novel writing

Plot Pet Peeves: It’s a Boy!

Using hackneyed plot devices to extend
the life of a series is like a baseball
player who doesn’t know when to retire.
It’s just painful to watch.
If you are like me–and most of the people I talk to–certain plot lines tend to drive you nuts. I have a friend who despises plots that feature mistaken identity. Can’t say that I blame her.

Several plots bother me, so I’m sure I’ll probably mention them all here eventually, but I’ll begin with the long-lost-child plot because one such storyline recently confronted me.

It irritates me when a nice book, movie, or TV show is rolling along, and suddenly, the writers realize they have trapped themselves in a corner. Perhaps they need an excuse to maintain sexual tension while keeping the heroine and hero apart. Or they just want to complicate things. Et voila: a long-lost child suddenly appears. Then, the couple must separate while the new parent deals with his baby, toddler, or rebellious teen.

Seriously. This is the best they could do? To me, this is a sure sign that the writer is trying to artificially extend the life of the series. It’s like a baseball player who stays too long in the game. It’s painful to watch, and everyone in the crowd is wishing the player would have one good game so they could retire on a high note. The player needs to have the self-awareness, bravery, and integrity to admit that it’s time to go.

Same with writers.

It’s probably strange to think about the end of a series before I’ve even started one, but I think it’s important for all writers–and human beings–to realize that everything has a natural life cycle. Everything ends. And the end should come with dignity at its appointed time. And nothing–not the inducement of more money or the fear of replicating your success with a different venture–should induce us to alter our original vision with some artificial, hokey device.

Of course, at this point in my career, I’m just trying to launch one novel, but I hope that I will remember to be true to my vision at the end of my career too.

2 thoughts on “Plot Pet Peeves: It’s a Boy!

  1. Mmmm I'm never too harsh as long as they wrap it in a different way. Cause lets face it – NOTHING is original now, it's all inspired by previous ideas one way or another. The plot that's driving me batty at the moment is the YA 'dangerous/forbidden love with a love triangle' … Twilight was enough – people should at least wait awhile before copying stuff!

  2. I agree, Nicole. I don't mind if the long-lost child plot goes somewhere new. In fact, I'd like to be surprised in that way. I think that's part of what makes writing fun: trying to put a new spin on an old idea. I just don't like it when its nothing more than a device to serve another purpose.

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