Top 10 Storytelling Cliches Writers Need To Stop Using

Cliché is the enemy of good writing. 

We, as writers, are trained to kill clichéd phrases in sentences. But that's not the only place they can hide—they can infect the spaces between the words, too.

Clichés can infect storytelling techniques.

Need to build some tension? Have a time bomb with a digital readout slowly ticking down to zero!

Is your narrator a dick? Blame it on abusive parents!

Want to get all writerly in conveying the plot? Put it in a dream!

These are storytelling devices that pop up again and again, crutches for the writer to lean on and help move the story along without actually having to stretch their abilities. What follows are, to my mind, the worst of the bunch. 

1. Characters describing themselves in mirrors

Why it's easy: Describing a character when you're writing in the third person is pretty easy when the narrative voice is omniscient. But first person is a bit of a challenge—how do you convey what your character looks like without making them sound vain and self-obsessed? Wait, how about using a mirror!?

Why it's a cop out: It's lazy, it's been done to death, and anyway, no one looks in a mirror and takes stock of all their features in severe detail. I would argue you don't need to belabor the description of your main character anyway. You can hit the big points—if your character's defining trait is a deformity or a hairstyle—there are ways to work that into the narrative. For the rest of if, you have to trust the reader. First that they don't need to be coddled, and second, that they'll project something onto the character. 

2. Broadcasting an upcoming plot twist

Why it's easy: Sometimes you need to give a little weight to a character who's been sitting around and doing nothing, or make sure the reader is on his or her toes. What's wrong at a little hint at things to come?  

Why it's a cop out: This is the "little did he know" principle of storytelling. In The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, toward the end of the book, the albino monk is captured by the story's heroes. And it says—I'm paraphrasing here—something like: "Little did he know that he'd soon turn the tables." Leading me to ask: Why would you broadcast a plot twist? Especially in a book that's classified as a thriller?! Dan Brown isn't the only author to commit this crime. It's just the first example to come to me. 

3. Blaming bad behavior on bad parenting

Why it's easy: It's hard to justify bad behavior. If your narrator is a dick, you still want him/her to be a redeemable dick, or at least someone damaged enough that their dickishness isn't so far-fetched. You know what makes people into dicks that you can't really question, you just have to accept? Bad parents! 

Why it's a cop out: Almost every fucked-up character in fiction can trace his or her issues back to being sexually abused or slapped around by parental units. Making the parents into monsters is an easy way to explain away bad behavior. It's too easy. The thing is, sometimes this can be profound or deeply affecting. But a lot of the time, the bad parents are there for the sake of it. You know what's scarier? Someone growing up in a normal household and still becoming a dick.  

4. Too many inside jokes/references

Why it's easy: Because you need to make sure everyone knows you watched The Big Lebowski

Why it's a cop out: Few things stop me as cold in a story as an inside joke or a belabored reference. We get it. You're funny and you watch cool stuff. But I would need two hands and both feet to count the amount of times I've read references to rugs that tied the room together. Writing for your friends, or for your own ego, is a sure way to alienate a reader. 

5. The chosen one

Why it's easy: Your hero isn't just special. He/she has been chosen by some higher force! 

Why it's a cop out: Characters can be special without being touched by the hand of fate. And anyway, if your character is the only person who can solve a given problem, does that make him/her heroic? Or just easily coerced? They have no choice but to be heroic, and that's not really heroism. Very rarely is this trope used well. Most of the time... it's not.  

6. Countdown clocks

Why it's easy: Stakes you can measure by actual numbers!

Why it's a cop out: Hey, remember in The Dark Knight Rises where Bane has an arbitrary countdown clock that's set for several months and the story still manages to converge on the final moments of the ticking clock? Yeah, one of the myriad of reasons TDKR is a shitty movie, and a storytelling device so lazy I'm shocked a guy like Christopher Nolan would use it. Countdown clocks should be outlawed. 

