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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Literary Trash

The following is a list of overused aspects of novels that need to be thrown away and never retrieved.

Plot Ideas:

(The following section focuses on plot ideas that we believe have been overused.)

Serial killer chases:

This idea is worn out. There is virtually no way to end this type of plot except for the ways authors refuse to do. But even in these ways, the serial killer usually has to be found out. However, this is not a closed genre if authors will use it originally.

False death scenes:

This has been used since day one of suspense. One of the heroes gets captured by the bad guys. Everybody thinks they're dead. They find out that they really are alive. Blah, blah, blah. It's not realistic that people hardly ever die in situations like that. However, to reverse this Trash would be original.

Hostage situations where the hostage miraculously escapes:

Practically the same as the one above, just more specific. This type actually shows the hero getting away by using a technique they learned earlier in the book or by being rescued by another hero.

Romance in general:

Romance is not just a genre. It consumes all of Christian fiction. Nearly 95% of Christian books have a romantic subplot that always turns out right. This is not realistic. People don't find their perfect match just anywhere. Some people don't even get hooked up at all. It's not realistic to fall in love at every turn. If people really did that, think of the mess we would be in.

Demon possession and exorcisms:

This used to be an original idea, back when Frank Peretti started writing his supernatural thrillers. But books have completely worn this idea into the ground time and again. It's gotten to the point where I don't even want to hear about it anymore. Exorcisms have become sensational at best are often unnecessary to the plot as well.

Mysteries and suspense with an obvious villain:

I've even heard other reviewers say they were tired of reading this one. I can't even imagine why these types of plots sell. Certain types of characters and plot devices should be obvious to readers as to how the author will use them. And the authors do use them over and over and over again. When will someone surprise us?

Legal battles in which one down-on-their-luck lawyer battles insurmountable odds and wins the impossible court case:

This was probably interesting once. Like demon possession, this Trash has been used a hundred too many times. Why do authors use this over and over again? Because people like it. You would think that people would begin to figure out that copying the same plot over again isn't suspense.

Two twin brothers get separated at birth and are reunited later in life by some strange circumstances:

This plot has been used since the beginning of time. Thankfully, it has died out over the past few years. The whole "like looking in a mirror" analogy sounds interesting at first, but when you really think about it, it's not.

Custody cases where the good guys always win and the bad guys are monsters in the closet:

Since custody cases usually have a predictable end, why not make it unpredictable by making both sides good or both sides bad? Why not confuse the reader a little. Change things up. Make it unpredictable. Why not?

Genetic and other medical suspense:

Unfortunately, having viruses and mad genetic scientists threaten to take over the world isn't all that suspenseful if you aren't going to actually have it take over the world. Every time I read a description of a book that says something about DNA, an airborne virus, or cloning, I tend to roll my eyes. Why? Because this genre has been abused. It's time for somebody to bring it back.

Save-the-world situations:

The Trash category above fits into this category, but it does not fill it. There are other situations such as bomb threats, terrorism, and other weaponry that can be used as plot devices to make the plot "suspenseful". Again, suspense is truly not knowing what's going on. Most of the time, the books that are marketed as suspense are more predictable than books that are not marketed as suspense.

Forced suspense:

Some plots just don't need the kind of drama other plots need. Sometimes, an author just needs to write a normal plot. Why? Because life is not all guns and explosions and villains. Sometimes life is just normal. Fiction does not portray life correctly sometimes. Needless to say, some situations need suspense. But not all.

A female lead is being chased by a killer who wants her for some reason and a perfect man she doesn't like is trying to protect her:

Female authors invented this plot style in order to keep their emotional readers happy. There's something about female readers that like perfect male leads. They also tend to root for the downtrodden, dramatic female lead. I guess one of the main reasons I don't like this plot style is because I'm not emotional, but the number one reason is because it's not realistic.

Coincidental connections between unrelated plot devices:

This has been around since the beginning of mysteries. The lead or leads find something early on in the book that has something to do with the ultimate answer. Another form of this Trash is having two leads work on two unrelated cases that end up having to do with each other (The Reluctant Thief series by Jill Nelson). Coincidental connections are not only worn out, but they are unrealistic.

