Monday, July 16, 2012

Book Talk: My Pet Peeves

1: Car crashes.
Sometimes characters just have to die. Often these are the parents who die before the story even starts, leaving the protagonist with a single parent or entirely orphaned. Am I the only one who thinks this is a lame and overused excuse? If you need to kill somebody, have them gunned down in an alley or eaten by a polar bear. My favorite orphan explanation comes from Alex and the Ironic Gentleman. Alex was raised by her uncle because her parents died while spelunking is Iceland.
I did read one book where both villains drove off after locking the protagonist in a burning building (she escaped) and crashed into a tree. Dues ex machina.

2. Clumsiness
So many characters describe themselves as clumsy, yet they only trip twice in the whole book. If they were truly clumsy, they'd stumble going down the stairs, fall into a car while opening it, and hit their heads on the wall waking up in the morning. Not just when there's a trapdoor that can only be seen with your face on the floor or a clue lying unnoticed in the carpet. Not just while they're being chased through a dark forest at the climax.
3. Love interests that are just there
Some stories just don't need lovers. They need friends to accompany the hero on adventures, mentors to help them along, and villains to get in the way. Sometimes they don't even associate with their object of interest, just watch them from afar, hold maybe two conversations, and kiss at the end. Because life works that way.
red and pink hearts
4. Love interests that are boring
So he's described as being cute. Terrific for you, but I can't see him. Furthermore, I can't see why you'd spend a great portion of the novel talking to him if he has no other attractive qualities. If I'm going to dive into romance, I have to fall in love with him, too. Have him quote poetry or rescue hamsters from a burning building.
5. Authors who don't know how schools work
Blackboards are gone, we use whiteboards. Schools don't have their own nurses anymore. And if something happens in a cafeteria, a couple breaking up or friends shouting at each other, nobody will notice. Not if they're more than two tables away. Unless your cafeteria is really small, like a private school. But in your average high school, nobody can keep track of who sits at what table or what might be going on over there. You can't always hear what a friend sitting right next to you is saying. My elementary school cafeteria had two rows of ten tables, one for the lower grades and one for the upper grades. Not terribly large. Every year there was an end of school food fight, and I never saw it.
Then there's the whole popularity concept. I've never seen a school where people actually trail the rich/blonde/snobby/cheerleader/stupid girl around the hallways. There's no popularity ladder. There's your friends, the people you know, and then the people you don't know. Some people have more friends than others, but most of us don't care enough to rank them by popularity.
Besides, I can't get excited about another book with a blonde cheerleader. They just change the names every time. If you use stereotypes, abuse them, like the cheerleading spies in The Squad: Perfect Cover.
6. Overly happy endings
If they all get back home safely, if the battle is won, if the guy gets the girl or vice versa, that's happy enough for me. They don't need to get extremely rich, gain magical powers, and reunite their hopelessly divided family. Life is good, but sometimes life can only be so good.

7. Villains who play with the hero
This is the one who cuts only one rope from the rope bridge, leaving the hero a route across the chasm. Or the one who installed a tracker in the hero's arm while they were knocked out at the beginning, but allowed them to run around the country for 300 pages before meeting them at their final destination.Or the one who watches the hero battle their way out of terrifying traps fit for the movies instead of just shooting them when they have the chance. Which brings me to my next problem.
8. Villain middlemen
This usually happens in mystery or action. Especially in the Alex Rider books. So they figure out who the bad guy is and it's not very hard to figure out. After all, he was hanging around the crime scene with a gun. But wait, gun guy was actually working for somebody else. So they investigate that somebody else and find them to be in partnership with Villain #3. But wait! #2 and #3 had their motives, yes, but they were actually being manipulated by the real bad guy. Villain #4 is the real mastermind here. He's incredibly smart, yet for some reason he finds in necessary to blow up a car, burn down a building, kill a few guards and pedestrians, start a power outage, send threatening notes, hack a computer, disguise his motives, and involve three other lackeys. All so he can kill one person.
Couldn't you just walk in there with a gun? You might have gotten away with it if you didn't overcomplicate everything.
9. Random gay guy
Not even the main character. This is usually the best friend left behind when the girl goes on an adventure. She may mention him twice or talk to him on the phone when she needs advice, but he's not even there. So why make him gay?
If it's because political correctness has become necessary for fiction, why do most books still have all white characters? The only black protagonists I can think of are in historical fiction, with the exception of Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles and Heroes of Olympus.

Speaking of Rick Riordan, anybody else notice how diverse his characters have become lately? In Heroes of Olympus we meet Leo, who's Hispanic, Piper, half Cherokee, Hazel, African-American, and Frank, Chinese-Canadian. I think he's trying to appeal to a broader fan base.

10. The unconventional young lady
She might be a princess, she might simply be from a wealthy family. She has no interest in embroidery or dancing or boys, like all proper young ladies should. And she's supposed to be unique. Every single time.
She might have been daring in contrast to the books of a couple decades past, but now the rebel princess has become the norm. I'm surprised when they do actually enjoy embroidery, like Creel in The Dragon Slippers or Addie in The Two Princesses of Bamarre.

No comments:

Post a Comment