Annoying Things In Internet Fiction - Part 2
A list of more annoying things in Internet fiction gathered circa June of 2014.
Characters with opinions imposed by their creators.
These are characters who have opinions about people and things (but usually people) that don’t come from any actual in-story experiences or opinion osmosis that would justify those opinions, but rather from the author’s own perceptions and prejudices. This happens quite frequently in fanfiction, though it can occur in original fiction as well.
For example, canon supervillain Breakfire had a difficult childhood that contributed to his villainous behavior in adulthood that ended up with thousands of people dying. Maggie decides that Breakfire’s behavior must have stemmed from being mistreated and that all he needs is some love and affection to make him all better. However, Maggie doesn’t actually have any way to know that this is the case - she’s just surmising, and those surmisings of hers come off as mighty weird when the only facts that Maggie knows about Breakfire is that he’s some supervillain/terrorist who killed thousands of people, most probably including some people she actually knew.
Even worse are when the author’s perceptions aren’t based on actually observing the character’s actions, but are based on what someone said about the character. For example, in the canon material Sammy described Chandra as a “selfish, whiny, pathetic coward,” though Chandra’s actions in canon show that Sammy’s assessment is incorrect. Fanfiction character Lucy meets Chandra and after talking to her for all of two minutes about relatively trivial matters, then decides that Chandra is a selfish, whiny, pathetic coward - even though nothing that Chandra says during the course of the conversation would actually indicate these traits unless Lucy had already made her mind up about Chandra’s personality and was going on Confirmation Bias… and yet, Lucy has never even spoken to Sammy to have this preconception about Chandra’s character in the first place.
The many sins of summary writing.
The purpose of a summary is to give a brief description so that potential readers know what it's about and whether or not they want to read it. Without a summary, people have nothing to go by to let them know whether it's the type of story they want to read. That said, if you're shy about writing a summary because you think it'll suck, here are a few things to watch out for:
Summaries that pretend there is mystery where there is none. For example:
- "Cam and Lex have always hated each other, but could a new peril they face make them change their minds?" The answer to questions like these is "yes" pretty much every time, so there's no real mystery there. Something like "Facing peril together and forced to rely on each other, Cam and Lex begin to see each other in a new light" gets the point across nicely.
- "A certain x..." Odds are good we already know or what who you're talking about. If it's going to be blatantly obvious to anyone who is remotely familiar with the 'verse, just use the name of the person or thing already.
"Read the story to find out what happens!" It's sort of a given that this is what one does to find out what happens in a story.
"I suck at summaries!" Look, as long as you're capable of writing something that tells readers what kind of story they can expect without the aforementioned issues, you're doing pretty good. Also, if you inform people that you didn't write a summary because you're awful at writing them, ask yourself this: why should people expect someone who can't even write a summary to be any good at writing an entire story?
Not-so-average "average" protagonists
An all-too-common occurrence: the narrative describes the protagonist as, say, "an average teenager." Then the story proceeds to describe or illustrate our teen as definitely being above-average in looks… if not absolutely stunning. These are not "average" teenagers, contrary to what TV and fashion magazines might have people think.
The pointless pendant.
A character will have a special pendant over which much attention is given, but it won't actually have anything to do with the plot. For example, a young lass is given a pendant that does absolutely nothing except give her something to feel sentimental over (because it was usually given to her by her dead or missing parents or something) and have something pretty to wear. Sometimes it doesn't even do that much. Inevitably the pendant will be described in loving detail so that the audience knows exactly what an awesome piece of glam the protagonist scored.
First, Chekhov calling: if you're going to describe something like that, then it needs to have relevance to the actual plot somehow. Otherwise, it's just cruft and has no reason to be given any real attention. Annie's heart locket was actually relevant to the plot of the Little Orphan Annie stageplay. Elizabeth Swann's special pendant turned out to be a piece of cursed gold that the pirates were looking for in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Secondly, why is it always a pendant? Why not some other personal item - perhaps something that isn't even jewelry? Why not a heartfelt letter, especially if it's supposed to be a token of someone's love? Don't overlook other options.
Much ado about clothing.
The protagonist must have a great wardrobe, and the audience must know it... even if it makes no sense in-universe or slows the plot down.
For example, one character was brought to work with a military-like organization to stop an imminent crisis. Instead of simply being given a set of standard-issue clothing like most people working for the organization would have worn, she was given a whole wardrobe of fairly fashionable casual clothing procured specially for her.
It's also not unusual to see stories where protagonists are given their very own extravagant wardrobes practically overnight that fit perfectly despite at least one of the following:
- The clothes would have required being tailored by hand.
- The character has never had measurements taken. The clothes are absurdly extravagant for something bought as daywear for a guest.
- Somebody would have had to go completely out of xir way to see to it that the character had such nice stuff.
...Rather than have some off-the-rack basics procured for the character for the time being or just let the character temporarily borrow someone else's clothes.
Nonsensical royal matchmaking.
The time has come for the crown prince to choose a bride! There's no need for a political marriage right now, so the prince can pick pretty much anyone! Does the royal family sit him down and ask him what he wants he wants in a partner to try and help him find someone compatible? Are young women vetted and interviewed to see if they'd be the sort of person who might be appropriate for the prince and make a good queen in the future? Do they arrange for him to meet and get to know potential prospects before a decision is finalized? Ha, don't be ridiculous! One of these two time-honored traditions will surely do the trick!
The Contest: Some sort of competition is held where the conditions for success have absolutely no bearing on whether the gal would be a compatible partner for the prince or whether she'd be able to perform the duties expected of a queen.
It needn't necessarily be a prince that's getting hitched, either - occasionally it's a king. In any case, one does have to question the competence of a royals who'd leave such an important and serious matter up to fancy or chance.
You might also be interested in:
Annoying Things In Internet Fiction
Describing Your Character: Tips & Advice
Tips To Write Better Royalty, Nobility, & Other Upper-Class & Important Characters
Tips For Writing Fanfiction With An OC Protagonist