does not mean characters can’t have idiosyncrasies, it means there should be more to a character than his or her eccentricities.
4. The bad boy redeemed
If there is anything more boring or tedious than a female protagonist redeeming her bad boy, I don’t know what it is. I don’t talk much about sexism, but these stories are the epitome, promulgating a female stereotype that makes me downright queasy: if a woman is willing to take enough abuse, she can turn her bad boy around. It’s sad enough the market is inundated with these books, but 99.99% of them are actually written by women. For shame! On the upside, I got to use epitome, promulgating, and inundated all in the same paragraph. 🙂
5. Inappropriately anthropomorphized animals
In magical realism, paranormal, fantasy, myth, and fable—fine. In a tongue-in-cheek “memoir” written solely from the animal’s perspective—definitely. In contemporary fiction? No. Just no. Write about animal instincts (SUSPECT by Robert Crais is an example). Write about the awesome human-animal bond. Write about the impact and influence animals have on our lives, but don’t make the protagonist’s schnauzer alpha.
6. Punny titles
Is your new crime novel about ghost hunters? Please do not call it, A BOO TO A KILL. The cleverness of these titles has long run its course. That said, I still love punny titles for blog posts and wish I were better at coming up with them.
7. Snarky humor as a substitute for voice
Just as idiosyncrasies are not character, contrived puns, slapstick, absurdity, farce, and snarkiness are not voice. Humor should be organic to the story. This doesn’t mean a humorous book can’t have voice or a serious book can’t have humor—far from it. But don’t confuse the two: voice and humor are not the same thing.
8. Characters who describe themselves in the mirror
I’d go so far as to say that unless a character’s physical appearance is important to your story, provide the reader with a few key physical details and move on. Trust your reader. Engaging the imagination is a superb way to get your audience vested in your story.
Disclaimer: this won’t work if you write one of the genres that insist on a laundry list of physical attributes. If this is you, please soldier on and ignore me.
9. Don’t avoid clichés simply because you’ve been told it’s never ok to use them
A cliché is a metaphor characterized by overuse. Fact is, some people speak in clichés. To attempt to write around this reality will result in contrived and stilted dialogue. If you have a character you know would utter a cliché, let them speak!
10. Dream sequences
They’re nearly always misplaced and trite. Why not avoid them?
Any tropes that bother you? Share!
This is my last post of 2013. I’ll be back Monday, January 6 and again on Wednesday, January 8 for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Hope to see you here!
U n t i l T h e n…