There are a number of storylines that I love and adore. There are character types that I gravitate toward and connect to easily. But then there are storylines that make me groan out loud. There are just some plot lines that I cannot understand and have never read in an enjoyable way.
I was talking with my mom the other day about stories and we ended up discussing plot lines that drive us crazy. There are two that came to mind for me as we talked, two that I cannot see myself ever actually writing. I have seen these in books, on TV and in movies. They are common and that may be one of the reasons they drive me nuts. They are overdone and done the same way time after time.
Now this is not meant to hate on anyone who writes these storylines. I understand that sometimes they are necessary and unavoidable. And there is a possibility that I may end up having to write some form of these for a story in the future. But I will avoid it with all my heart if I can, without sacrificing the story in the process, that is. Again I am in no way taking down any writers who use these plot lines in their stories, these are just ones that irritate me to no end.
The first storyline that irks me is the, I will hide a secret from you in order to “protect,” you, one. This is my number one pet peeve when it comes to stories. I have audibly groaned and swore when I’ve read this or seen it on TV or in a movie. Hearing a character tell someone they can’t know something because it is for their own safety makes me want to scream.
This is common in the superhero genre as well as the supernatural genre. Most recently this has driven me crazy in the show The Flash. (If you haven’t caught up yet with the show, minor spoilers ahead). Barry has a girlfriend that he is falling in love with, Patty. He is always running off and canceling dates with her under mysterious circumstances. Patty, of course, is suspicious and gets upset. Who wouldn’t? He is always running off without any explanation. Of course, she questions the relationship and if there anything true between them. I would!
But Barry refuses to tell her who he is because he is afraid that his enemies will come after her. He refuses to put her in danger. This is always the justification for this type of behavior. It is all too dangerous for you, I know the situation best. I will keep everything from you in order to save you. Though they always end up having friends who they have by their side. It is okay for them to be in this supposed danger but not for this significant other.
Yes, I know that usually the hero believes they understand the situation and is doing it for the best. But is it always for the best? Usually, no. Most of the time they lose or almost lose their boyfriend/girlfriend in the process. Of course, the other person is tired of being lied to and not trusted. It gets tiring being in that relationship. There is this huge hole that hovers between the two of them. The protagonist is always having to hide while the other person has to figure out what is happening. Suspicions arise, and trust is broken or not formed. It is no surprise when the significant other leaves.
What aggravates me the most about this is it diminishes the significant
other’s character. It weakens them. That person is shown to be naive and unable to take care of themselves. Instead of sitting them down and explaining everything that has happened and can happen, and then letting them use the information to decided if they are going to stay or go, the hero makes that decision for them. All of a sudden, you have an uneven dynamic between the two characters. The significant other is now the damsel that has to be saved, instead of being able to take care of themselves. Sure, it may be too much but the other person should be able to decide that for themselves.
I can personally say that it would piss me off to no end if I was with someone and they kept something from me because they didn’t think I could take care of myself. That proves they have no trust in me. I may not understand it all right away but you learn fast in those situations. I can then say either, “I can handle this!” or “Hell no, this is too much. Too scary and too dangerous. I’m out.”
I want to see this storyline with the significant other being given the ability to make the decision for themselves. I want the protagonist to trust the person they chose. To think that they could be able to listen and stay protected. Their friends are able to do it so why can’t their lover do it as well? Is their lover less capable than a friend? I would hope not.
Have you read a book or seen a movie where this storyline is done differently? Where the hero doesn’t keep everything from them because of this “safety,” issue? I would love to read it or see it be done differently. I would love for my opinion to be changed on this one!
As an off-shoot from this one, there is the storyline where the hero or protagonist tries to run away because they have to “protect,” everyone. Again when has that ever worked out well? Harry tries to do it in the last Harry Potter book, upset because people keep getting hurt and killed around him. He thinks without him they will be safe, which is ridiculous. Thankfully Ron calls him out on it and snaps him back to reality.
The running away trope never helps anyone. No one is safer without the protagonist! They are usually in much more danger than before. They do not save anyone by doing this. I dislike this because it makes the protagonist arrogant and selfish. They are apparently the only ones who understands anything that is going on around them. It is very rare that the problem they are dealing with affects them and only them. Running from friends or keeping their significant other at arms length never helps anything. Tell the people you care about and have them help. That usually is how things end well and no one gets hurt. Secrets get people killed.
The second storyline that drives me crazy is closely related to the above, centered more around the significant other’s reaction. It is again where one of the characters is either being threatened or has a secret. They become distant because of it and their significant other automatically starts to believe that they are being cheated on or are going to be broken up with. They assume that the distant is because of infidelity, or some other similar betrayal.
Now, sometimes this may make sense but a lot of the times it doesn’t. This happens most of the time when the two characters have a relationship that is supposed to be solid, one they have built for years. Never has the fear of infidelity been an issue before. Never have they had any distrust in their partner. Now without any discussion, they assume the worst.
What annoys me most about this one is that no one ever talks about it! They never corner their boyfriend/girlfriend and demand to know what is going on. If they do ask, they ask once, get a shitty answer and then walk away, convinced they have their true answer. Instead, I would like to see the other person stand their ground.
This is what I want to see:
Significant other: “ Where are you going? You’ve been distant lately. Rarely talking to me. Weird calls and going off without any details. What is going on?”
Protagonist: “Nothing. I’m fine. Just a few work things.”
Significant other: “Bullshit. Try again. You aren’t doing any work things. So either you are cheating on me, which you better not be, or you are hiding something else. Talk.”
Protagonist: “I can’t. You wouldn’t understand.”
Significant other: “Try me. I can do this back and forth all night. You will tell me what is going on sooner or later. I know something is wrong. I know you well enough to know you are keeping something from me. I know us well enough to know that it isn’t another person. So don’t insult me by keeping this game going.”
This would then go on for a bit longer until the protagonist finally started talking. I want to see this because it would show that the characters understand what kind of relationship they have. I want to see that they know each other. Sure, cheating could be it but it never is. Hell, this done in sitcoms where one person is setting up some big party or getaway and meeting with a friend to plan it. The other always thinks they are cheating, never tries to think about anything else.
Trust the other one. This whole thing diminishes the trust between the two people. It makes them seem like they don’t actually know one another. I hate that. If you do all this work to build these two people relationship, don’t destroy them in one moment with this kind of thing. This could very well be a way to strengthen their relationship even more.
These are just some of the plot lines that drive me crazy. I know they are similar, playing off each other. I have seen these and read them often. As I stated I am not trying to tear anyone down who uses them and sometimes they are necessary but think about how this affects the story. Does it help the characters at all? Or does it diminish one or both of the characters? Is it what you want from them? Or is another, more original way to tell this story?
If you have read any these plot lines that are done differently or are flipped on their head from this I would love to hear about them. I would love to read or see this done in a new way. Please feel free to share the titles or authors with me!