Open Thread: Fiction conventions you don’t like

(by chris the cynic)

Tell us about conventions in fiction that you dislike.  Tell us why you dislike them.

I’ll give an example of one I don’t like to get the ball rolling.

A lot of stories are origin stories.  The protagonists meet, clash, eventually work out their issues and form into a cohesive unit, and that’s when the story ends.  This is so prevalent that many sequels hit the reset button (the team disbanded, the couple broke up) so they can do the same plot all over again.  Hollywood in particular seems to avoid the idea of a team functioning as a team like the plague, with an exception for the climax.

I have nothing against origin stories.  I have nothing against relationships beginning, but I don’t like that that’s all we ever seem to get.  I want stories of teams who have already hammered out most of their issues.  I want stories where people are in relationships that are already established and aren’t at a point of crisis.  I want stories of people who have their shit together fighting the good fight against incredible odds.

So, that’s one of mine.  What are yours?

[As a reminder, open thread prompts are meant to inspire conversation, not stifle it. Have no fear of going off topic for there is no off topic here.]


8 thoughts on “Open Thread: Fiction conventions you don’t like

  1. christhecynic January 13, 2015 at 7:17 am

    Other examples I don’t like are that there’s this type of helpful ally–I can’t really explain it, but I know it when I see it–and one of two things always happens:
    1 They die (early on)
    2 They turn out to be evil.

    Yinsen in the first Iron Man set off all the bells. It was clear basically from the moment he showed up that either he was going to die before Tony left the cave or it was going to turn out that he was in fact the big bad, pretending to be a fellow prisoner to gain Tony’s trust.

    Obviously the first of the recent Batman trilogy payed the same thing with the person eventually turning out to be the big bad. So did the first Percy Jackson movie.

    The truth is that there are too many examples to list.

    It grates on me because I don’t think being a nice helpful person is a death sentence or proof that you’re really evil putting on a front.

    The doubting colleague is a trope that has to exist in a lot of stories because the stories require that something that flies in the face of our current understanding to the universe be true. Which means that established thought must be wrong.

    Obviously if you’re advocating something that is scientifically impossible (because in the story it isn’t in spite of everyone thinking it is) experts are going to point out that, no, the world does not work that way.

    So far, so good.

    But when new evidence arises the doubting colleague (almost) never revises their position. Their character becomes twisted from a reasonable person pointing out reasonable objections to a contrary asshole who will ignore reason and evidence if it allows them to continue to be a contrary asshole.

    I call bullshit. Some people may be like this, but not everyone with reasonable objections to outlandish theories is an asshole who is just objecting because they’re an asshole. Some of them have reasonable objections because they are reasonable people, and as reasonable people will revise their beliefs in the light of new evidence.

    I have so many more, but the thread isn’t supposed to be “chris gripes and everyone else listens” so I’ll stop now.

  2. DawnM January 13, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    At the moment I’m unhappy with the “frumpy male college professor meets extremely beautiful, massively intelligent, highly accomplished woman who truts him implicitly, follows him everywhere, risks her life and falls in love” pattern.

  3. Only Some Stardust January 13, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    I don’t mind mega ‘chris gripes’ posts. >_> It distracts me from my own griping anyway.

    I dislike it when the skeptic is always wrong. It seems like in a lot of fiction if you are the skeptic you are automatically wrong, no need to bother checking the plot first.

    I dislike it when supposedly intelligent characters have their intellects as only ‘informed, not shown’, although that’s terrible for any attribute it’s especially rotted for smart characters because it often requires the author be smart themselves, so it’s easier to pass off a list of attributes and technobabble something in a machina ex machina or whatever you call it.

    In my more…weird depressed moods, I’m angry at all those happy ending characters or even the angsty ones who boo over dead loved ones after beating the bad guy. I find myself profoundly wishing they’d frown at the end and go ‘You know what? This world is still really fucked up, I still have work to do. Team Fellowship Ranger Ninjas, are you with me?’ ‘yes, we are with you! let’s rebuild shit, change society so this does not happen again.’

