Monday, June 28, 2010

The Overused Plot

One of my all-time favorite comments left on this blog came two weeks back when we were talking about the different genres within Christian fiction. Somehow in the middle of the comments we switched from genres to particular plotlines that show up within the genres repeatedly.
Commenter extraordinaire, Cara, described her least liked, often used plot as, “Guy meets Girl. Girl can't stand Guy. Guy and Girl develop a weird love/hate relationship…Eventually, Guy kisses Girl. Girl is furious with Guy. But because of that Girl somehow comes to the realization that she really actually is terribly in love with guy. (gag)”
So, as I laughed, that got me thinking; Are there plotlines that have been used one too many times?
Frankly, I always seem to like the “angst-filled romance” plot, the “Pride and Prejudice from yet another point of view” novel, and, as a mystery lover, I’ll probably never get enough of the “one dead body, six suspects, and a snarky detective” story. I can name stacks of novels I’ve read and enjoyed with these plots.
Of course, there are some that I just can’t stand to read one more time, particularly the “Girl must choose between poor Guy she loves and rich Guy who can support her” plot. I find myself thinking, “Am I really willing to sit through 300 pages when I know she’s going to go with the poor guy?” And there are some subgenres I just don’t get! Really, how many Amish books can possibly be written?
NOW LISTEN, before you send me lots of messages about how there are some really awesome Amish novels out or you have seen the poor guy/rich guy plot done well look at what I’m saying. My point is plainly EVERY PLOTLINE IS OVERUSED. Seriously think about that. There is nothing really new under this sun.
How many mysteries can be written staring a sleuth with a penchant for baked goods? How many heroines are going to be city girls trying to survive in the old west? And, for goodness sakes, how many times are people going to try to convince me that there is actually something romantic about blood-suckers? (Ooo, I’m going to get some comments about that one, aren’t I? ;)
If you really think about it, in some way every book is using a plotline we’ve seen before. The only difference is YOU and what you happen to like and dislike.
So, now it’s your turn! What plotline can you not stand to sit through one more time and what one have you come to realize you’ll probably buy in some form or another every time you go book shopping? :)

24 comments:

Rosebud said...

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, you are RIGHT on the money!!!! :D :D I agree with you and with Cara 100%. I've never read any of the plotlines you mentioned because I just don't read the modern romance novels, but I read their synopses in CBD and they all are exactly the same - "Will she have faith to go through this?" It's like, get to some REAL issues - not abstract "faith" or "faith in God", but salvation by faith alone through grace alone; or maybe just write something that really does happen in real life for once. :P

P.S. If I'd known you had a blog, I would've been following you before now...so I will follow you now.

(BTW, I am Amanda Anderson from Facebook. :))

Emily Ann Benedict said...

Amanda: I'm so glad you found me. I love your example!! "Will she have the faith to get through this?" Oh, how often I've seen that on the back of a book. LOL

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Lol, "a sleuth with a penchant for baked goods". Your post is so true! It's rare these days to find a completely original plot. However, some writers are so amazing, they make an old plot feel brand new. The plot for my current WIP is one I've heard of before, so I'm hoping I put enough of a twist in it and definitely some stand-out characters, so that readers will still be interested.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I get tired of the romance novels that begin with the couple hating each other. Why can't they like each other before falling in love?

I never get tired of quality faith novels - never! :-)

Great post, as always!

Emily Ann Benedict said...

Cindy: I think the hallmark of a good writer is being able to make a well-known plot fresh and new. Good luck with your project. :)

Shannon: Romance does seem to be an area that falls prey to the overused plot too often. :(
And I hope we get more and more faith fill writers!!
Love your blog too. It's always encouraging.

Lydia Kang said...

Great post! It's true, there are no original plots, they are all versions of one another. The key is to make it unique and special to those characters and to give them originality so that it's fresh and new.

Of course, if every book started with boy and girl madly in love and perfect, there'd be no reason to keep reading to find out what happens next! Which is why that girl-hates-boy turning to girl-loves-boy is so popular. BUT it gets boring when the authors don't try hard enough to make this plot line more than just what it sounds--a generic plotline.

Cara said...

LOL! ;) You're awesome, Emily. I always enjoy reading your blog.

(Gotta run at the moment, but don't worry - this 'commenter extraordinaire' will be back - to comment.) :D

Karen said...

I don't like books that are the same-o, same-o. But put a weird character, or twist or relate it to truth--I'm there.

Karen Lange said...

You know, haven't thought about this much. Guess that means there aren't any tired plots that I've read lately!
Blessings,
Karen :)

CMOM Productions said...

I'm always going to read Nicholas Sparks books, even though someone almost always dies. I can't help but love his books. I love snarky, mysterious, and heartfelt stories. I'm one of those strange readers that reads various & random genres.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Emily -

I don't like the stale formula: boy meets girl, boy wins girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. I'd also like to see more romances with older couples.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Cara said...

Hmmm...

The main thing for me is whether the plot is really well-written.

(I can even take the above "Guy meets girl. Etc. etc. etc." plot, IF it is well-written... though I can't promise that I won't get impatient and exasperated with the hero and heroine when they're in the love/hate stage of their relationship. And I'll probably still gag at the gag part.) (gag) LOL

Predictability (gag) is like the ultimate tell-tale sign of a badly-written book (in my opinion). ;)

Though occasionally there is a novel that I will enjoy just for silliness' sake - even though it is (and partly because it is) extremely predictable. ;) Like Nancy Drew. (LOL!) I get a kick out of occasionally (yes, I am admitting to this) reading a Nancy Drew, (even though they are the height of predictability) just because I find her rather amusing. Superman didn't have anything on Nancy Drew... that teenager walks in the room, and all the adults fall to their knees before her begging for insight into whatever crises is going on. ;) lol Or something like that. :D

Emily Ann Benedict said...

