OK I know I’m late and all, but you know what they say… better late than never! This is for Top Ten Tuesday on Wednesday at The Broke and Bookish.
My list is mostly in reference to YA novels, but it applies to a lot of other genres as well.
Insta-love So you got two leads that you know are going to fall in LUV by virtue of being the leads. However, this does not mean that the author doesn’t have to show the readers why this couple is meant2b. If a couple doesn’t have any interaction of substance, or doesn’t demonstrate any chemistry or compatibility beyond physical attraction, then I’m going to be hard pressed to care very much about them. And no, “the male lead is really, really hot” is not a good enough reason.
Douchebag love interest OK, I get that the whole “Bad Boy” cliché, despite being overused (in my opinion) still appeals to many readers. But I can only accept it if it’s clear that under the rough edges, the character is a good person. And as always, this is something that needs to be shown, not told. You can tell me all you want that he only does what he does to protect her or because he just cares so much (because real-life abusers never, ever say or think these things, ever), but if his actions are creeptacular stalker bullshit that would send up a billion red flags in real life, I’m not going to handwave it just because he’s really, really hot.
Heroine is a special snowflake I get that to an extent, being special comes with the territory of being the protagonist—after all, there has to be a reason people want to read about this person. However, the character still has to be relatable on some level. If you’re going to keep piling on the special snowflake traits while constantly reiterating how plain, ordinary, or otherwise un-special this character is, color me unconvinced. Either be upfront about writing a Mary Sue, or put your money where your literary mouth is and give this protagonist actual flaws, as opposed to “pretend” flaws that never affect them negatively or even make them more endearing.
Informed attributes/poor character development This one kind of ties into #3, in the sense that special snowflake-y qualities are often told, and not shown. If a character’s going to talk the talk (or in this case, have others talk the talk for them), they better walk the walk. I’m not going to be convinced of how brave/smart/kind/whatever this character is unless there is actual textual evidence.
Poor world building Even if you’re writing a fantasy world, it should still make sense and have some kind of internal logic. If the rules of the world frequently contradict themselves or rest on a shaky and easily-dismantled premise, it’s going to pull me out of the story every time. Building a compelling narrative on sloppy world building is about as effective as building a house on a foundation of pick-up sticks. The whole thing is just going to fall apart no matter how much work you put into the rest of it.
Love triangles I still contend that love triangles don’t necessarily have to be bad, if they’re well-executed and don’t take away too much from the narrative (if it’s supposed to have a plot other than the love triangle, that is). But unfortunately, they seldom are. When I pick up an adventure novel, I am not signing on for pages and pages of angst over which guy the heroine should end up with, particularly when it’s usually painfully obvious which pairing is endgame. Like, did anyone really think Bella would end up with Jacob?
Abuse of deux ex machina To paraphrase Anton Chekhov, if you hang a gun on the wall in the first chapter, you’d better fire it in the second or third. Conversely, if you fire a gun in the second chapter, it better have been on the wall in the first. Seems simple enough, but you’d be surprised how many novels make it obvious that the writer has written themselves into a corner and just pulled something out of their ass to get out of it. Look, I get that we all write ourselves into corners occasionally. But that’s what editing is for! Go hang that gun on the wall! There’s really no excuse.
Slut-shaming/girl-on-girl hate I’ve been reading YA since the 80s, and girl-on-girl rivalry is a time-honored tradition. I don’t believe that it is always a bad thing. All narratives need an antagonist, and in the world of a teenage girl, that’s often another girl. The problem is when the narrative gets super heavy-handed and nearly every other girl is seen as a rival to the heroine (usually for the hero’s attention) or a foil to make her look better. The latter often takes the form of slut-shaming, contrasting the promiscuous “mean girl” with the virginal/monogamous “nice girl.” This tendency becomes exceptionally toxic when combined with #2, which unfortunately happens quite often.
Offensive stereotypes Do I even have to explain this one? When every minority character (race, disability, sexual preference, etc.) is nothing more than a thinly-veiled stereotype, I’m out of there. Character tropes (e.g. the ditzy blonde, the dumb jock, the socially awkward nerd, the weird theater kids) are not so much offensive as they are annoying, but unless there’s a clever twist on those (e.g. the ditzy blonde actually has a genius IQ), I’m not here for them, either.
Overuse of tropes While most savvy readers know they’ve read it all before, they like to feel like they haven’t. Putting a unique spin on on classic elements will usually accomplish this. However, when a story’s sources are so transparent that reading it starts feeling like a game of connect-the-dots, that’s when I’ve got to tap out (but not without creating a drinking game for every obvious eference). In my opinion, what makes a story memorable isn’t the story itself so much as the way the author tells it. And when that way just makes readers think they liked this story better the first time around, well, I think it’s safe to say you’re doing it wrong.
