Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday's Burning Question

Ellen Hart Writes:

Okay, so we all have our pet peeves in mysteries. I dislike endings wherein the culprit spills his or her guts at the last minute--while holding a gun on the protagonist--talking endlessly about what happened and why. I did this in a few books myself until I gained the skill to reveal more as I went along and save the ending for the final thrilling trust. It's hard to get much thrill when you stop the forward movement for five minutes to do an information dump.

That's one of my mystery pet peeves. What are yours? What do you think is overused? What's cliche? What might have worked once but doesn't anymore?

12 comments:

nancy martin said...

Okay, I'll go first, because mine is weird: I dislike mysteries in which characters are introduced by other characters talking about them. I'd much rather meet everybody as they come "onstage" and speak for themselves. Blather about other people we haven't seen yet is the fastest way to lose my interest in a story. I'll admit, it's a strange thing to take exception to, but I do.

Esri Rose said...

Nancy, I wonder if you read some horribly bad example of it once, and the technique bugged you ever afterward.

I'll forgive a lot if the characters are engaging and the plot clever - even the mouthy villain at the end ("You've got me monologuing again!" - The Specials). What I hate are the "too stupid to live" protagonists who run off into a dangerous situation alone and without telling anyone. Even worse is the author who tries to excuse this moment of plot-manipulating madness by having the protagonist say, "I knew it was stupid, but something in my gut made me go," etc. This does not make it better.

sarrcbum said...

My pet peeve is when the protaganist has a light-bulb moment but doesn't share that key piece of information with the reader. To me it's like cheating.

Anonymous said...

I really hate stories where amateur sleuths cross police barrier tapes or break into homes in order to get clues. Same for when they steal clues before the police find them. Who in real life would ever do this? If we demand that our villains kill for realistic reasons, shouldn't we demand some semblance of reality for the amateur sleuths, too?

Catherine A. Winn said...

I hate it when the amateur protagonist has to work with a skeptical dunce on the police force. Someone who is in power and thinks she's an idiot, won't listen to her, and warns her to stay out of the way.

VR Barkowski said...

I've nothing against prologues, but a prologue should be a prologue, not the inciting incident nor a preview of the climax scene. IMO both of these scenarios are overused in the mystery genre.

Sandra Parshall said...

I agree with most of what's already been said. I'm tired of amateur sleuth stories in which the local police are portrayed as idiots. I am exasperated by heroines who do stupid things. I start screaming at characters who take possession of evidence, thinking THEY will solve the crime by presenting this evidence... where? Not in court, surely, because it has now been rendered useless. IOW, I dislike stories that totally disregard all proper crime investigation and evidence collection procedures.

Gink said...

Ok, I hope I don't offend anyone, but I think the most overused cliche in mysteries, that I've read anyway, is when the protagonist is the prime suspect.

Judy Clemens said...

My pet peeve is the use of the best friend as villain. The protag trust this person more than anyone, and he/she turns out to be the killer. Most people are smart enough to trust and love the right people -- if your best friend is a mass murderer, you're most likely going to get a clue along the way.

Patg said...

I hate it when the protag, or any character for that matter, does not say the absolutely obvious thing. When they all seem to 'suddenly' go brain dead because speaking the obvious will turn the novel into a novella.
When authors complain that saying or doing the obvious will give away the ending, I suggest they study the movie Aliens to see how it can be done right.
Since I love complicated stories, I can't agree with you Nancy, because too frequently talking about a character in the beginning can make you feel the protag's dread of that character stepping on stage. Of course, I'm not referring to the villian, or the helpful or unhelpful cop, more another interesting antagonist.
Patg

Karen Elizabeth Rigley said...

The opposite of a peeve to me is when a mystery is written so skillfully that I figure out who it is & then the author convinces me I'm wrong--until the end. That redirection is very intriguing.

Grapeshot/Odette said...

I am really tired of having the sleuth solve the murder of their child or significant other.