I’m in the mood to grouse. Care to join me? Today I’m borrowing from my blogger buddy Carol Kilgore over at Under the Tiki Hut and presenting a top ten list. Let’s call this one:

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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.

Wesley Fryer/flickrr

Wesley Fryer/flickrr

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.

daBinsi/flickrcc

daBinsi/flickrcc

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!

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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!

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U n t i l  T h e n…

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