Lydia: I think having unique characters is a HUGE factor in brining an ordinary plot to life. :) Let the love-hate live on! LOL

Karen: If the book is able to bring in a good connection to the truth that is a twist in itself. :)

M: I'm with you! I realy enjoy trying out different genres. Maybe that's what makes it easier to keep on liking plots that tend to show up in certain genres.

Karen L: Well good! I'm glad to hear you've been enjoying your reading. :)

Susan: That is indeed a tried and tried again plot line. ;) I know there are some romances writen for older women, but I'll agree, it's not often. I think it would be a great market though! :)

Cara: Well, Cara, my dear, I'd say if a writer could get you to like the love-hate plot he is a genius! LOL But that really is the cinch of good writing. Making what seems tired good no matter what.
Personally, I always say if a writer can get me to like a sad story they've got talent (because I do so dearly love to laugh). ;)
And long live Nancy Drew! :) She was marevlous even her predictability. People often point out that George seemed to twist her ankle in nearly every other book. ROFLOL.

Mary Campbell said...

I'm with you - there's nothing romantic about bloodsuckers or werewolves. I'm getting a little tired of the love triangle plot. What girl ever has two great guys to choose between who don't just get sick of her indecision.

Brianna said...

I despise the love-hate relationship plot! It drives me insane... It's so terribly unromantic! LOL! The guy and the girl don't have to fall in love at first sight or have zero problems in their relationship (because that would be unrealistic), but do they have to act like they're at each other's throats all the time?! I mean, come on!

And I absolutely, positively agree with you; vampires are creepy, not romantic! *Gags*

MMMMM, so you're not a big fan of sad books, huh? Interesting... Well, let's hope I've got the talent to hold your attention then, because my book (when I finally finish writing it) contains quite a few sad parts. ;-)

I never honestly thought about Nancy Drew being predictable, but I suppose in a sense, maybe she is! LOL!

Cara said...

ROFLOL!!!

I'm the same way about sad stories...

Also anything overly violent/bloody, and anything gross... doesn't matter how unpredictable the plot is. Yuck.

Brianna - Hehe... maybe she isn't. I mean, It wouldn't be Nancy Drew if the same plot wasn't used. Of course, there has to be some sort of mystery... of course, she has to try and solve it... of course someone has to get kidnapped at some point during the story... and of course she has to eventually solve it. ;)

But I do enjoy her - in sparing amounts - LOL. She's the original 8th wonder of the world. ;)
I still can't get over the fact that she never works, but always has money. (And lots of it!) She has no obligations. Her parents are quite exceptional - they let her go anywhere, anytime, any day - though occasionally she touches base with them. Just for old times' sake, I suppose. :P JK! haha I do enjoy discussing her unusual lifestyle. Hehe ;)

Emily Ann Benedict said...

Mary: Oh, yes, I dislike the love-triangle plot. Usually, I end up feeling so bad for the guy she doesn't pick! I want to know if he remains heart-broken for the rest of his life. ;)
Thanks for stopping by. :)

Brianna: Well, there are some writters who can win me over even though their books are sad. I don't mind "sad scenes." I just greatly prefer happy endings. :) Tell me aren't planning on killing off the characters we get attached to. LOL
All mysteries have a certain amount of predictablility to them. We couldn't call it a mystery if there wasn't a crime and a sleuth to solve it. LOL

Cara: I totally agree with you on the bloody/overly violent thing. A lot of times you can tell the author is just putting that in there for the sake of it. :P
Nancy truely is to be admired. I mean, I doubt any of us could claim to be as wise, cool-head, chocke full of knowledge, or independently wealthy as she is. ;) Mr. Drew knows this and so he must allow her to do as she pleases. It would be a crime if he didn't! LOL

Cara said...

LOL!!! ;) :D

Jill Kemerer said...

Good point. I know I've been guilty of writing what I thought readers wanted. But now, I work hard to tell the story from my own way of thinking. Yes, the plots are all overdone, but no one tells them the way we can.

Emily Ann Benedict said...

Jill: Amen! I've found when I try to write what I think others might like it doesn't come out very good. :P
We must go with what we've got deep inside. ;)

Tyrean Martinson said...

Thank you Emily! I happen to love the Benedict and Beatrice type of angst romance started in Shakespeare's Much Ado, but I don't like it when the girl realizes she loves the guy after he kisses her . . . just my own pickiness on that particular theme. I like them to both realize they love each other somewhere along the way, and then kiss. I'm just old fashioned I guess.
And I agree, Vampires are so old, and over, and I'm tired of them. However, I've noticed a disturbing newish zombie trend, and other than as a good way to talk about the difference between living life fully and living life without hope, I don't like zombies at all.

Emily Ann Benedict said...

Tyrean: I agree that the "kiss moment" suddenly opening the characters eyes can be end up a little silly. As far as character developement goes, there's got to be more than just a kiss to figure that out. ;)
I have noticed the sudden love for "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" which disturbs me to no end! Jane Austen would be so angry if she knew what they were doing. :?

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Anonymous said...

Vampires are oversized mosquitos. I hate them. I hate books about them. Though Dracula was alright. But the worst plot line that's over used. Is guy is in sad situation, guy goes to some magical world, it makes everyting better OVER USED
-Hannah
(sry i cnt remember my google password)