Notes from Crew Quarters: Not Again!
This week, we asked our editors: What is a trope in writing that you are tired of seeing?
Jacque Boucher, Spoken Word Poetry
Young men contemplating their lives and the women who hurt them over coffee in a diner, always while being served by a waitress they feel is either very beautiful or very ugly.
Ethan Brightbill, Associate Fiction Editor
Male midlife crises, although at this point, any midlife crisis has to be awfully impressive to interest me. And while it's by no means general, characters smirking to show contempt or that they are clever seems very common in bad writing. I'm sure the word "smirked" has appeared in a great story at some point in history, but I have yet to encounter an example.
Matt Ftacek, Associate Poetry Editor
Poems about whiskey, cigarettes, rest stops, or any other similar "gritty" piece of Americana.
Deziree’ Brown, Associate Poetry Editor
Men contemplating life through objectification of women at a bar. Stereotypical epiphanies. The 'black friend,' 'gay friend,' and all other attempts to put people into boxes. Men that brood in the dark while stroking their beard. And corny love poems.
Robin McCarthy, Managing Editor
Two or more male characters consuming beer, whiskey or weed and discussing one or more female characters who are frequently, although not always, referred to as "crazy." This is usually the opening to a story in which women act as props for male self-discovery. Often involves a pick-up truck or the catching of a fish, and unless a female character is a mother or unattractive, we learn about her tits or ass early and in place of other, more substantive characteristics. Usually includes an above-average amount of swear words and is seldom interesting.
Hayley Fitz, Associate Fiction Editor
Humor at the expense of others, whether that means other characters or other types of people or the reader. Also, humor that doesn't do any work. I've seen a lot of stories lately opening up with a funny line or joke or something, but then that opening was just a hook and has nothing to do with the rest of the story.
John LaPine, Associate Nonfiction Editor
Seconding poems about cigarettes. Poems about love. Any writing about love (Happy Valentine's Day!). Birds as metaphor. Memoirs, the whole genre (aka "It all started when my mom died from cancer"). Moms with cancer.
Not really tropes, but use of passive voice. The word "slyly." Actually, any adverb.
Monica McFawn, Fiction Editor
Mournful, emo sexual encounters described with a straining, idiosyncratic metaphor, I.e. "She rolled me over her stone-smooth body, eroding me." Followed by a big paragraph break and the word "Afterwards..."
Amy Hansen, Associate Poetry Editor
Cities are big and lonely. Over it.
Hayli Cox, Associate Nonfiction Editor
Too many adverbs, too much contemplation, and too much of a sense of the writer writing.
Ashely Adams, Associate Nonfiction Editor
When fantasy stories use "historical accuracy" as an excuse to get out of problematic story telling. Oh yeah, dragons and wizards are a-okay, but somehow the integrity of the story would break down if you had decent representation of someone not cishet white male?
Annie Bilancini, Associate Fiction Editor
I hate it when stories spontaneously combust. Like, not only does it ruin the story, but it's unsafe. Fire is dangerous. Especially when that fire is the result of spontaneous combustion. I watched a documentary once about spontaneous combustion, and they talked about how all the was left of one lady was her shoes. And you know how they said she died? Reading.
Willow Grosz, Associate Fiction Editor
Like Annie, I went through a phase where I would just stop reading immediately when a story spontaneously combusted, but now that the trope has been around for a while I find people are starting to rewrite it in interesting ways. I'll generally at least stick with a story for another page after it spontaneously combusts. But that's just me. Fire gets a bad rap. It's when a story opens a portal in time and space that I start rolling my eyes and yawning now.
Sarah David, Associate Fiction Editor
Yes for all of the comments about people contemplating life at bars while demoralizing others. Especially the characters who are constantly drunk or stoned-- I feel like we've been getting a lot of those in the queue lately...no, your character's self-destructive behavior is not impressing me, but would you like to talk? For reals? I'm concerned. Ooh, also this one, even if it makes me sound like a mean old fogey: jealous teenagers in love.