7. Veiling your message in a dream

Why it's easy: This is a great opportunity to show everyone that you're a real writer, because you can use imagery to convey ideas. Or else it's a way to drive home how a character feels about something—afraid, alone, horny, whatever. It's showing and not telling and that's how this whole writing thing is supposed to work, right?

Why it's a cop out: This rarely works—having your narrator describe a dream that just happens to correlate with the story. It's either way too on-the-nose and no one would ever have a dream that specific/ridiculous, or it's so esoteric you have to bend over backwards to connect it to the plot, and when you're bent over backwards, you look silly. 

8. Using sex as wish fulfillment

Why it's easy: Because sex is awesome, especially if the narrator is an avatar for you. 

Why it's a cop out: There are few things that make me as embarrassed for an author as when two characters—always bracingly hot—engage in porn-style sex, and you can just tell the writer is working out some kind of personal kink. Gross.  

9. Magical Negroes and Noble Savages

Why it's easy: Do you need a black or minority character in your story? Add him or her as a character who helps your narrator! Do it in a mystical way! This will prove you are not a racist. 

Why it's a cop out: Native American characters with deep connections to the earth; Asian characters with strict ideas about honor; black characters who start off as intimidating but posses an incredible sage wisdom. They all carry themselves with a quiet nobility. You know what I'm talking about it. It's white guilt in prose form.  

10. Knocking characters unconscious for plot convenience

Why it's easy: Sometimes you have to change locations with a dramatic flourish—and what's more dramatic than knocking your character out and having them come to in a remote, unfamiliar location, all without having to deal with the boring parts, like driving there? 

Why it's a cop out: If a person is hit in the head hard enough to lose consciousness they should be immediately taken to a hospital because they probably have a severe concussion. And yet characters are routinely rendered unconscious to move a plot along, or for dramatic effect. I can't think of one good example of a book or a film where a character is knocked out, and then has to be hospitalized with cranial bleeding. Because that's what would happen. 

Your turn!

Those are mine. Now tell me yours. What storytelling clichés do you wish would disappear forever? 

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Comments

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters April 5, 2013 - 6:30pm

I love this list!  Great article, Rob. 

Daniel Donche's picture
Daniel Donche from Seattle is reading Transubstantiate, by Richard Thomas April 5, 2013 - 6:32pm

This is really badass, although I am extremely guilty of one of these. Yes, I'm doing the Chosen One, but only because I wanted to see if I can pull it off without being cheesy. In essence, I plan to make my CO fail. Or something. Anyway, I love this list. 

Ricardo Skerrett's picture
Ricardo Skerrett April 5, 2013 - 6:50pm
The dead parents

I wouldn't say I want this to banish. Usually this will igntite a rampageous amount of arrogance in me when I'm  trying to get around a story in order to take it as a serious one. As a person who lost his loving father at a very mature age I know of the emotional implications that comes with such event. That being said, just because your mommy and/or daddy are gone doesn't particularly mean you know about the ugly side of life. When I notice this element in a story I don't  necesarily see it as a self-indulgent creative act but more like an emotional hiccup that, unfortunately, sets me off. As if you where watching a film and all of the sudden the boom mic can accidentaly be seen on screen. Then the story no longer is that magical crystal ball it should be.

lifetemp's picture
lifetemp from Birmingham - UK is reading A Quiet Belief in Angels April 5, 2013 - 7:47pm

I think you missed the point with TDKR: it's about hope. Quality film.

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce April 5, 2013 - 8:15pm

Half of the reasons on this list are why I complain about Game of Thrones (and then guiltily go back to watching and shut my trap once again.)

Andreia Marques's picture
Andreia Marques from Brazil is reading Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood April 5, 2013 - 9:02pm

@Mess_Jess: it's that kind of show/books, ain't it?

Seconding the dead parents and adding the sassy black woman. Seriously.

