Friday, February 4, 2011

Watch out for those nasty cliches!

Hi, all. Dana Mentink here. I was perusing a Tweet from Harlequin Editor Emily Rodmell (who happens to me my editor!) about cliches that she sees often in suspense novels. Her first one was the vague threatening note ordering someone to back off from some unnamed threat. Must quickly delete that threatening note on the porch scene from my work in progress. Ha! It made me start thinking about other suspense cliches, things that tend to crop up in spite of our best efforts. Here's a quick list.

1. The aforementioned threatening note.

2. A similar threatening phonecall. No name given, just a menacing warning via the phone line. Or maybe even a call where no one speaks at all, just that nice menacing breathing and such.

3. The lady who goes into that dark basement by herself. Oy! I see this one in movies from time to time. Scary dark house? Killer on the loose? Is a normal person going into that basement? No way.

4. I know I'm going to get into trouble about this one because I'm guilty as charged, but writing the same type of hero. He's a....choose your role...Texas Ranger, Navy Seal, homicide detective, Marine, pararescueman...etc. etc. Oh I know! Who doesn't love to read about a macho, take charge kind of hero, but perhaps it would be a nice change of pace to insert a regular job in there? Of course he would be a remarkable character, but couldn't he have a regular Joe job? Say a nice accountant thrust into horrific circumstances that test his inner strength? Maybe that just doesn't get our romance juice flowing, but I've read many excellent suspense novels where the protag is just a regular guy and it's very compelling stuff.

Hmmm. What do you think? Any cliches in suspense fiction that bug you?


Debby Giusti said...

I'm calls, notes? You bet! In my last manuscript, I added a few "new" elements. My gal gets snared in a trap and ends up dangling upside down from a tree. Also I used a snake and a dead critter in her garage. Doesn't everyone hate snakes?

Ramona Richards said...

Note to self: No more notes (SO guilty of that one). Thanks, Dana, for reminding us to write better and with more innovation.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Dana, I'm with you. Give me the less than obvious. The Indiana Jones professor who gets thrust into something beyond his ken and rises to the occasion.

Clark Kent turns into Superman for a reason.

And I find REAL situations to be much more frightening than some crafted ones.

I love old grudges. People who can't let go and finally seek revenge.

Or like in Dickens, people who do the right thing but are never suspected of it because of who or what they are.

Instead of the back door, bringing them in the side door.

Those little things make a huge difference in suspense to me.

Dana Mentink said...

I know Debby and Ramona, I've had the odd note and phonecall too. I've never done the upside down from a tree trick, Debby, will look forward to reading that one.

Ruth, amen sister!The unlikely hero is the most compelling.

Sketch Girl on a New Adventure said...

The embittered family member

Dana Mentink said...

True Sketch Girl. We do tend to feature those disgruntled family members, don't we?

Barbara Phinney said...

Yikes! I better check my writing. Makes me wonder what I put in the manuscript I sent in. My biggest cliche is having my heroine sigh dramatically. It's probably because I do it in real life!
OR the truly evil character. Give me a villain who has at least one redeeming quality. 'Cause mine don't have them! LOL!

Dana Mentink said...

Yes, Barb. The villian thing is tricky no? He/she has to be bad, but not so unbelievable that he's like Dr. Evil or something. A very tricky balance.