    On another note, I’ve been reading on the Triple Alliance (Aztecs) and was amazed to learn they had no money and no markets but ran a surplus and ‘eliminated hunger’! What empire in the world can boast of eliminating hunger??? Apparently, before the plagues hit, the Aztecs, with their uber socialistic empire shuffling resources with incredible efficiency, allowing a greater population density than anywhere else in the world at the time, even China.

    It staggers the mind what we’ve lost. Because of damned diseases. It wasn’t steel and horses alone that killed the Triple Alliance; no, the Alliance had steel, and they even had a defense against horses, steep hill roads that llamas could navigate and horses couldn’t, plus deadly slings that could kill horses. Given time and maybe they would have even figured out human foot soldier formations that are even more killer to horse riders.

    It was disease and the civil wars it inspired, that made us lose maybe a fifth of the human population on earth, at the Americas. And that real sucks.

  4. depizan January 14, 2015 at 11:29 pm

    If the main characters are a man and a woman, there must be romance/sex/love. I mean, that’s fine sometimes, but ye gad, can’t they just be friends some of the time? And, yeah, that’s mostly me wanting fiction to have the kind of relationship _I_ particularly like, as friendship is my thing and I want lots and lots of stories about awesome friendships. But it’s also sort of gross to imply that men and women can’t work together, play together, be friends together without it becoming romance. For one thing, they totally can. For another, suggesting they can’t has icky real world consequences. And for a third, it kind of suggests that romance is the end game. As if friendship can’t be, too. Which, again, has icky real world consequences, and is also really lousy for asexuals and aromatics.

    Also, I’d go so far as to say that the reset button should be pried out of most creators’ hands and tossed off the nearest high rise. Enough with resetting stuff, already. No breaking up the team, no messing up the friendships between movies/books/episodes, no messing up the romance because you think it’s boring that they got together last movie/book/episode, just no. It almost never works well, it feels like it’s just jerking the audience’s chain, and it isn’t half as interesting as letting your characters have more natural lives.

    Enough with the unhappy protagonists. Give me characters who are doing what they love and who love doing it (this goes at -least- triple for women protagonists and every other kind of marginalized identity protagonists). I don’t mean they have to have shiny perfect lives where nothing goes wrong, but I’m sick of the piles of angst dumped on characters for the sake of “gritty” or “realistic” or “that’s just how we do things these days, screw everybody who likes fun.” Give me awesome escapist fun with characters who aren’t straight white cis dudes.

  5. Firedrake January 16, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    depizan: for that matter, if they’re the same sex, there can’t be romance/sex/love unless it’s a story that’s primarily about being gay. This is starting to break, thank goodness. But yes, I hate that “men and women can’t be just friends” trope. TV does some good in this regard: even in your basic procedural show like CSI, even if the writers are working on pairings, characters of opposite sex work with each other without flirting all the time.

    If you want to tell a new story, tell a new story. If the old story came to an end, don’t extend it. But that’s a marketing thing; sequels sell better.

  6. depizan January 16, 2015 at 5:36 pm


    yep, that corollary is just as annoying. I’d much rather see fiction where relationships didn’t stem purely from “is/is not of compatible sexual orientation.” But you’re right, the procedural shows are chipping away at that, at least a tiny bit, as are other ensemble shows (not, so far as I know, counting comedies).

    Sequels may sell better, but they still don’t need to be the same story over and over again. Tell different stories with the same characters! It’ll work, honest.

  7. depizan January 17, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    I was just reminded of another one. I saw a poster (not sure if professional or fan made) for a video game, one of those “be a good guy….or a bad guy” kind of things, with half of the guys face “good” and half of it “evil.” The evil half, of course, had a weird eye color and scars. Because those are totes proof of eeevilness.

    Can we stop with that? Both the general trope of using appearance to denote good and evil and the specific trope of visible scars being proof of evil? (Except in rare instances, and even then, they usually are found on anti-heroes or heroes with dark pasts.)

  8. Silver Adept January 18, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    I’m not very fond of the fiction convention that suggests women, even those women who have no reason at all to do so, will wear clothing meant to draw the male gaze. Chainmail bikinis, or their science fiction equivalents, are getting old quickly.

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