Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Literary cliques

Please note that the following are not in any way annoyances of mine and nor will they cause me to throw a book down in disgust. No these are merely literary cliques which I have either thought of myself or noticed other people mention and is purely for fun.

1. The something’s Daughter/Wife

2. Interfering bossy mothers (normally coupled with a kind, silent supportive father)

3. Wise with a sharp tongue grandmothers (well a lot of Grandmothers IRL seem to be like this)

4. Character looking in mirror and appraising themselves thus giving the reader a description of the character.

5. Feisty Heroines – to be fair authors don’t get all that much choice in this. If they write a main female character that is quiet, polite and stays true to herself yet still prevails in the end then authors get accused of not writing good female characters. Or as in the case of Fanny Price, the character herself gets accused of having no backbone and being boring.

6. Main characters are quite often writers or aspiring writers. I am beginning to groan slightly when this happens now but it won’t spoil a book for me.

7. A supernatural element in a book which looks likely to be a ghost but then the author throws in doubt and makes it ambiguous so everyone is left wondering, was it or wasn’t it a ghost or was it in the main characters imagination. Hmm

8. Female characters that have to leave their great job in the city and after a while realise that their natural flair for dressing/cooking/baking/giving advice was actually a multi-million pound business just waiting to happen.

9. Woman loses job/gets divorced so moves to the country/goes travelling/goes to live in Italy and ends up happy at the end having met another (usually foreign) man.

10. The good old barking dog. I first saw this mentioned in this post from What Your Read and got me thinking about this while article.

There we go I have ten for now and seem to cover quite a lot of the types of books I read. I’m sure if I read more crime or chick lit there would be loads more.

Posted by Jess


  1. I think you will absolutely love this site. The main page is an index to all kinds of tired narrative devices.


    (I myself was referred to this site by E.L. Fay of the blog "This Book and I Could Be Friends"

  2. What a fun-to-read list! I agree with them all, except even though they are over-used, I do love aspiring writers!

    Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)

  3. I titally agree with "the bossy irritating and harsh mother coupled with the silent but supportive father" cliche.

    Why are women always made out to be the shrew?

  4. lol! I think at least 90% of the books I read has at least one of these. Funny how oh so true they are.

  5. I love those crazy grandmas. Mostly because mine is the same way. :)

    I agree with you though, these devices get overused and become obnoxious. I also really hate it when author throws in "twists" that aren't really twists-know what I mean? I only read 3 of her books, but Jodi Picoult is one of those writers who throws in a "twist" at the end that I see from a mile away.

  6. LOL LOL LOL...I could relate to so many of these as wall banger plots.

  7. Oh man, great post! You've opened up Pandora's Box here - can't wait to check back in a few days to see the list expanded.

    Since I think you've covered the plot devices pretty well, here are so more general nit-picky annoyances:
    1. Hands described as "big and meaty.
    2. Talking animals.
    3. Novels beginning with someone waking up.
    4. When characters think in italics. (I'm looking at you Dan Brown.)
    5. Dreams that attempt to reveal something profound but are just dull and skippable for the reader.

    Etc. Etc.

  8. Oh the protagonist looking in the mirror thing! I see what you're doing, author, and it's not subtle at all!

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  10. Rhapsodyinbooks - I have seen that site before and have tied to avoid it because I keep hearing how addictive it is ;)

    Judith - its funny how often its used. I do wonder why though.

    Becky - they are arent they, mothers in books are horrible!

    brizmus - I know, it makes me wonder if I read enough genres LOL

    Allie - its funny as Ive only ever read one Jodi Piccout book and I was 'expecting' a twist at the end which really ruined the enjoyment fo me. I have another of her book at home but I dont think Ill be reading it anytime soon.

    bibliophile - must stay away from that site!

    Greg - thank you for those LOL - I will hopefully ad some more in a week or so. I did to get my dad thinking as he reads loads of crime novels.

    Christy - its always normally a full body mirror as well!

  11. Hi Jess thank you for stopping by my blog and adding me to sidebar!

    JoV from Reading checking in. You read great books that I wanted to read. I'll come back here more often!

  12. Excellent post! The one that always gets me is "The Somethingoranother's Wife/Daughter". I remember my brother and I walking through the bookstore and laughing everytime we passed one of these betitled books.

    I also agree with Becky, I dislike the way many women are portrayed in books, from waspish and shrew-like to cloyingly sweet and naive.

  13. Great list, where else could they go but Italy, not that I'm biased!

  14. irishrose - I think sometimes that books titles go through fashions, Im sure the publisher think ok this is what selling and then make the cover and title fit to that.

    Lindy - its either France or Italy isnt it? I know I would go to Italy.

  15. That first one is a particular pet peeve of mine!

  16. I love the sharp tongued grandmothers - they get away with saying anything - can't wait to be one of those one day! I know they are cliche but I have a real soft spot for the feisty heroine (who discovers her soft side within the storyline...).

    PS: Just found your blog and am your newest follower! Such a great idea having you guys post together.