Have you ever read a book and really liked the characters and how the story started out…and then boom, the writer gets lazy and drops a cliche’ plot devise in the middle of an otherwise unique story? I have… totally frustrating. Why waste interesting, intelligent, well-developed characters on over-obvious plot devises to keep the super-couple apart… or to provide a cheap, plot twist. Here are some of the worse offenders…(at least in my oh so humble opinion anyway.) And these are in no particular order, I hate them all equally. lol.
#1 Overheard Conversations. Ugh! Honestly, I think this one really should not be used in adult fiction at all. Its just juvenile and silly to have grown adults, seemingly intelligent, mature men and woman…some married and/or with high powered jobs or prominent positions in society and the social order…tiptoeing around with their ears to the door/keyhole. And then turn around and base some vitally important potentially life-altering decision on these keyhole whisperings. Really? Is anyone that rash, insecure, eh, stupid? This is not even adult behavior. What man or woman would leave her/his significant other, move to a different country, have an abortion, etc based on something they overheard through the crack in a door? Seriously? Only on soap operas do people do this. Wouldn’t it make more sense to confront the parities with what you’ve overheard? Or, at least, ask around and see if there is any truth to what you heard…perhaps even get the whole story, or find out if you at least heard the whole conversation. Honestly, the only time this plot devise is believable is if the characters are teens…immature teenagers do tend to act rashly, be very insecure, and not get all the facts.
#2 Ladies disguised as Lads. Outside of the person being completely gender-reassigned, I see no place in modern day stories for this plot devise. Its just TOO ridiculous to think that a girl would pass for a guy for any extended period of time. Question: Where is her Adam’s apple? Also, hips, long eye lashes, these things are hard to hide. Even if she shaves her head…she’s been a girl all her life, which means, she moves like a girl, talks and sounds like girl, has feminines gestures, soft hands, shaved legs. It is just ridiculous to think that a person wouldn’t be able to tell she is female instead of male…Unless of course, they were far away and this was a very short term ruse. Even in historical tales (where clothes were more or less cues to your social status.) And Masters didn’t even look directly at servants…Yeah, you can get away with it in the short term…and from a distance. But up close and personal… forgetaboutit. It degrades a character’s intelligence to have them NOT know that the person they are traveling with, best friends with…sleeping next too, is female. The same is true for males pretending to be female (though thankfully this is much less prevalent.)
#3 Contrived Misunderstandings. This is just not believable and not interesting to read a book-length romance, where the main conflict in the road to their Happily Ever After hinges entirely on a continual string of paper-thin misunderstandings….some of which have to do with He said, she said crap….or letters/notes passed that didn’t get delivered. UGH. This is NOT a true conflict. I mean, seriously…If you declared your love in a letter and you didn’t hear back, wouldn’t your first instinct be to call and ask the person….Eh, did you get my letter? Or the next time you see them…be like, “Yo, so what’s the word, I didn’t get a reply back. This is what normal mature adults do….And likely savvy teens too. Even a 15 year-old hero would have the sense, at least to call his lady and say…did my text go thru or what?
#4 Memory Loss. This actually is a viable plot devise, in certain situations…but it should be used sparingly and for short periods of time. I don’t like reading a book where the entire book is about the main character remembering his/her past. (Notable exceptions: The Bourne Identity….which differs because his memory was deliberately erased. He didn’t bump his head, in the book anyway, they did it different in the movie. Also, the memory loss wasn’t the ONLY thing going on. There was lots of action, a romance, some spy stuff, and chase scenes to round out the plot, & keep things from getting tedious.)
#5 Secrets that linger too long. Done properly, secrets can be an excellent plot devise…but misused or overused and it just frustrates the reader. No one wants to read a book, no matter how good or intriguing it starts off where the reader and the characters are held hostage by a secret for 300 -400 pages…only for it to be revealed on the next to last page just before the main characters kiss and make up. UGH! This is the worse kinda trick to pull. Secrets should exist temporarily to propel the plot…And the best secrets are those that the reader is not entirely aware of…maybe there’s a hint of something. Or the character is mysterious, the reader doesn’t know what exactly they’re hiding…and is shocked and further intrigued when it comes out. But I hate it when the reader knows….half or all the other characters know…and only the hero or heroine is in the dark….and they are too scared to tell, afraid of the person’s reaction. WTF? If you had told them before it became “secret” they likely wouldn’t be that upset. But who wouldn’t be upset finding out something about their life or their significant other’s life weeks later, that everyone around them already knew and no one told them. Just tell it already! If this type of secret is the ONLY thing holding up the plot…its weak and needs a better motivation.
D. Alyce Domain
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