I’m Over it Already — The List

In keeping with my more honest, oh-what-the-heck-attitude, I thought I would list a few of the things I am tired of reading/hearing about involving books currently popular in the market. This is not a slam on any particular books or authors, it’s just the stuff that I am OVER ALREADY.

In no particular order, books where:

  • Every character (except maybe a villain or two) is gorgeous and physically perfect in every possible way. (And we are told how gorgeous and perfect they are continuously).
  • The protagonist is a thief/assassin/con artist. (Enough with this trope already!!)
  • The villain turns out to be the protagonist’s father/mother/uncle/long lost cousin on their stepdad’s side.
  • The protagonist starts off as a poor, ignored, “nothing,” but really… They are the long-lost prince or princess. (Or emperor, or mightiest warrior, or most-est powerful of all powerful sorcerers).
  • Sexual acts are described ad nauseum, but ONLY using the oddest, purple prose euphemisms.
  • Love interests pause in the middle of highly dangerous or traumatic events to … you know, do those euphemistic things.
  • Characters fall madly in love in zero to sixty seconds. (Usually based only on the “gorgeousness”).
  • The setting is supposed to be “exotic” but it reads more like a rehash of books from the late 1800s and early 1900s, where the protagonist, “suffering” under the “white man’s burden” brings “enlightenment” and “progress” to the “backward natives.”
  • The story is based on cultures the author obviously does not understand deeply, if at all.
  • At least one of the male leads is so DANGEROUS! and DARK! But despite being willing to kill any and all other characters, he somehow wants to protect the female protagonist (even if that means killing any and all other characters).
  • Female characters hate each other for no other reason than that they are both female (and somehow, thus in competition for every guy they see).
  • No one has a disability or, if they do, it is “magically cured”. (Or it turns out this disability really unleashes their “secret power.”)
  • Any POC or LGBTQ characters feel like they were inserted into the story just to meet some quota (and thus, tend to have no storyline of their own and/or get killed off quickly).
  • Anyone CLAIMS anyone else.
  • Characters have MATES. (You know, unless they are wolves. Then it’s okay).
  • Any growling occurs. (Again, unless it’s wolves…)

I guess I’d better stop there… Okay, so what are some of your pet peeves in popular books? And what new and different tropes would you like to see?

WAIT FOR IT…

We live in a “give it to me this second” culture, where convenience is often valued more highly than quality. (Why else would people stream TV shows and films on their tiny phone screens?)

Give it to me nowThere’s nothing wrong with cultural changes, per se, but I have noticed a major shift in fiction in recent years. No longer are authors allowed to build from a quiet beginning to a dramatic finish—now it needs to be “all action, all the time.” Or at least, lots of “DRAMA!” right from the get-go.

So many times these days, when I read reviews I see something like: “It was slow in the beginning, but I did really love it by the end.” That immediately makes me WANT to read the book, because I like slow in the beginning. Not boring or poorly written, of course, but I don’t mind if an author takes their time to build and deepen characters, or immerse me in the setting, or even tempt me with slightly cryptic hints about what’s to come. I don’t necessarily want to open a book and be dumped into some “rock ‘em, sock ‘em” fight between characters I’ve never encountered before, or follow some random people escaping an explosion. I don’t know these characters yet, so why the heck would I care what happens to them?

I often feel this way about films or TV shows too. Give me context and make me care before you blow some character to bits. Otherwise, it’s just visual candy—all spectacle and no substance. Twothe-lives-of-others of my favorite films, THE LIVES OF OTHERS and BABETTE’S FEAST, move very slowly in the beginning, but by the end of the movie they leave you both emotionally shattered and uplifted. Without the conscious, careful, layering of characters, setting, and meaning, the conclusions of these films would never possess the power to actually transform the way the viewer looks at things, or thinks about the world.

Consider music. A song that builds from quiet to a shattering crescendo of sound and emotion at the end is much more affecting (I think) than something that is simply loud all the way through. Great composers and performers know that varying the intensity and building toward an emotional climax is essential to creating a piece that stands the test of time.

Jane Eyre coverSo I’d like to encourage readers to step back and give a little time before they decide how they feel about a book. Of course, if the book is completely dull or poorly written, that’s another matter, but if the book has good qualities, give it a chance. Think of missing out on JANE EYRE or LORD OF THE RINGS or REBECCA just because those books don’t actually start with a “bang.” Allow the book to seduce you, not just overwhelm you with action, action, and more action. Give it time.

Wait for it… It might surprise you.