Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Insecure Writer and August's Pet Peeve


Today is August's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

I'm stuck on a particularly vexing scene and the wall next to my desk has dents in it from all the head banging I've been doing trying to figure my way past that scene. Oh well, it’s not the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last.  I’ll figure it out eventually and move on, so let's jump to the IWSG question of the month.

What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

My biggest pet peeve involves reading.  Over the past six months, I’ve noticed more and more books within certain genres are beginning to sound remarkably similar.  Take paranormal fantasies, for example.  Almost every one I see these days starts out in exactly the same way. The main characters all sound the same. The eventual love interest always sounds the same. The worlds sound the same. The writer's voice sounds the same.  It's like the authors are following the same template.  I know every genre has certain conventions a writer must follow, but come on people, at least try to be a little original.

Space operas are beginning to show some of the same problems, although at least they have the advantage of having five or six standard ways for them to begin.  The ex-prisoner/retired spacer/old miner who  just wants to retire in peace, but who immediately gets pulled into something that will decide the fate of the galaxy.  Or the bounty hunter/space scavenger/salvage reclamation person who discovers an ancient alien artifact that will decide the fate of the galaxy. There's nothing wrong with these themes, but it's gotten to the point where you could swap first chapters between these books and not notice the difference.

Have any of you noticed the same trends?

ChemistKen

P.S. For those of you who write paranormal fantasy and space opera, I'm obviously not talking about you. :)






27 comments:

  1. My reading has been all over the place in recent months, so I haven't run into a lot of similar books. Usually if a book feels derivative or formulaic I abandon it or don't get another by that author. I hope you find more satisfying books very soon, Ken.

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  2. Hey, I've actually not used either of those plots! Score one for me. I'll try to avoid them.
    Don't hurt your head.

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  3. You know, when I have trouble with a scene, it's usually because the one preceding it isn't right. Often, a little tweak is all it takes to get back on track. I know what you mean. I'm not sure if the structure has come about because of readers expectations, or an effort to imitate the industry norms. I suppose that's why I applaud loudest for stories that break the norm.

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  4. I read a submission just last month that had that first trope. Yes, I passed on it.

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  5. It's interesting how some plots come in batches in different stories!!!

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  6. I have! I write thrillers and try to read as much as possible in that genre, but have found the same issues you write about. As a result, I have spent the last few mnths reading a genre entirely new to me (Western). I find it quite refreshing.

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  7. I think everyone is becoming very similar in their word choice etc because they read each other. I was at a book signing once when I first started in this business, and a very famous writer stated flat out that she never read in her category of fiction because she didn't want to be influenced. I took that to heart. I only read in my category as a favor.

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  8. I've noticed that, too. It's because it's hard to be original now. All of the themes have been done to death. That's fine as long as the characters are different and the plot is different.

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  9. Ah, yes. Sometimes it sounds as if a writing program has written the stories rather than a person. Plug and play, MadLibs . . . I usually quit reading a genre when that starts to happen. I'll loop back around in a few years to see if any of it sounds or feels fresh.

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  10. I suppose I don't deviate from my usual authors in those genres, so I don't notice the similarities as much. I do notice similarities in epic high fantasy, though.

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  11. I think it's called formula writing and it's worked for romance publishers for years, others are now doing the same. Those authors who put out 3 or more books a year???
    I write what I want to read. I was never a conformist and I'll most likely die a starving artist because I just simply won't!

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  12. I read lots of fantasy and science fiction, so I know what you mean, but I love it. I like all those tropes but the sea is getting deep and they need to do more to stand out. I just found a new science fiction one by Tracy Cooper-Posey The Endurances series. She writes several and different genres but the Endurance one is my favorite set in space on a space making a 1000 year journey. First one I have found in a long time that really grabbed me. I bought the whole series in one swoop. Still reading and enjoying.
    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

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  13. I've definitely noticed the same trends. I tend to read a lot of paranormal romances, and it's starting to annoy me how similar they're all becoming.

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  14. You're right about certain genres sounding the same. I read a lot of cozy mysteries (because I write the). So many start the same way. Readers do have certain expectations. I hope mine aren't too conventional. (Same with my sci-fi romances.)

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  15. Interesting thoughts and perspective indeed. Good to read, and nice of you to share!

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  16. This sounds disappointing, but I've never noticed it. I love a good space opera though. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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  17. Good luck with your problematic scene!

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  18. This sounds scary. I wonder why that is, and I hope I don't start seeing this in contemporary genres. Yikes!

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  19. I've noticed it in the YA paranormal scene and am wondering when there will be a big shift away from it to a new genre. Don't beat your beat your head too hard!

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  20. I've noticed a similar thing. There are, thankfully, some books that still stand out as unique, that have engaging characters and different stories. It's just a matter of finding them (Not always easy, though)

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  21. Preach, brother! Too many cliches used in writing leads to not being able to tell one book from another. I get that the main audience wants these tropes played out, but it takes an author who can think outside the box to use the same tropes in unique ways.

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  22. I guess I don't mind if books follow a common pattern or start off in a similar way provided its well written and captures my imagination. But, I guess that's the trick, being able to take something which would be ordinary when written by most of it and turning it into something extraordinary.

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  23. Good luck with the scene. I've been reading "Wired for Story", which I'm finding useful at deepening my prose.

    My peeve is really the growing writer who believes they know everything and then circles all the 'it's on your page because some editor told them 'it' isn't a good word. Siiigh. I've been reading a lot of trad published lately, especially best sellers. I notice the authors break all those rules about rules in favor of readability and keeping the reader in the story. That's the only rule that matters.

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  24. I wonder whether part of the problem stems from a growing lack of originality due to the fact that there are so many authors with that "cookie-cutter" approach?

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  25. Hope you work out your problem scene soon so you don't hurt your head (or the wall anymore!). But I think we all know how frustrating this situation can be.

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  26. Genres do have their tropes that readers expect, but it is good to find some originality to them too. Of course, there are some ardent readers who do like to read the same type of story and some writers are capitalizing on it. There's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes the familiar is just what a person needs. It's sometimes a hard balance to be original and yet still satisfy the tropes readers expect.

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  27. I know what you mean. Something I also notice a lot is the amount of stories that obviously started from Brandon Sanderson's writing prompts.

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