...nothing here is promised, not one day... Lin-Manuel Miranda

"Ya Gotta Learn Your Cliches"
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Pet Peeves in books - Some time ago I co-wrote an article for "Murderous Intent" , which I can no longer find, on pet peeves in mystery fiction. I bet this won't be anything new here, but I thought I'd offer them to you folks and see if you agree/disagree/don't care at all.

It comes up because over on DorothyL, someone complained (probably rightly so) about a cliché in mystery. And since normally it's one of my top ten pet no-nos, and it didn't bother me in this book at all, I had to look at why sometimes I don't notice something. The easy, and possibly right answer, is that "otherwise the book's so damn involving and good that I overlook the annoying bit" whereas in lesser books, it's one of several annoying bits, and those add up. You think? Is it that simple? Seems almost cheating, if that makes sense, to say "I'll forgive it here because I LIKE this writer" but so what? Who's gonna know?

Other things that are driving me MAD lately. I am so sick of prologues in mystery fiction. Oh god. No more prologues where we see the murder, please. Any version of the victim turning around and exclaiming some/any version of "You! What are YOU doing here?" Please god. Remember, of course, that I'm a "slush pile reader", or a manuscript critic for Poisoned Pen Press, and they accept manuscripts not only from folks with agents, but from folks without agents. I'd HOPE that most agents would know the field well enough to play a quick game of "Spot the Cliché" and make the author delete or re-write this, but I see far too many of these first chapters and they make me bugfuck crazy (sometimes nothing will work but a Harlan Ellisonism - and that's an old one I stole from him years ago.). I DO tend to wonder if many of those submitting manuscripts have actually spent time reading in the field over the past few years. But then, it's not fair targeting these folks, since I see this stuff in published works as well.

I'm also prone to whining about what I recently dubbed "TAMS - truly annoying mother syndrome". This one seems to bother very few readers but I've been on about it for a long time. Jesus, we must have a whole LOTS of people out there who had miserable childhoods (okay or adulthoods) with rotten mothers. Haven't met too many truly annoying fathers in my reading. I'm sure I'd react the same way. Maybe I was just lucky in my choice of parents.

We won't even do the female amateur sleuth/male cop thing. Sometimes it happens and it works, still; lots of times it's tired. But to me that one's more of an acceptance of unreality - like the whole "amateur sleuth finds body" thing we simply have come to accept as part of the genre.

So, whatcha got?

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