Fiction cliches you hate

(338 Posts)

I read mostly crime and thriller.
Can't bear books that take the first hundred pages to describe the landscape. Thick frost, frozen lake, snowy trees, onto the action please.
Detectives that drink lots of coffee and work all night but somehow seem to actually work very little

chipmonkey Mon 21-Jan-13 22:42:38

Any book where the hero is "moody" and controlling but the heroine ends up with him anyway.
I want to shout "Red Flag, Red Flag, don't you read the Mumsnet Relationships section?"

chipmonkey grin none of her friends ever tell her to leave the bastard either

chipmonkey Mon 21-Jan-13 23:19:03

No, they don't, feckin' eejits just stand there and catch the bouquet!

Trills Tue 22-Jan-13 08:30:54

They don't just catch the bouquet, they fight over who catches it.

sieglinde Thu 24-Jan-13 20:14:27

Adverbs, especially in relation to speech. 'She said softly.' 'He said sternly.' I hate

'Suddenly', as in 'suddenly, she knew..'

Any word for speech except 'said'. I hate it when people 'return' and 'admonish' and 'demand'. Puts the author too much int eh foreground.

Brandnames - usually either showing off or showing lack of class aspired to

Describing the POV character by having her look in a mirror or at a photo of herself.

Loathe any children's book where they wake up in their little white beds, and it's all a dream - agree. Dreams should be weird and scary, like in Arthur Schnizler.

'Scooting' in a sex scene. 'She scooted close to him'. Urgh.

Euphemisms for body parts. 'His plunging member...' 'her centre'.

YY, I hate MarySues, but also GarryStus. If anyone likes both, look no further than the novels of Deborah Harkness.

Interesting about "said".

"said, adverbly" is indeed annoying. But just "said" can be clumpy in long exchanges, and doesn't give a hint as to tone, whereas "retorted" or "murmured" or "spat" absolutely do.

The expression "very well", as in an acknowledgement:

"Very well, have it your way", he said, standing to leave.

It looks OK on paper but it's an expression I swear I have never heard actually spoken in a sentence in real life. But I don't get out much.

I don't like people 'storming' about. Gets on my wick.

pamish Thu 24-Jan-13 23:19:13

That V I Warshawski can never get to the end of a book without going through deadly peril and a bit of torture. But I like the Venetian glasses that have hardly been broken in several apartment-smashings/burnings.

sieglinde Fri 25-Jan-13 10:02:26

Horatia, gritted, and spat, and hissed, also show us the author standing by the characters, taking notes. Show, don't tell.

It's especially grinding when it's obvious that the character's words must be said in a certain way. If she says 'Piss off,' she's likely to be spitting.

From the mistress of many adverbs, J K Rowling:

'Gather round, gather round,' Hagrid encouraged.

This works like a tautology. You'd ne unlikely to say those words in any other way. 'Gather round', Hagrid screamed. 'Gather round,' Hagrid gritted. 'Gather round,' Hagrid snivelled...

So a new speech verb is only needed if there's a disconnection between what is said and tone of voice - if Hagrid, losing patience, actually HAD gritted. 'Gather round,' prior to draw a pistol and gunning them down. Otherwise Rowling is hitting me on the head with the bleeding obvious.

Even in the above case, it's telling, not showing. Better just to have him say 'gather round,' and have him move his hands in a wide welcoming arc - or draw his pistol, or fumble with it, or have the pov character notice his eyes narrow to dark slits.

Adverbs and specific speech verbs show a lack of trust in the reader. They weigh a text down. 'Said' was good enough for Hemingway, and Alan Garner doesn't even bother with 'said'. If we know the characters well enough, we shouldn't have any problem knowing who is speaking.

Rowling's status as a "writer" (as opposed to Thinker-Up of Stories) is rightly challenged.

I agree with you. Mostly.

In contrast to your Hagrid example, ' "Come in," he murmured/grinned/growled/whimpered' - the spoken words don't give you a clue but the verb can. It is nearer than "said, verbly" which is unimaginative.

megandraper Fri 25-Jan-13 10:17:08

Read my novel. I don't do any of these cliches <pages through to check> grin

sieglinde Fri 25-Jan-13 10:25:24

Yep, the Mistress of Adverbs is indeed no great shakes as a maker of sentences.

