May 23rd, 2006


Rules Breaker

haikujaguar commented in a recent post that long dream sequences in fiction are usually bad, and that authors should avoid 'em "unless you're good enough to Break the Rules". Which I have to agree with, but it also got me to thinking about exceptions: what kind of authors have pulled off the "generally bad" plot devices?

For making dream scenes that are relevant, interesting, and not trite, I thought of Neil Gaiman's Sandman. But there are other bad ideas that consistently grate on me when I see them in a novel. Like the ubercharacter -- the character who can not only do everything, but who'll beat the other characters in their own specialities. I'm not sure I can think of any exceptions to that one that work for me. River from "Firefly" almost does, but the truth is the more uber she gets the more annoying I find her, so I'm thinking not.

Another one is the "evil twin" syndrome, where the author composes a scene showing her protagonist doing some horrible thing -- ta-da! -- it's really an evil twin. Or, for bonus crappy-writing points, it's the real protagonist under the influence of drugs/mind control/red kryptonite/McGuffin du jour. The original Star Trek did this with a virus, and I think that episode was pretty good. The rehashes of it in episodes in the later series, however, were increasingly meh.

But I'm having a hard time coming up with exceptions, overall. So I throw this out to you: what tropes of fiction do you feel are consistently misused or abused when they show up in fiction? And what authors have managed to pull them off anyway?