Generally, I prefer to focus on the positive. However, I have a little list–mentally, till now–of tropes that make me roll my eyes, and occasionally close a book, because they are so tiresome. Once in awhile I hear from others, including favorite authors, about their own Honey No lists, though they may not title them that way, and so I thought it might be fun, or at least cathartic, to share here. I’ll be adding my favorites as they come to me. Feel free to comment with your own pet peeves, those devices that you never want to see used again, EVER.
- The character is tense, and we know this because she bites down and tastes blood. Oh, heck yeah, happens to me when I’m upset too–like maybe, um, NEVER. And it’s not because I’m a mellow, untroubled soul; believe me.
- Corollary to the above: Character is so tense that she clenches her fists hard enough to make half-moon cuts in her palm with her fingernails. Again: never.
- Ohhh, the character is too distressed, distracted, whatever to eat. They never eat. They’re growing so thin! Sheesh. Extra points go to any author whose high strung character deals with the stress by consuming half a chocolate cake. Not to vomit back up; not because she’s bulimic; she just eats an outrageous amount of the very worst foods as a stress response. A pint of ice cream works here, too. A whole box of Captain Crunch? See, that I could believe.
- Actor and director Jodie Foster commented once in an interview, years ago, that when trying to find a character’s motivation, male directors constantly reach for one thing: the character was raped. Must have been raped. Of course she was raped. I’ve noticed that this often extends into the literary world. I hope these bros get it, sooner or later: there are lots of other things that motivate women, and not all of us have been raped. Seriously.
- Mystery writers deserve a list unto themselves, and at one point I became so jaundiced about their many tropes that I stepped away from the genre:
- Oh, they want a drink. Must not drink, but dying to drink. Folks, alcoholism is everywhere, and it’s hard; I get that. But you know what? Diarrhea is everywhere, too, and I don’t need to find it every time I open a novel.
- I’ve been framed, and now I must find the real perpetrator in order to clear my own name!
- They have my a) children b) dog c) kitty d) houseplant (okay, I made that one up.)
- I figured out whodunit, but before I could act on it, they kidnapped me, tied me up, and threw me in the car’s backseat or trunk.
Ahh. I feel better, just putting these out there. Can’t wait to hear yours! No doubt this list will grow. Stay tuned for the next time I get my snark on!