Y’all remember Lois Duncan? She was the suspense queen of the 80s/90s and her books were my jam. Her most well-known work is probably I Know What You Did Last Summer, which spawned the 90s-licious horror film starring pre-Lifetime Jennifer Love Hewitt, pre-Buffy SMG, and pre-obscurity Freddie Prinze, Jr. A lot of her other books are pretty famous within YA circles, too—Stranger With My Face and The Third Eye, for example. However, I’m recapping one of her lesser-known books, called Locked In Time.
This isn’t the cover my edition had (I lost it a long time ago and now have an ebook), but it is the closest one google images gave me. There’s a slightly more classy-looking b/w cover on amazon, but it’s in the current minimalist YA cover style and I am nhft. Give me ’90s YA covers with paintings of teens who look about 35, kthx.
This book is actually one of my favorites. It’s also interesting rereading it today b/c the subject matter is so popular within current YA—eternal youth and beauty. Unlike most current YA, however, LiT takes a very different approach to it.
When I first sat down to recap the MIOBI pilot, I’d have never imagined that three years later, I’d still be here recapping the series finale. OK, I did, because I clearly hate myself and possess this bizarre compulsion to deconstruct bad TV shows in excruciating detail, but here we are. The end of an era.
So does MIOBI end on an appropriately absurd, cheesy, and ridiculous note? Of course it does!
My apologies for being remiss in my Make It or Break It recapping duties. The past few episodes have been kind of meh. But have no fear. 3×05 is pure gold. Such gold, in fact, it has inspired a very special recap.
I find that the movie Mean Girls is actually an extremely comprehensive guide to life, not just high school. Its wisdom can really apply to about anything. In fact, I find I can summarize this entire episode solely in Mean Girls macros.
That’s right, kids. More Make It Or Break It! Yay!
My thoughts exactly, Payson.
So we open with Emily info-dumping to us via a convo with Chloe that the Rock has been chosen as the national team training center, and today the national team coach will be announced. I can find so very, very much wrong with these statements. I know how much you all love it when I get pretentious about real-life gymnastics knowledge, so… *crackles knuckles*
OK so you know how I said nothing would top the epicness of last week’s ep? Well… I’m still right thus far. But this episode was pretty damned awesome. Let’s get started, shall we?
Previously on Make It or Break It: The Rock meets Denver in an epic clash of the sparkly Titans: the Rock Invitational. When a recurring back injury flares up, Payson gets a cortisone shot and prevails over bitchalicious national champ Kelly Parker. Meanwhile, Lauren throws the meet to spite her father, who has proposed to Summer out of guilt. Emily tries to play hero again and fails utterly, but does supply us with one of the most hilarious faceplants in TV history. Kim Kelly, look out. Bitch is after your title. Sasha boots Emily’s ass out of Nationals for going against his instructions. Oh yeah, and Courtney Kupets guest-stars as Payson and Kelly’s stunt double. Also, she shows more acting chops than most of the cast during her brief cameo.
Previously, on Make It or Break It: Creepy Carter makes up with Kaylie after totally boning Lauren, but Lauren, interested in preserving her friendship with sweet Kaylie, doesn’t want her to find out. The girls experience a bonding moment whilst cleaning mats at the Rock. Sasha propositions Payson’s Mom… to be the new gym manager, you perverts. Meanwhile, Chloe Kmetko subs for Emily at the Pizza Shack and tells Damon that Emily’s Never Been Kissed. I am mad that this show keeps reminding me of things I’d rather be watching. \~/
So what’s in store for us this week? Fun, fashion, and awkward sex talk aplenty!
Oh, Make It or Break It. After the ever-so-brief glimpse of good last week, it’s reassuring to see you back to your cheesy, cringeworthy, completely removed from reality self. If you kept being good, I think my entire equilibrium would be thrown out of whack. It’s like if Old Faithful stopped erupting or something.
Previously, on Make It or Break It: Sasha Belov comes to the gym and everyone’s going to eat, sleep, breathe gymnastics till Nationals. You girls will have no life, so none of those boys and sexin’, you hear? Kaylie and Payson have declared war on Evil Lauren, while Emily works her Sue-Fu on yet another unsuspecting victim, a dude named Damon. Kaylie gets wasted off cheap beer at a party, where Creepy Carter finds her and throws a fit. Meanwhile, Lauren accuses Summer, her Dad’s Jesus-loving secretary/girlfriend, of being a gold digger. Since Lauren clearly craves the attention of dodgy men, she gives it up to Creepy Carter and then steals his phone.
That’s right, kids… tonight we’re seeing a Very Special Episode of Make It or Break It. We’re kickin’ it ’80s style tonight, in what feels like a cross between the original Degrassi Junior High and the Breakfast Club. \~/ \~/
Oh yes, we’ve got a drinking game now. Check out the rules here.