Sunday, May 20, 2007

Taking over the world and other things on the agenda

We all have literary conventions or character quirks that we hate in fiction. Or maybe “we” don’t. Maybe I’m lumping y’all together with me. I know that there is at least one other person who agrees with me though because this friend has never been quiet on the subject of her vehement hate for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.*

First, some background on this friend (whom we’ll call Betty) is one of those super-genius people that should she ever spawn, her children will take over the world and make Brain (of Pinky and the Brain fame) look like a humble, unassuming type. No, should these—at this point imaginary—children take over, you’d better hope they like or you should go about getting out of here in a “don’t let the atmosphere burn you on the butt on the way out” fashion. Betty studied many things in our time together in college, but she wrote her senior thesis on Shakespeare. She knows the bard forwards and backwards and this breadth of knowledge has only reaffirmed the R&J hate.

Romeo and Juliet, in her opinion, were suffering from puppy love and not anything true or lasting. She just hates that is often referenced as the epitome of true love.

Which makes the fact that R&J were referenced at her wedding ceremony as an example of true and everlasting love all the more amusing. The original preacher who was supposed to perform her wedding ceremony had a heart attack the day before the wedding and the visiting preacher had to step in. Not only did Preacher #2 have an accent that made him sound suspiciously like the priest from the Princess Bride (Wuv, twue wuv), but he also felt the need to ad-lib. As Betty and her husband were sitting facing wedding guests, Preacher #2 began to address the group about their love, “Wuv everlasting and pure like the wuv of Romeo and Juliet…”

Betty was not amused.

When the wedding was finally over she stomped out of the church, practically threw her bouquet on the ground and yelled, “What? So I’m supposed to [bad word deleted because I’m at work] kill myself now!?”

Unlike Betty my biggest problem with R&J is not the puppy love passing for the true sort, but that the whole situation never would have taken place if people would have just communicated. It’s the same problem I have with Othello (although, I love Iago as a character) or any other piece of work that bases the momentum of the play on a situation that could have been rather easily resolved.

The Big Misunderstanding makes me cringe. I was flipping through a book yesterday, and as soon as I realized part of the plot hinged on the Big Mis, I started mentally composing a negative review. I hadn’t even really read the thing yet! There are books out there that have successfully pulled the contrivance off, but make the motives behind it believable, but those are few and far between.

So what about you, anything that turns you off immediately or tweaks the reading experience so much that it immediately downgrades the story? Betty and I can’t be the only ones like this.

*I apologize if I’ve told this story before, but I was reminded of it when I was dining with some friends last night and the topic of Betty’s wedding came up. Also, to be completely truthful, I’m still not fully awake despite the fact that I’ve been answering phones for two hours.


julia said...

I laughed at your not being awake despite answering phones for two hours. I'm never awake at work until lunchtime. And I don't hide the fact, either.

For me, literary style is the thing that gets to me. If the internal musings of the main character have too many 'and God help her, she did's in them, I start sliding away mentally. Also, 'of that, she could be certain.'

Travis Erwin said...

Enjoyed the story and I must confess, I have sued to MIS in my writing. Although as more of a minor comlication for my characters than for the major plot point.

Wendy said...

I'm with you and Betty - R&J is an annoying story about two kids who had no idea how to talk to each other. Bleck. I'm more of a Macbeth girl myself. Love the witches and there's all that death to liven up the proceedings.

I hate love triangles. Just loathe them to bits. The one dithering between 2 lovers comes off looking indecisive and stupid - and the 2 who are in love with the one come off as weak-willed and "whipped" (if you get my drift). Many a potential cozy mystery series has been dumped because I got a whiff of the love triangle stink.

Marta said...

Glad to learn that I'm not the only one who hates R&J. As Bugs B. would say, what a couple of maroons.

BSC, I like minor misunderstandings in stories and think they can add to the humor of a piece. But I'm not fond of the "she's mooning after the gorgeous jerk for 400 pages when the real prize is standing in front of her" theme.

Other peeves: having cable car bells chiming in SF neighborhoods that don't have cable cars; metaphors that sound impressive, but make no sense; and action scenes that are physically impossible.

Kate R said...

I loved that play back when I was in high school and thought that meant I was filled with Artistic Soul. Now I'm annoyed (or maybe embarrassed) someone fooled me into thinking those two were the business. My 15-yr-old wasn't taken in.

Ive tagged you with a meme but it might have been made for booksellerchick sort of a meme. the only work you have to do is go over to my blog and see it.

Maya Reynolds said...

I hate coincidences. And usually writers who depend on coincidences don't have just one (wasn't it Stephen King who said that readers will give you one big leap of faith?) . . . no, they have to have coincidence upon coincidence.

It's a dealbreaker for me.

Ann(ie) said...

I hate secret babies, myself.

A woman with no common sense decides, "I will raise this baby alone, rather than force the father to do something he doesn't want to do!" Well fuck that. He doesn't have to marry her, but he should be offered the chance to be part of the child's life. If he turns it down, that's on him. But he should be told, dammit.

I also hate boss / secretary stories. It's just squicky.

Hot Teacher Chick said...

Awkward embarrassment scenes- in movies or books, where everything that could possibly go wrong does and Our Hero is pantsless in the cafeteria.

Unless that awkward embarrassment is happening to my friend, on her wedding day, while the father drones on and on about R&J while I hold her bouquet (and a few squirmy flower girls). Damn, that was a funny day.

quichepup said...

My son hated R&J almost as much as I did. It was compounded by watching the Claire Danes/Leonardo DiCaprio version. The paralyzing potion is what did it for me and how Romeo offs himself before she wakes up. Probably the ultimate in misunderstandings.

A little improbability is OK but it needs to make sense. Too much slang bugs me too, worst example is the stuff Bernstein made up for West Side Story.

Calley said...

Personally, I struggle with stories that have the Deus Ex Machina element in them. I, like most readers, find it insulting when an author simply gets too lazy to come up with a feasible resolution.