Friday, August 12, 2011
trends that tire me
So this is a completely subjective post (like the whole industry, I guess...), and I hope it doesn't sound complain-y, especially because I'm guilty of using all of this tropes myself, but it's the run-down on what I see too much of
the high school cliche. example: the heroine isn't a nerd, but isn't popular, either; the lunchroom is split up into groups, the goths are all dressed in black, and the popular people are nasty. My thoughts: Basically, we all went to high school, and we all know what high school looks like. I would love to see those halls with new eyes, because sure, things were cliquey, but there was a lot more going on. The same old descriptions of that divided lunchroom bore me after a while. And. About the not popular, not unpopular, not pretty, not unattractive heroine: I don't know what to say, other than that she sounds like a pretty boring person to read about. Harsh? Hm.
the parent cliche. example: the hero's parents died in a car crash a year ago, or die in the opening pages in a traumatic car accident, or died in a car accident when the hero was little, or ... My thoughts: This is a tricky issue. Obviously grief is a horrible and painful subject, and I don't want to be callous about it. Especially because one of my friends was just in a serious car accident, and especially because these things happen -- and hurt. But when this shows up all the time, everywhere, in nearly every hero's painful past, it makes me wonder if grief is maybe the easiest roadblock for a writer to throw up in her character's face? Maybe it's harder to write about the struggles and pains that don't come from some past trauma, but from just being a human, and so we fall back on more tangible, more explainable scarred histories. Or maybe we are so terrified and intrigued by death and its mysteries that we write about it obsessively. Either way, I think I've seen too much of it.
the new town cliche. example: after traumatic occurrence, heroine is sent/is forced/decides to move to a new town to start over. usually a small town. My thoughts: The funny thing is that I'm totally guilty of using this one in The Inbetween, and I still think it's a great idea. It promptly sets the heroine up with a bunch of conflict and uncertainty, plenty of new characters to meet as the reader meets them, and an easy mystery for the readers to solve (why did the heroine move??) -- but the sad truth is that every other query uses it. Not an exaggeration.
the snark cliche. I'm talking about voice here. I like snarky humor and sarcasm, but, like the grief thing, I wonder if snark is a fallback voice, an easy way to make the heroine sound unique without trying too hard. Because not a huge number of people are constantly snarky (at least, not a huge number of people I know), but it seems like a huge number of fictional characters are. Snark is easy because it has an instant fingerprint, an instant cadence and an instant character that forms beneath it. But the easy is often overused. Other voices, voices that use other types of humor and other ways of describing things, might be more difficult to shape, but sound a lot fresher and, ultimately, more unique.
Thoughts? Disagreements? More cliches?