December 6th – Bookish Things You’re a Grinch About: Since being a grinch is a funny thing, try not to make this serious topics that make you angry (like lack of diversity or abusive relationships in fiction, etc) as this is supposed to be more of a petty bookish things you hate. This can be stuff about covers, dumb tropes, etc. Have fun with it.
Ok, I’ve gotta admit it, I love this topic. I am nothing if not petty.
1. Quirky names in contemporary fiction. Like when your character’s called Tulip or Beansprout or some nonsense it’s just like… what’s wrong with Sarah??? What annoys me about this that a lot of the time I feel like quirky names are used for the sole purpose of trying to make a book stand out (both in YA and adult contemporary fiction… obviously names in SFF adhere to different rules). But if your book doesn’t have anything going for it other than your main character being named Cinnamon Stick for no discernible reason, maybe reevaluate your storytelling priorities.
2. The ‘you two are SO CLEARLY IN LOVE why aren’t you together??’ trope. I recently ranted about this on twitter, so apologies if you follow me on there, but basically what I’m talking about: when two characters have a ~will they/won’t they~ relationship and some unbiased third party has to comment on their off the charts chemistry. My problem is when this trope is used in lieu of actual chemistry between the characters, it’s just lazy writing, like in the most recent series of Game of Thrones when Tyrion had to comment on the supposedly insane chemistry between Jon and Dany on like twelve different occasions. Maybe instead of telling your readers or viewers that your characters have chemistry, show it. (Since I just used an example in tv, one literary offender I can think of is The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I loved that book, but I was quickly losing my patience with how often the American character kept commenting on how Sean and Puck were clearly in love with each other.)
3. Twists that exist only for shock value. What’s so tricky about writing in the mystery/thriller genre is that you want your twists and reveals to shock the reader, but sometimes writers prioritize that over their twists actually making sense in the context of the narrative that they’ve created. An example offender: Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen. Chances are you’re not going to guess that twist, but only because it was so out of left field. I’ll take predictable reveals over shock value reveals any day, but the ideal is obviously finding a way to balance these two – by shocking your reader, but having them say ‘of course, why didn’t I think of that???’ No one does this better than Agatha Christie – I think a lot of contemporary thriller writers should turn to her example.
4. Mysteries/thrillers with ‘Girl’ in the title. (First I just want to acknowledge that I realize authors – especially debut authors – do not always have the final say in their book’s title. I realize this is largely a marketing trend. That does not make it any less irritating.) Okay, so, my annoyance with this trend is twofold: (1) How the fuck are we supposed to keep all these ‘Girl’ books straight – Gone Girl, Pretty Girls, The Good Girl, Cemetery Girl, Final Girls, The Girl Before, All the Missing Girls – what even are all of these?????? (2) It’s a trend that infantalizes women, which is especially disturbing when you consider that so many of these books are about rape and murder. Let’s take one of the more popular examples – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The Swedish title, Män som hatar kvinnor, translates to ‘Men Who Hate Women,’ which really gets to the heart of what that book is about. But instead, when it was translated and published in English, we get The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which makes Lisbeth Salander sound like some quirky alternative protagonist, not an abuse survivor in a novel which deals with some seriously dark and twisted themes. But it’s gotten to the point where we see ‘Girl’ in a title and we almost instinctively know it’s going to be a thriller about rape, abuse, violence, murder – except these books are often dressed up with an alluring cover which includes an image of a sexy woman. Which is so unbelievably twisted. Can we please stop this.
5. Sex scenes written as awkwardly as possible for no other reason than to be deliberately provocative. I feel like there’s a certain type of literary fiction that attempts to rebel against sex being portrayed as this ~magical~ event, but they take it so far as to try to shock the reader into thinking ‘isn’t this profound?’ when really, no??? It is not profound???? Describing a guy’s stomach as resembling crème brulée is not profound??? A guy comparing himself to an orangutan during a threesome is not profound??? (I’m looking at you guys – Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff and White Fur by Jardine Libaire.) But also, if you’re not already familiar with it and you need a laugh, check out the Bad Sex in Fiction Award.
What are some bookish tropes and trends that irrationally annoy you?? Comment and let me know!