Well, not as in “Never, ever do it or you’ll get your face eaten by a rabid grizzly bear”. Although there are things you should avoid in order to escape that particular fate… like hugging rabid grizzly bears.
Nope, this is just a list of my personal Don’ts when it comes to writing fiction. It’s not so much about style and rules and stuff, but about content. Like, what should NOT happen in your story if you want me to read it.
1. Teenage Protagonists Acting Like Adults
I already ranted about this one before, so I’ll keep it short. Basically, when the protagonist is seventeen, I expect them to act like they’re seventeen. Certainly NOT like they are actually thirty-five and just look seventeen to better sell it to the adolescent audience.
2. Love On First Sight and The Love Triangle
Okay, seriously, what’s with all the instant romance in fiction? How often do you see that kind of thing in real life? It might happen, maybe, sometimes, but it seems like every single romantic relationship in the books I read lately has some kind of instaRomance. Even Divergent, which in comparison took forever to introduce the actual romantic relationship, did this. It’s not that noticeable when you read it, it happens later in the book, but looking back, the whole story happened in about… three weeks? And the MCs didn’t spend that much time together. And when they did, the guy mostly yelled at the girl (for good reason, but still). What the hell?
The love triangle scenario makes this even worse. We are just expected to believe that the innocent, average, clumsy heroine suddenly holds the interest of not one, but two flawless hot guys. Said guys would very much like to maim and/or kill their rival, but don’t for the heroines sake, because she likes them both so much (she just doesn’t know whom she likes more). What makes this completely ridiculous is the fact that, no matter what, the girl will always, ALWAYS end up with the dude she first fell in love with, even if #1 runs off (or gets seemingly killed or something) and the girl actually got over him and found another guy who is actually much nicer than the first one. The whole point of The Love Triangle is to show that your first love is also your One True Love, no matter what. Really? How many people actually stick with the first person they dated? God, had I done that, I’d be pretty much screwed. (Well, not in the good way. Or maybe I would, I don’t know, we never did it. Anyways.) The point is, the fact that it always ends like that makes this scenario boring and predictable, so even if it weren’t overused, it would still be a huge turn-off for me.
3. The Mary Sue In Disguise
I assume we all know what a Mary Sue is by now (random fact: a male Mary Sue is called a Marty Stu or Gary Stu; I prefer the latter. It rhymes :P). It’s basically a no-no for every fiction writer. Even in fanfiction, where you generally get away with a lot more, Sues are frowned upon. So why on earth are published books full of them? I’m not going to talk about Bella Swan here (although she IS a fine example of Sue-dom). I’m talking about the MCs who don’t seem like the perfect, pretty and skilled Mary Sue, but if you look closer, all her flaws either turn into “endearing quirks” or just plain vanish because the heroine (or hero, but in the books I read, Sues are more often the MCs than Stus are) learned her lesson and got over them. Again, how often does that happen in real life? I mean, yeah, you can get rid of annoying habits, but our real flaws, the facets of our character that make life harder for us, won’t go away that easily. If I were a run-of-the-mill YA heroine, I’d be described as “socially awkward (but in a very cute way, and talking to The Guys That Matter isn’t a problem)”. In real life, I’m more of a hermit crab than anything. I used to be afraid of people! It got better over time, but it’ll never entirely go away. Same goes for that tendency to yell at people and run off fuming when I get into arguments I obviously can’t win, or for my habit of getting all teary and whiny and close to giving up when I screw up, even if it’s just a stupid test at uni (doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it’s bad).
The Sues in the books don’t seem to have that kind of traits, ever. There is nothing about them that will stay with them all their lives, that will be a constant obstacle and make life harder every single day. When they encounter something that poses a problem, they miraculously find a way to make it go away with very little effort, or they find out they have a hidden skill that just now comes in handy. That. Doesn’t. Happen. So please don’t mock me by making it seem like it does – just not to me. How can I possibly relate to someone who never has to struggle, when I have to all the time?
4. The Chosen One
Let me clarify: This is not about actual Chosen Ones, like the Harry Potter kind, or King Arthur. It’s about those characters who aren’t all that important, or charming, or smart, or whatever, but somehow turn out to be the one single person without whom The Rebellion (or any big event, really) couldn’t happen. Sometimes it’s well done, like in The Hunger Games, where Katniss doesn’t even realise what’s going on until someone tells her, and even then, she doesn’t play her role all that well right until the end. And she kind of does set the events in motion with her berry stunt. But then there are the Chosen Ones who clearly aren’t all that important – the author just makes them important to justify their status as protagonist. One example are all the ladies in the Immortal Brotherhood series. Basically, some viking dudes are cursed to be immortal weres (not the good kind), and only love can break the curse. Interesting enough, it’s not the good old “true love”, it’s merely “a woman who loves them even knowing what they are”. So it could be any woman who really loves one of them. And you’d think after a couple centuries, at least a few of them should have found a girl who truly loves them, right? But no, it’s another chosen one scenario: There is only one woman for every guy, and no other will do the trick. Hell, the leader of the group has to wait eight-hundred years for his woman, simply because she won’t reincarnate any sooner (or something like that, we’re just at volume three, but it’s strongly implied).
I just find it hard to believe that there should be no-one else in the entire world suitable for the job. That’s just so totally unlikely…
Well, that turned out way wordier than I intended oO
Also, sad news: Otfried Preußler is dead :´( He wrote some of my favourite books from when I was little…
*achem* Right. Now, for some lighter mood at the end: random randomness!^^
Well, I was going for “novels”, but apparently, a bazillion others before me had a different idea…
And I still find it incredibly funny when a TV show references Myspace as THE hottest website where everyone has to be^^
€dit: Also, I would so watch this XD