SammyB's picture
SammyB from Las Vegas is reading Down and Out in Paris and London April 5, 2013 - 9:47pm

I hate the "we caught the murderer and now he is going to confess exactly why he killed so-and-so" ending. Why can't we have a book that ends with the crime unsolved, or the killer refusing to explain why he killed the person? Most real life criminals do not confess or give a detailed explaination as to why they did something. I read a lot of murder mysteries and always figure them out before the end. Then I sit and roll my eyes as the killer gives a full account of the crime and his motives. Ugh.

Have to admit that I'm guilty of 2 of the above.

Stuart Gibbel's picture
Stuart Gibbel from California is reading Angel Falls by Michael Paul Gonzalez April 5, 2013 - 10:19pm

Guilty of number 10.  May have to rethink. 

Jason 'Jake' Reott's picture
Jason 'Jake' Reott from Fayetteville WV is reading Blood Meridian April 5, 2013 - 10:21pm

"Little did he know" is synonymous with "The End"... Yeah, twit. Little do we all know! Keep it that way. Storms seem a bit deus ex machina.

Adam Scott Thompson's picture
Adam Scott Thompson from Dallas, TX is reading Story, by Robert McKee (over and over and over...) April 5, 2013 - 11:24pm

X_X @ "Magical Negro." Classic trope! The white man has everything in the world he could ever want... except a soul. Enter [fill in ethnic "minority" here]. They're poor/ ignorant/ naked/ uninterested in owning things, but have they got soul! Usually the white man is stuck with them and over time comes to hate his own kind. Y'know... 'cause of the guilt and shit. My personal favorite is "The Last Samurai." To quote Paul Mooney: "I'm gonna make a film called 'The Last Nigga on Earth,' starring Tom Hanks."

Darcy E Webster's picture
Darcy E Webster April 5, 2013 - 11:44pm

The 'it was all a dream' twist ending. It almost always robs the story of any meaning for me--why care about something that didn't actually happen within the narrative's world?

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Lexington, Kentucky. is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated April 5, 2013 - 11:44pm

Well done.

I've thought about doing the Chosen One who fulfills his destiny in chapter 1 (3 or 4 tops). Fate (or whatever) protected him up until that point, and he learned a lot/gained power but he has no special protection. Still horrible things can happen, he isn't needed.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading Spent AND Mr. Mercedes April 6, 2013 - 2:14am

love this. #1 and #10 for sure.

zoetropez's picture
zoetropez April 6, 2013 - 6:00am

Little did I know that reading this article would totally ruin my story about the magical negro with a penis of steel who gets knocked unconscious by a loose mirror and dreams he has just 30 minutes to save his horribly abusive parents from a gang of German nihilists, one of whom starred in Jackie Treehorn's movie "Logjammin',"

Actually, anybody who wants to write would probably be doing themselves a favor by tossing out their televisions and ignoring 80% of all Hollywood movies, which I recognize, is itself a bad cliche--the writer who doesn't own a TV and loves to remind people that he doesn't own a TV, typically in his holier-than-thou tone of voice.

Ben Opie's picture
Ben Opie April 6, 2013 - 11:51am

The villian, whose identity is uncertain to this point, reveals him/herself by giving a detail only the killer would know. Villian: "It was tragic how he was stabbed to death." Hero: "I just said he was killed, I didn't say he was stabbed." I've seen it countless times and it really irritates me. I'd also generally add time travel and evil twins, but the accidental villian reveal is the worst.

Ron Leighton's picture
Ron Leighton April 6, 2013 - 12:03pm

Great list. I was thinking if one does bring in obviously non-white ethnic characters, make them completely different from the cliches. And I don't mean merely opposite the stereotypes--which is still a way of referencing the stereotypes--but just unique...you know, human? I have this issue in my fantasy world. I am looking for ways to create different cultures that are somewhat recognizable, either ethnically or culturally, but which are at the same time realistically unique.

Merita E. Collymore-Carter's picture
Merita E. Colly... April 6, 2013 - 12:49pm

Adventure only happens when at least one parent is dead, enchanted or emotionally unavailable.  That describes just about every Disney movie ever written even if the characters are not even human.