The Nephilim:

Every Christian spec author has tried to invent an explanation for that mysterious passage in Genesis about the Nephilim. There are so many versions it's ridiculous. One author wrote something about it, and all the rest followed. There are so many different ideas, it's hard to know which one to believe. The Nephilim have been morphed into aliens, hairy giants, six-fingered people, vampires, half-human\half-demon people, and more in fiction. The biggest problem is that spec authors are trying to make something out of nothing in order to sell. As with most of these this was original once but is now worn out

Finding the Ark of the Covenant:

Ever since Indiana Jones found the Lost Ark, Christian fiction has been trying to copy it. It seems like every author has their own idea about where the Ark is, and how to find it. But every one of these books has something in common: the Ark is always found. This notion is ridiculous because I don't even believe the Ark can be found. I think God destroyed it so people wouldn't worship it. When it disappeared from history, it probably really disappeared. I don't understand why people want to keep bringing it back up. The Ark of the Covenant is part of the old ways, anyway. We don't need the Ark anymore. We don't need to read about either.


There was a time and a place for westerns, but that time and place are now gone. Not only has the public lost interest, but so have we. Westerns were never very original anyway. The perfect leads fought the evil bad guys every time. There was a great redundancy on the TV shows with other plot devices such as gold, gunfights, showdowns at high noon, and romances. Thankfully no one in Christian fiction has ever tried to resurrect this genre.

Finding the "bones of Jesus":

This is a pointless plot because if the bones are Jesus' bones, than the book is no longer Christian. If they are not Jesus' bones, than the reader learned nothing. The only way to end this plot is to have the bones be phony, so why even write the plot at all?

Finding the Garden of Eden:

The Garden of Eden no longer exists on earth as we know it. God took that away from us. What makes authors think their characters can find it again? God sealed it off from humanity. Eden is gone. There is no plausible explanation for characters finding the Garden, so why even write the plot?

CRT's (Convenient Rescue Techniques):

This is probably the most well concealed of any piece of Literary Trash. But it is unquestionably the worst of them all. If I remember correctly, James Bond invented this one. At the beginning, Q would give him a device that he would end up using later to get out of a sticky situation. In modern fiction, the characters no longer use tangible devices as much, but plot devices such as last-minute rescues by perfect leads. Using tangible devices is even more cheesy, especially in a fantasy setting in which the characters use an imaginary device to get themselves out of a rut. (Oh look a magic stone, etc.) CRT's were only created to try to make suspense interesting yet still please the public in the end by getting the heroes out alive. Not only are CRT's overused, but they are also highly unrealistic and make for bad fiction.


(The following section is a list of lines that need to be discarded from characters' dialogue. Please note that some words can be changed and the line will still mean the same thing.)

"Wait! Come back! Don't leave me!"

"You'll never get away get this!"

"I'll be back! You won't get rid of me!"

"You killed my father!"

"I am your father!"

"We shall meet again."

"What! You're alive! I thought you were dead!"

"I'll never leave you again."

"Do what I say or you'll never see him\her again!"


"It's a miracle!"

"I'll get you for this! You'll never get away from me!"

"You're all meddling with my plans!"

"Go ahead. Kill me."

"I'm not a man like you!"

"You're my hero."


(The following section is a list of character types that have been overused.)

Evil villains:

Villains, in my opinion, don't need to be clear cut and purely evil. They need to be more ambiguous and realistic, even seeming good at times. This makes for good fiction because you're hard pressed to find a truly evil villain in the real world.

Genetic scientists:

I'm not completely opposed to genetic scientists per se because the can be very good characters. I am opposed to them right now because everyone always portrays them as evil. Why can't they be simply misguided or even good? Why do they always have to have a plan to take over the world?

Perfect heroes:

This is the other side of the evil villains spectrum. In the past, plots has evil villains and perfect heroes, hands down. Now we have evil villains and perfect heroes with troubled pasts. Somehow, the troubled past bit is more excepted by the public than having the hero be completely perfect. The worst part about the troubled past is the author usually makes it not the hero's fault at all. Thus the hero becomes a victim that the public sympathizes with. However, there is a movement in the world of fiction using imperfect leads. This is the movement we endorse because it is the most realistic.

Healers, especially small children:

The healing genre has been opened and closed. We've all heard the story: a healer comes to town and begins taking people's money all in the name of God. But authors have also created a genre of young children healers. I don't know how many books have been about this subject or why some are so obsessed with it.

Modern day prophets:

This is not a completely closed subject, as long as authors will use it in an original way. Usually these "prophets" are just messengers of Satan, and while the Bible says these will come, I'm really tired of reading books about it.

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