The ‘Things I Hate in Fiction’ series Part 1

Things I am tired of seeing in fiction

The whole naive innocent girl meets bad/dangerous/mystery boy and subsequently starts to experience life, etc. And all of its derivatives:

  • Girl begins to fight with family, chooses boy over family

Why I hate it: Stupid. Like boys come and go, while families are forever. I hate how the parents are always painted as just some evil bitches out to ruin fun. These parents most of the time aren’t painted as abusive but overprotective or just normal parent shit. So I am not talking about abusive parents here. In real life, even with difficult parents, things are still more textured and nuanced than that. A child may still love and defend a parent in front of others and privately in their mind as a show of loyalty. Even difficult parents have their good and soft moments, moments when the parent and child actually get along. Not every child with a difficult parent wants to rebel or ‘stick it to their parents’ in some way. In short to reduce it to this trope is to dehumanize your characters.

  • Girl begins to uncorrupt boy who softens because of her

Why I hate it: Just sets people up for failure. This trope is one I am going to intentionally break in the next chapters of my story. A messed up guy doesn’t suddenly become okay just because you’re dating him.

  • The girl never fully becomes corrupt, just well-rounded and more experience and has a good influence on the boy

Why I hate it: Well, I guess the girl can’t be the Madonna in the Madonna/Whore complex if she goes full-on whore :rolls eyes: I just think the girl becoming completely ‘corrupted’ would be more realistic and more interesting. I feel it is just like the girl turns from naïve virgin to a respectable type of sexuality. Like the bad boy is always going to be her soulmate, the first and only person she sleeps with, like where does that happen in real life?

  • Girl (good) takes boy away from more popular girl who is almost always painted as a whore.

Why I hate it: Sexist. Girls only exist in a story to serve as competition for the male gaze. Next.

  • Girl experiences self-actualization, freedom and sexual awakening all thanks to hot, mysterious guy in her life

Why I hate it: Girls, I promise you can experience self-actualization, ‘find yourself’ and experience the world without a male guide. I mean, in these stories the girl never rebels against abusive or difficult parents, never goes out to experience things on her own , until hot, mysterious guy shows up. Like, does this say girls cannot think or act on their own? And I hate how it is like girls (naïve/innocent) only become women (more experienced/worldly) when they get with a guy.

  • Girl is almost always, always, always a virgin, because non-virgins apparently cannot be innocent or naïve and always has world class experience.

Why I hate it: I feel this classifies girls into groups that are harmful to them and dehumanizing. If virgins are innocent does that mean non-virgins are guilty? If virgins are pure does that make non-virgins dirty? Men are not shamed for their sexuality in this way at all. I do not like classifying women as good or bad based on what they do and don’t do with what’s between their legs.

  • Something is wrong with being innocent, naïve etc.

Why I hate it: If that is the way someone chooses to live their life, it’s their life. I hate how in these books the characters seem coerced into giving these things up and shamed for them as being to stuck-in-the-mud etc. If the person chooses to get more experience or experience more of the world on their own and by their own choice that’s different, but being repeatedly teased for your own choices? It seems in these stories either they are being groomed to agree with the boy in his behavior or being coerced. Nah. Next.

Paper Cuts (Death of Ink #2)

Paper Cuts (Death of Ink #2)

In Paper Cuts, book two, the serialized tale continues…

From the outside, Paige Langley’s life seems pretty normal…whatever that means. But it’s not. Her new boyfriend Matthew—a chain-smoking, musician—is acting strange, her friends at school even stranger, and Devon Connors, the boy that Paige is crushing on nearly dies in drug experiment gone wrong.

Then one of the local football players mysteriously turns up dead and it launches a full-scale investigation by police on the illegal drug use at Bass Towers High School. And with all the weirdness going on, Paige is starting to suspect that Devon knows more than he’s letting on.

As the horrible truth about the wild after school party scene—filled with sex, narcotics, and even murder—circulates around campus, Paige’s perfect life takes an unexpected turn, and a dark suspicion is suddenly cast on those she trusts most….

Verisimilitude in Fiction- The Writing Experience Part 1

She wanted to build an old home. And upon the arrival in that home, every door and step would ignite a forgotten memory in the reader’s mind, a feeling of déjà vu.

From “An Old House” from Chapter 11 of The Death of Ink

In writing The Death of Ink, I wanted to write about and for a specific group of people. The main character and protagonist are teens who read and write. I wanted to speak to the experience of  writers who  are young adults. So far from just being antisocial nerds (and there’s nothing wrong with that), teen writers and readers come in a wide-range of personalities. I wanted to create something that spoke to that existence. Something familiar.

You know the experience, in real life and in the pages of a book. You read something and think “I thought I was the only one who felt that way!” or “That’s sooo true!” Reactions like these are what writers should aim for. It is way more important than how you phrase a sentence, grammar, creating a dramatic opening, or the tens of thousands of other ‘rules’ spewed ad nauseous from writing consultants who swear they have bestselling books (although neither you or your neighbor ever heard of them).  #shade

To be clear, I’m not saying not to care about these things, but what would put me off in a book more than a poorly phrased sentence is the sensation that I’m being bullshitted. An author who insults my intelligence is like a slap in the face. And I am not talking about poorly researched bits (although those can be irritating) but when the greater elements (like as character thoughts, reactions, and relationships) doesn’t ring true to me.

Example: When two people in a book that hate each other’s guts suddenly fall in love. I am sure two people who hate each other can learn to love. But realistically, personalities don’t change quickly. If the person was behaving in a way that annoyed you before, even if you looked beyond that and fell in love, that behavior will still annoy you after the fact. I don’t expect everything to be perfect. A lot of romance novels, even the cliché ones, would be great if they just showed relationships realistically. It is not a novel’s predictability that kills it, in fact, some readers know what will happen but still continue reading to see how things will unfold. They enjoy the process. It is making things too easy that kills a novel. This does not reflect real life, and as mentioned before, it is creating verisimilitude that matters the most. Creating something familiar.

This applies to genres outside of realistic fiction as well. Everything written has been written from a human perspective. Creatures we imagined were imagined from a human brain. It would only make sense that whether we write with a Homo Sapien, an alien, or a snake as a main character, he/she/ or it still has to bow the knee to the human experience. To make them relatable, they still have to experience emotions and pain that we do. It is impossible by definition to write even a non-human character without human elements, because the writer is human, and the human experience is all the writer has at his or her disposal.

Don’t strive for originality but familiarity in writing your novel. After all, would you rather have dinner with a complete stranger or with a good, old friend?  Would you feel more comfortable in a strange place or at your childhood home (assuming your childhood home was a safe place)? Create an old house for your readers to explore and remember.

The Writing Experience Series

Part of a new series of writing ‘advice’ (if you could call it that. I’m a strong advocate of writer freedom) where I share my experience on fiction writing. I encourage writers and readers alike to leave their comments below. In other news,

Advanced Reader Copies of The Death of Ink are available. If you’re interested in a copy, leave a comment below or email me at mmjohnbooks@gmail.com