Love the magical people of color. yes because the only way for white people to have authentic relationships with non-white people is for them to possess other-worldly knowledge. . because ordinary folks are just plain useless (and a tad resentful).  And people of color are just waiting around to lead white people to the promise land. . . because. . why else would they exist?

Jennifer K. Myrna's picture
Jennifer K. Myrna April 6, 2013 - 2:00pm

#10 -- Harry Potter gets knocked out in just about every book. BUT, he always wakes up in the hospital wing of Hogwarts. Just sayin'.

In that same vein, these people who get knocked out and lose consciousness also seem to magically remember every single thing that happened up to the point of impact, including the impact itself. Doesn't work that way. Then there's the fact that they get up and are perfectly fine. Hey, there are people who can get knocked unconscious briefly and not have cranial bleeding (happened to my husband while skiing). But the vast majority, even if they don't get knocked unconscious, are going to be disoriented, not think clearly, and (at the very least) dizzy. Not to mention that Post Concussion Syndrom is a real thing, and can EASILY last for upwards of a year after the initial injury.

John McClure's picture
John McClure April 6, 2013 - 2:42pm

My first Mil SciFi novel has a Pamunkey Indian as one of its two female protags; However she also is a US Special Forces trooper in the 23rd century, and the champion un-armed combat fighter in the Army.  One does not mess with Marybell (a.k.al Puss, as in "Puss & Boots in The 23rd Century" now up on Amazon, and quite a cheao on Kindle  :)

John McClure's picture
John McClure April 6, 2013 - 2:53pm

Re: dead parents;  The "Bloody Jack" series by L.A. Meyer has as his protag a girl who lost her whole family when she was six and grew up as a gutter snipe on the on the streets of early 19th Century London and then in the Royal Navy.  He is working on book #11 in the series now and her being an orphan was his launch-pad for her character development in the series,  A Darn good job, IMHO!  

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee and loving it! April 6, 2013 - 4:47pm

How about the soap opera ones. The amnesia one, the twin (evil, hopefully), the fake pregnancy, the mother/daughter sharing a lover (unknowingly, hopefully), the long lost parent or child someone had to give up at birth for very sympathetic reasons. In soaps, they're as laughable as the show itself, but I can't stand when they crop up in books or movies.

tslug's picture
tslug April 6, 2013 - 11:15pm

Bad grammar. Like you displayed in #1. "Pretty easier" Sheesh.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this April 7, 2013 - 12:30am

You know who publicly shames people for typos?

Self-important assholes.

Correction made. Thanks for the heads up.

Veronica The Pajama Thief's picture
Veronica The Pa... from Lisboa, Portugal is reading The Clock of Life by Nancy Klann-Moren April 7, 2013 - 2:28am

*high fives Rob*

Like they've never made a typo!  Sheesh!

Love this... I need to print it out and tape it on my study wall.

About # 9... I... can I swear here?... I effin hate when a writer does that!  They need to get over their flippin guilt and write a real minority person.  If they don't know a real one, maybe they need to get out more.

Thanks, Rob... this is awesome!

  

Veronica The Pajama Thief's picture
Veronica The Pa... from Lisboa, Portugal is reading The Clock of Life by Nancy Klann-Moren April 7, 2013 - 2:36am

At the risk of this posting three times, as my last comment did...

I clicked the button only once, I swear!  Scout's honor... okay, I never was a scout.

 

Eddie Cruz's picture
Eddie Cruz April 7, 2013 - 5:46pm

Brilliant, and thank you! A writer could do much worse than to construct a story using only this list as a guide. I think I'll pin it to my wall in case temptation strikes...

However, I do disagree with you philosophically about "The Dark Knight Rises." I think a suspense story always needs a ticking clock; yes, a non-literal one is best. But to pull off that sense of impending disaster over a long period of time (as in, say, Koontz's Lightning) demonstrates a singular skill in the craft, don't you think?

