Thursday, November 10, 2011

Annoying Book Trends

So I've been trying to find ways to take the content of this blog beyond what you could find cruising Amazon reviews. I still haven't figured it out, but I did come up with an idea for tonight's post: Annoying Book Trends!

1. Title format: The [quirky profession's] [female relative]. You know what I speak of. "The Alchemist's Daughter." "The Mandolin-maker's wife". This is one of those trends where one book with a similar title broke through and everyone rushed to do it. It's particularly awful when you can tell that the book does not, in fact, concern the daughter of an alchemist. And the fact that it invariably concerns a female relative reeks of that "herstory" crap...clearly, the alchemist or mandolin-maker is the interesting one, and it makes me think that it will be primarily about the tribulations of keeping the wood shavings out of the casseroles and explaining the mysterious explosions to the neighbors. I think it's time for this trend to die.

2. The Girl who was Too Spunky For Her Time. It's hard for modern women to imagine an era in which they had almost no freedom. When it was a commonly held belief that encouraging a woman to learn things would interfere with her ability to have babies, when an unmarried 19-year-old was an old maid, when people went around saying things like "women belong in the kitchen" in a non-ironic way and didn't get smacked for them. It's hard for modern women to imagine, but if you're writing historical fiction, you need to try.

Yes, throughout history, there were women who were Too Spunky For Their Time, but the fact that the repressive system remained in place for so long seems to indicate that they were generally in the minority. Why were most women OK with their lack of spunk? What made so many women agree to marry at an early age, turn from their books once they could read well enough to get by in their society, and generally conform? Maybe the happy housewives of earlier eras are harder for us to relate to, but who says that everything in historical fiction needs to speak to our modern world?

3. Cardboard boyfriends. Chick-lit books are notorious for this. Even though the focus is supposed to be primarily on the girl, would it kill writers to give their male characters the tiniest bit of depth? Usually, all we know about them is their profession and their penchant for doing thoughtful things (if they're good guys) or being thoughtless (if they're the douchebag obstacle character). Give him a hobby or something!

4. Memoirs by boring people. The memoir genre is hard to do well. The cold, hard truth is that not everyone's life is interesting. Other people have interesting lives and can't portray them well. Some have something very mildly interesting about them but flog it way too hard. Since the explosion of the genre about 15 years ago, they've definitely varied in quality.

5. Formulaic fantasy. Shouldn't that be a contradiction in terms? Sadly, it's not. I took a beating on here a few years ago for my post on The Alchemyst, but it's pretty typical of a formulaic fantasy novel. Person or persons receive a strange visitor. Strange visitor reveals magic ability/chosen one status. Person embarks on a quest to either find a lost object or destroy a dangerous object. Fate of world hangs in balance. Quirky companion goes along. Plot culminates in an archetypcial struggle between good and evil. Good wins.

When it's good, like in the Harry Potter series, it can be good. There were enough side roads and distractions in that to prevent it from seeming like the same old plot. When it's bad, like in "The Alchemyst," it's dreadful. When it's not like that at all but forced into that model for a movie, as in "The Golden Compass" film, it deserves a prison sentence. George RR Martin gets high marks from me for breaking out of this mold. Wish more people would.

So tell me: what do you all dislike in books? What device, trend, or character archetype would you like to place a 1000-year ban on?


chris said...

I'm with you on the memoirs. Not everyone needs to write one. I'm still trying to find the appeal of "Running with Scissors." I hated it.

And "His Dark Materials" series (aka - Golden Compass) was not good in book or movie form. :(

Want a good fantasy read? I suggest the Bartimaeus series by Jonathan Stroud. It is Young Adult, but still very engaging!

chris said...

Can't wait to read the fourth book!

Library Diva said...

Awww, I liked His Dark Materials! I read the first book in the Bartimaeus series. I liked it, not really sure why I didn't keep going...

chris said...

Check out my review on HDM here:

It's not long or deep, but just my thoughts. :)