And I see what you mean about 'come in', though it would depend on whether we needed to know the mod at that moment. I'm not sure it's realistic, either. 'come in,' he murmured. What does that convey? A dread of being overheard? Maybe suspense might be better?

congrats to bedhopper. Most of us have to go over our writing and remove all this...

StephaniePowers Fri 25-Jan-13 10:25:29

Any of the following:
- child abuse, only revealed for what it is in the last 1/6th of the novel.
- alcoholic hero who has no bother at all in getting it up whenever he wants to, and despite years of alcohol abuse, is desperately attractive to a variety of women who could naturally do ten times better without even trying.
- 'getting away from it all' usually some sort of man trouble, only to instantly take up with the handsome local yokel. IME handsome local yokels always have 13-yr-old girlfriends and a warning that they'll be done next time for statutory rape, that never appears in such novels.

Corygal Fri 25-Jan-13 10:31:32

When the worthy and poor heroine escapes her meagre circs through a scholarship to Oxford.

FGS - what about the worthy people who aren't the next Nobel/Booker candidates? And the only people I know who got one had rich parents.

Trills Fri 25-Jan-13 10:36:05

You don't need a scholarship to go to Oxford - it costs just the same as any other university (which is "no money up front").

sieglinde Fri 25-Jan-13 10:51:32

Stephanie, total agreement about child abuse as the only motivator for anything at all. So so done to death.

Children's books about the Holocaust where the POV child doesn't realise what's going on in the nearby camp. Timeslip novels where the child POV character doesn't realise it's the nineteenth century for many chapters despite the steam trains and grime.

Dark fayries or fays or feyries or fairys? FFS.

Corygal, what books are you thinking of re a scholarship?

NicknameTaken Fri 25-Jan-13 10:59:11

Any description of a dream. Not even the "then he woke up and found the entire plot to date was a dream" type, but any description of a dream whatsoever. It's boring when someone tells you in real life, and it's boring in a novel.

I will grudgingly accept "He woke, heart still pounding from nightmares that hovered just beyond his recall" but keep them beyond recall. Please, please, keep them beyond recall.

MardyArsedMidlander Fri 25-Jan-13 13:12:14

Any romantic novel where he 'crushes his lips to her'- isn't that bloody uncomfortable? What if you are half way through chewing a sandwich?

NicknameTaken Fri 25-Jan-13 13:56:41

Mardy, that reminds me of my first kiss, which featured the memorable words "Why don't you spit out that gum?"

Have never been able to chew banana-flavoured bubble gum since.

sieglinde Fri 25-Jan-13 17:25:35

Or 'he crushed her to him'. GBH, I think. Ouch.

Or kisses that taste of heaven, or some other such nonexistent substance.

sieglinde Fri 25-Jan-13 17:26:21

and come to think of it, he shouldn't kiss her lips, unless he is her blood relative. Mouths kiss, not lips.

hackmum Fri 25-Jan-13 18:07:26

What a great thread. Haven't read it all, so apologies if some of these have been mentioned, but in crime fiction (this applies to both tv and books), there are certain things that always give the game away, e.g. if it begins with "and the body was never found", you know that the person is still alive. If there are identical twins, it was the other twin who was murdered/is the murderer, not the one you think. If a character is mentioned early on but appears to have no obvious role in the plot, then later on they will turn out to be really significant, ie they will be the murderer or lead to the murderer.

Stropzilla Fri 25-Jan-13 18:16:53

Over describing something. I don't care what everyone in the room is wearing or how their hair is styled. Or the feel, weight, colour and entire history of the gun being used taking 2 pages to talk about.

Repetitive use of phrases. I'm looking at Terry Goodkinds Sword of Truth series. Being reminded every page of Richards "raptor gaze" made DH and I very stabby.

RosyRoo Fri 25-Jan-13 22:26:08

There is an overwhelming tendency for the main protagonist to be either a writer or to work in publishing. Have authors got so little imagination that they cannot imagine a life outside of the very narrow world they operate in. Also, everyone seems to have loads of spare cash, even if they say they don't. They never seem to consider the cost before catching the train to Devon, or taking a taxi across town for an urgent romantic tryst.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now