 

Paul Cook's picture
Paul Cook April 7, 2013 - 8:52pm

Great article. Stephen King has magical negros in Shawshank, The Stand, and a whole bunch of others. Orson Scott Card, though, takes the magical and divine child to its height--which is just his way of injecting the young Joseph Smith/Jesus Christ story into his science fiction and fantasy.

One other No-No is this: A lot of first person narratives are told by characters who really don't seem to be the kind of people who would, when the adventure is over, take the time to write down what they've just gone through. Think about Huck Finn. Think about Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye. Particularly the latter. In fact, most Americans today don't write anything longer than an e-mail, a Twitter post, or Facebook post---with an attachment. Who's going to write an 800 page narrative about a vampire biting them or an alien taking over their body (I'm talking to you, Stephanie Meyer)?

John Drew Markley's picture
John Drew Markley April 7, 2013 - 10:01pm

Complaints about poor grammar carry more weight when they're written in complete sentences, tslug.

Somewhat related to the harmlessly disabling thump on the head is the trivial shoulder wound. When a character in a movie (it seems less common in books, fortuantely, though maybe I'm just reading the wrong ones) needs to be dramatically but not critically injured, someone shoots him in the shoulder. This causes pain and perhaps brief incapacitation but usually little more, because apparently the joints and rather large arteries that most humans keep in that region are being stored elsewhere.

JYH's picture
JYH from the place is reading the thing April 7, 2013 - 11:36pm

Fiction.

Veronica The Pajama Thief's picture
Veronica The Pa... from Lisboa, Portugal is reading The Clock of Life by Nancy Klann-Moren April 8, 2013 - 12:50am

Mr. King does have a fondness for the magical Negro.... The Green Mile and The Talisman are two more that come to mind.

Tom1960's picture
Tom1960 from Athens, Georgia is reading 11/22/63 By Stephen King April 8, 2013 - 9:36am

Thanks for the great article.  At one time or the other I have considered any one of the aforementioned cliches as a viable starting point for a story.  Glad I chose differently.

Floyd Nimrod's picture
Floyd Nimrod April 8, 2013 - 11:49am

Stupidity as a plot driver. Oh, please. Never, ever do this, even when your characters are stupid. If your story requires someone to do something incredibly stupid in order to advance the plot, just scrap the project altogether. It's just bad and annoying and insulting. And it's usually something not even a total idiot would do, only done because the writer needed someone killed.

Examples include:.Falling in love with the wrong person because you "just couldn't help it". Going back to get your purse when there's a huge volcano, tidalwave, or zombie horde on the way, and getting half the cast killed. Going out of the "safe zone" when there's a killer/monster on the loose because you just have to find out what they noise was, or why Billy isn't back yet.

If you resort to stupidity as a plot driver, you've you made your story itself stupid, and opened yourself up to mockery for all time. Don't do it.

Shauna Leigh Daly's picture
Shauna Leigh Daly April 8, 2013 - 2:46pm

I would add the exhausted "Only one they could possibly turn to" friend/family member.

Danny Collins's picture
Danny Collins April 8, 2013 - 2:50pm

My brother-in-law used to watch Lost and turned the "Knocking characters unconscious for plot convenience" into a drinking game. Seriously, if anyone ever watches the series again, pay attention to that. There are far more episodes where someone gets knocked out (usually by a friend protecting them) than not. The best part is when they wake up and are okay with it. "I get it, you had to knock me out for my own good."

Dirk Ewy's picture
Dirk Ewy April 8, 2013 - 2:58pm

Outstanding column. Thanks!

Thomas Greuel's picture
Thomas Greuel April 8, 2013 - 3:20pm

Villains leaving heros for dead only for them to escape - is just the dumbest thing to do (season finale of The Walking Dead - thankfully the woman took too much time staring at the soon to be zombie).  And when the villain confesses his evil plot to the hero it is even worse.

Villains determined to kill a captured protagonist only to stop because he offers some last minute useful information. Makes me go mad.
 

Robbie Blair's picture
Robbie Blair from lots of places is reading a whole stack of books April 8, 2013 - 3:22pm

Solid list.

