I read a lot. A lot. Last week, I bought 19 books. Between those and the three books I have on pre-order, I should have enough to last me until the end of August, given that I read an average of 3 hours a day. Most of the books I read are fantasy, urban fantasy, and Young Adult, which means I come across lots of clichés. Some are necessary (perhaps forced by the publishers) and others make the story a little more fun. Others are just evil. Everyone reacts to them differently, but the Novel Knight has asked me to list mine. So, in no particular order…
Top 5 Book Pet Peeves:
- Characters who are overly mean to their friends and loved ones because they think they’re broken. Every character goes through trials that test their relationship with those closest to them. It’s what makes those relationships and therefore the characters stronger. But I hate when the books have a “protagonist” who is always whining about how damaged they are and how they can’t trust/love anyone, then act shocked when that friend leaves or betrays them. Gee, maybe if they were less of a jerk, those friends wouldn’t have been pushed to that point. Don’t you think?
- Character deaths for shock value. I know that everyone jokes about how writers kill off their characters for no reason, especially fan favourites to mess with readers (cough, George R. R. Martin, cough, J. K. Rowling, cough). But I can’t stand it when characters are killed just so readers can be stunned. It’s a cheap shot to me. In the real world, people die senselessly every day for reasons that are beyond stupid. Accidents, robberies, etc. I don’t want to be reminded of that in fiction. I want character deaths to mean something. I want it to advance the plot, finish a character’s story line, or enhance the protagonists. A character death that serves the story is much more worthwhile than a character being killed just because the author is bored.
- Needlessly difficult romances. While I don’t go out of my way to write romance, I need a story with a good romance in it. To me, it adds another layer of challenge to the character’s lives and gives them something additional to fight for. That said, I hate when characters are attracted to each other, then shove away at every turn or are so cruel that it makes my jaw drop. Love is a challenge, but there has to be some give and take. It doesn’t work if the characters don’t appreciate their loved one until the very end or treat them like dirt because they think they’re too damaged to love. And besides, everyone is waiting for that moment when the main character and the object of his/her eye finally make out!
- Easy finales and boss battles. One of my strongest suits in writing is creating combat scenes, so it makes sense that I love reading it in equal measure. It’s always thrilling to watch characters I love, whether my own or in fiction, face their enemies head-on for a knock-down, drag-out brawl. Needless to say, when that doesn’t happen, or the solution presents itself so easily that it could have been done in the first encounter with the enemy, I feel cheated. I’ve watched these characters grow and struggle through all sorts of trials, and a final battle is when they should be pushed to their limit, brought to the point where I honestly don’t know if they’ll make it out alive. This is particularly bad if the villain is made to be this unstoppable badass. If that’s the case, then don’t make them blow over like a candle in a windstorm!
- Cheesy dialogue. I won’t lie– I love anything that falls into the “campy” genre– in moderation. I think that in the right amounts it can be fun and light-hearted in what might be an otherwise dark story. That said, it makes me crazy when authors use unrealistic dialogue. When I’m reading, I want to be as far away from reality as possible. That doesn’t mean I want the dialogue or text to read like hyperactive teenager wrote it. And if you think this just happens with indie authors? Think again.
Top 5 Favourite Clichés:
- All the love interest clichés. Broody, sarcastic, snarky, teasing, overprotective, I love them all. I like the side characters who challenge the main character, whether by driving them crazy with their antics or falling in love and running away from intimacy, I always enjoy reading their interactions, especially when it goes both ways. Love is all about compromise, understanding, hard work, and devotion. Watching characters work for that level of compassion is not only uplifting, but adds another layer of depth and characterization to the story. I want them to be challenged and to grow so I can root for them when the going gets tough.
- Characters with hard hearts who need to be softened. This kind of relates to the previous answer. While I loathe characters who are needlessly bitchy or rude to their friends, I have no issue reading about characters who’ve lived lonely lives, or have been so hurt in their past/present that they find the ideas of compassion and kindness almost dangerous. I like seeing their outer shell crumble little by little, and watch them develop as they test the levels of intimacy and tenderness that they’re comfortable with.
- The Chosen One. I don’t think there’s anything more cliché in paranormal fiction that this, but at the same time, I like it. As much as I enjoy reading about average Janes and Joes being caught up in a wild circumstance, I love stories about the “Chosen One,” the one destined to destroy the Great Evil or whatever. Just because it’s cliché doesn’t mean we can’t relate to the character. In good stories, being the Chosen One is always a burden. They endure astounding challenges and impossible obstacles, yet they never give up and continue to work up to their destiny. Besides, there’s no reason the author can’t twist the cliché to their own design. Being the Chosen One could mean the character saves the world or destroys it. Maybe they were confused with another Chosen One, or maybe there’s a secret to their past that will lead them to something greater. I will always accept this cliché, because it grants the author the freedom to do whatever they want, and motivate them to make sure that character lives up to their expectations.
- Supernatural creatures integrating with modern society, aka, almost all Urban Fantasy stories. Let’s not kid ourselves– it’s easy to look at urban fantasy novels and see them as being all the same. Many of them have vampires, werewolves, witches, and Fae. This supernatural society could be secret or known to the human world. There will always be a group that is for and against them. But I read urban fantasy more than any other genre because while the concept might be the same, the execution isn’t. Yes, I have more stories about vampires and werewolves than I do clothes. But none of those societies are the same. The supernaturals in Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series are not the same as the supernatuals in Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments world, or Anne Bishop’s The Others One of the best things about urban fantasy is watching how the author alters the world we “know” into something we could never expect or anticipate, and have never read before.
- Prophecies. Like the Chosen One, it’s easy to say that this has been done-to-death. But prophets or seers or psychics set interesting challenges for the characters. Most of the time they speak in absolutes. “You will lose this person”, “you are destined for this” , “you will not survive,” etc. Whether the character chooses to believe the prophecy is only slightly relevant, because as readers, we want to see the prophecy fulfilled. We want to go with the characters into their destined moment, and see how they fare with the odds stacked against them. Because that’s one thing about prophecies in fiction– the odds will always be against the characters. What makes them strong is how they face such a challenge, and fight to overcome it.
Thank you to Amy Braun for the awesome guest post! For more about her latest book, MIDNIGHT SKY, check out the synopsis below. You can also check out this interview with her and my review of the first book in the Dark Sky series, CRIMSON SKY.
Midnight Sky by Amy BraunDark Sky #2
Published on August 2, 2016 by Amy Braun
Genres: Dystopian, Steampunk, Young Adult
There are secrets, there are betrayals, and there are sacrifices…
The Behemoth has been destroyed, and the bloodthirsty Hellions seem to have left Westraven. But Claire Abernathy’s mind is not at ease. A terrible disease plagues her sister, appearing to have been brought on the Vesper, the leader of the Hellions beyond the tear between worlds– the Breach.
To save Abby and stop the Hellions for good, Claire must find the machine her parents built before the attacks, and fix it before the monsters return. To do so, she needs the help of her crew, and must ignore the secrets and rivalries between her captain and the man she saved.
Because the Hellions are not the only dangers following Claire. Twisted humans and old enemies surface to stop her and destroy all she loves. While she is determined to endure the trials, a single betrayal could shatter the hope of a better world, and force Claire to make a choice that will cost her dearly…
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