When you read a lot, it’s impossible not to start noticing patterns. After a while those patterns can start to grate on your nerves. Much like that hit song the radio station plays every ten minutes, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with the the pattern itself (although sometimes there is) it’s more the repetition that wears a reader’s patience thin. Today I’ve decided to share with you the top 5 patterns which have been bugging me lately.
#1 Cat got your tongue?
Few things drive me crazier than reading a story where the only thing standing between the problem and the solution is an honest conversation between two otherwise rational adults. This is something I’ve seen particularly often in romance novels. Dear fellow authors, if the only conflict, the only real problem, in your story is the fact that your characters don’t have the guts to talk to each other because … well… it’s scary to put your feelings out there… please do me a favor and reconsider your plot. There should always be something else causing trouble. Otherwise the only thing I’ll want to do is reach through the book and shake your characters into having some courage. In lieu of being able to actually do that, there is a very good chance I will simply close your book and walk away without ever coming back to finish it. It is that annoying.
#2 Hey Look! Another Mail Order Bride!
I get it, this is a fascinating premise and there is a reason it was so popular with readers in years past, but come on already. It’s been done and done and done again. At this stage in the game you need some new, extraordinarily unique added twist to breathe new life back into this overdone premise. Even then, if you are thinking of writing a mail order bride story and think you have a new twist, think again. Spend a lot of time researching these stories, because at this point in the game, coming up with something new is like finding a needle in a haystack. Not impossible, but highly unlikely.
#3 Unlikable Heroes or Heroines
When I am halfway through a book and I can’t answer the question, “Why does he/she like him/her?” with anything more than “he’s handsome, she’s beautiful, and umm…. because he/she just does”…. there is a problem. There should be a compelling reason that one character is falling in love with the other. Too often the hero is a jerk and/or the heroine is a spoiled diva, they have no redeeming qualities outside of perhaps beauty and power/money, and the reader is left wondering, “What on earth do they see in that person?”
#4 And the award for sainthood goes to…
Just as the hero/heroine shouldn’t be unlikeable, they also shouldn’t be perfect. It’s impossible to believe in, let alone relate to, a completely perfect character. If she could pose for the cover of a magazine, ace her SAT’s, keeps a home like Martha Stewart, donates to Feed The Children and volunteers in three local soup kitchens, she better have a temper the size of Montana (or equally terrible flaw) to balance out all that saintly goodness.
Does love at first sight happen? Sure. Maybe. Why not? Does it happen ALL. THE. TIME? I don’t think so, but if you skim through the romance section at the bookstore, you may be inclined to think it does. If I read one more book where the characters meet and fall in love in the space of 1 to 3 days without going through some seriously life-altering experiences together, I’m going to ask for my money back. Much like my Mail Order Bride complaint, this premise has been far too overdone. In the real world it generally takes more than a few hours to get to know someone, let alone fall in love with them. If you’re going to have your characters fall in love at an unusually brisk pace, you need to give us some seriously compelling reasons to buy it. Send them through a hurricane together. Kill off one of their mutual friends and force them to work together to handle that person’s estate. Do something that forces them to reach deeper emotional depths than they typically would on a day to day basis. Do NOT have them hanging around a beach resort together for a week with a couple low-risk problems thrown in for interest and expect me to buy that they’re now deeply, passionately, ready-for-a-life-long-commitment, in love.