Regarding #1, I've never actually read a story where this was done---but the notion is unrealistic enough that "done to death" isn't really needed for me. I can see the mirror device working well, though, if coupled appropriately. Not listing every detail of the character's appearance, mind, but talking about something they legitimately would describe while looking into a mirror and using that as a path to discussing other features. For example, introing a character who's looking at their busted lip in the mirror would give a good chance to detail features on the sly, provide a device to justify high detail, and introduce a plot element;

Regarding #3, I used to know a woman who emphasized and re-emphasized that "We're all products of our environments." Which is true, but it irked me the way she talked about it. It wasn't until much later that I figured out why it was that I was so miffed. It's the way she went on about being products of environments and never once acknowledge that we also produce those environments. It's that production that gives a person power, and a character without power is ... well, pretty damn boring.

Regarding #5, it's been interesting for me to see how much (in fantasy work especially) the "Chosen One" trope seems to work for readers. Despite having been done since well before the era of Arthur and Excalibur, people seem to dig the idea of someone being "chosen." These days, I believe it's a response to the anonymity of modern life, a desire to be different, distinguished somehow---and fiction (esp. fantasy) can appeal to a mystical authority that legitimizes that elevation.

I feel okay about people using the trope, but my favorite uses are the subversions. Even Harry Potter gets to find out that he was "chosen" only because of Voldy's actions. But stronger subversions---characters refusing their chosen destiny, characters finding out that which "chose" them is not a benevolent force, etc.---is far more appealing to me. The let-down of the "chosen one" trope is devastating, and with how much being "chosen" removes agency it's easy to see why this let-down is so common.

bjlangley's picture
bjlangley from Cambridgeshire, UK is reading Damned April 8, 2013 - 3:23pm

I hate it when Character A wants to tell Character B something, or confront them about something, but before A gets a chance to talk, B reveals some new bit of information, then says, "Anyway, what did you want to talk to be about?" and A says "Nothing", or "It doesn't matter".

Johnny Repine's picture
Johnny Repine April 8, 2013 - 3:23pm

This list is a good start.

When it comes to stories with supernatural characters in them, just adding new ones each time you make a sequel just shows your lack of writing ability. The same goes for not even using the powers that a character has. Yeah, it can get redundant if a character constantly uses the same trick, but it's just as redundant if they don't even think to use their one trick to get them out of bad situations.

Or automatically having the new characters in the book fall into one of two types: The killer and the victim.

Hmm, I'm already writing a story about a telepath who falls in love with vampires, and I spend a third of every book reinforcing that it's so hard for her to block out the thoughts of others and that she likes the vampires because she can't (for the most part, but don't tell them) read their thoughts. Then, when there's a problem that could be easily solved by her not blocking the thoughts of the people around her, to include the new guy who, since we can't vouch for him anyways, we should be more than a little suspicious that the other new character died, but let's not even think to scan his mind. Oh, did I mention the new guy is a werewolf witch who is evil and another character already told me so?

Yeah, I'm bagging hard on Charlaine Harris, but she's just one symptom of the overall genre going this way.

Matty Thompson's picture
Matty Thompson April 8, 2013 - 3:27pm

My least favorite cliche: when the narrator says they don't want to sound cliche. It annoys me so much because the writer knows their description is unoriginal, and they still don't bother to come up with something unique.

Run Lee Run's picture
Run Lee Run April 8, 2013 - 3:38pm

My pet peeve is when they make a character speak Latin to show that they're smart.  It's lazy storytelling.  The kid from The Sixth Sense spoke latin.  Doc Holliday from Tombstone.  I have never met anyone in real life who speaks Latin, no matter how smart

Lana Harris's picture
Lana Harris April 8, 2013 - 3:39pm

" I can't think of one good example of a book or a film where a character is knocked out, and then has to be hospitalized with cranial bleeding." -- Harry Potter. He always ended up in the hospital wing. 

 

Gina Ambrosino's picture
Gina Ambrosino April 8, 2013 - 3:40pm

I would add... love triangles. Especially with 2 of the corners being the "best friend" versus the "intriguing/mysterious" other. Let's take some time to rethink the plots of our love stories please.

Lilly Nelson's picture
Lilly Nelson April 8, 2013 - 3:41pm

Great article and I agree with everything except....

"...no one looks in a mirror and takes stock of all their features in severe detail."

There is a large population of people who do just that.  They are called women.  They wouldn't describe themselves quite so kindly though.  "Was that a wrinkle she saw under her blue eyes?  She looked at the pantyline left on her buttock that once was high and taught but now sagged and might have had a little cellulite, damn her dislike of the gym."

 There is another group that does similarly.  They are called performers.  

Being both, I spend alot of time taking very severe stock of myself in mirrors.

Johnny Repine's picture
Johnny Repine April 8, 2013 - 3:41pm

Like bjlangley brings up, another big one is communication. Characters just don't communicate. A problem arises that could probably be talked out, but instead, it snowballs into such unbelievable drama because they don't even try.

Let's take the show Legend of the Seeker. An evil witch with powers of prophecy shows these visions to our good wizard about what our sword-wielding hero is going to do. These are the three signs that will point to what she says is going to come true. Sure the events may happen, but, our good wizard doesn't even ask our hero why he's doing what he's doing, or think that maybe the evil witch might be manipulating the wizard to her own ends. She is evil and he knows it.

In the show Weeds (not exactly a masterpiece but I digress), if our pot-dealing mommy would maybe tell her kids what's going on, at least from the point that they all know she's dealing, then maybe they could avoid some trouble. If she'd narc out the man she knows will surely kill her, then maybe she wouldn't have to go on the run. 

Lana Harris's picture
Lana Harris April 8, 2013 - 3:41pm

YES I'm so tired of love triangles. I loathe them. 

Lilly Nelson's picture
Lilly Nelson April 8, 2013 - 3:42pm

Great article and I agree with everything except....

"...no one looks in a mirror and takes stock of all their features in severe detail."

There is a large population of people who do just that.  They are called women.  They wouldn't describe themselves quite so kindly though.  "Was that a wrinkle she saw under her blue eyes?  She looked at the pantyline left on her buttock that once was high and taught but now sagged and might have had a little cellulite, damn her dislike of the gym."

 There is another group that does similarly.  They are called performers.  

Being both, I spend alot of time taking very severe stock of myself in mirrors.

Lilly Nelson's picture
Lilly Nelson April 8, 2013 - 3:44pm

Great article and I agree with everything except....

"...no one looks in a mirror and takes stock of all their features in severe detail."

There is a large population of people who do just that.  They are called women.  They wouldn't describe themselves quite so kindly though.  "Was that a wrinkle she saw under her blue eyes?  She looked at the pantyline left on her buttock that once was high and taught but now sagged and might have had a little cellulite, damn her dislike of the gym."

 There is another group that does similarly.  They are called performers.  

Being both, I spend alot of time taking very severe stock of myself in mirrors. 

Does this make it a good plot device?  That has yet to be seen.

lauragee's picture
lauragee April 8, 2013 - 4:08pm

My top pet peeve is when the story revolves around someone in a relationship having a new potential love interest. Usually their current partner is boring and maybe kind of a jerk, but the main character can never just be sort of a jerk themself and break up...instead, the partner has to sudenly do something terrible like cheat so the main character can be free to pursue the new interest with no moral quandaries.

I also get really sick of women finding out they're pregnant because they're throwing up. 

Christian Aho's picture
Christian Aho April 10, 2013 - 3:53pm

1# Children! That "I see dead people"-kid I can't stand! The vomit I feel every time I see a story where the child is smarter and more insightful than the adult who is too grown up to understand a child's so very "special" ability in seeing things in ways grown ups just "can't".

2# Female character being a prostitute.

3# The "dentists are not real doctors"-remark/joke.