When a critiquing partner gave me feedback on a manuscript he told me the ending was weak. Then he made a suggestion.

My female cop could encounter the antagonist alone.

I'm fairly certain he heard my groaning on his side of the pond. I did not want to do the typical "woman in danger to be saved by male partner" scenario. Since there was a female criminal in the story as well this discussion moved on to suggestions that my female cop could catch the female criminal and maybe there could be white t-shirts and some mud involved...

A few of my reads this year have had something in them that made me roll my eyes. Some "Even a blind man could have seen that coming" moment. What overused plot twists/storylines/cliched characters are you sick of seeing? And can you think of a book where you thought everything was predictable and you knew what would happen and then the author threw a curve at you that you didn't expect and really made it work? When was the last time a book really surprised you?

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One of the things I'm tired of lately is what I'd call the "country house" mystery-- though it can take place anywhere. One of the people staying at the country house committed the murder-- and the sleuth (whether professional or amateur) must go through them, one by one. It just seems so predictable to me. I want a detective to follow where the case leads, not start out with a pre-programmed list of suspects to work through.
There was a key moment in Erica Orloff's The Roofer that completely surprised me. Don't let the title fool you. It's not about someone who nails shingles to the tops of houses. It involves a New York gang called The Westies, and a man infamous for throwing enemies off high rooftops.

It's an edgy crime novel, beautifully-written in first-person. Check it out.
Sandra, just curious. Was there no way for your character not to be saved by her male partner? What if she got out of it by herself?
That was discussed. That ms hasn't been resolved, but one of the other dilemmas you face is making it realistic. Take your average 120-130 lb woman and put her against a guy who's 160-170 and then get odds on who'll come out on top in a confrontation. I'm not saying there aren't women who'll win, but it has to be believable. It's a harder sell.

The whole reason for the suggestion was that the reader felt my ending needed more suspense, which to me meant she couldn't just charge off and pull a gun on him - nothing suspenseful about that, unless he manages to knock the gun away and it becomes a physical fight where you actually believe she could be killed. And then it goes round to the believability issue, for me, anyway.

And it was imperative that he be caught alive, for other reasons.

It never bugged me, because the story wasn't meant to be action - it was a story where it was far more about the impact of what happened on one person (the male cop). I also find sometimes when I read books such a concerted effort seems to be made to make the ending dramatic that the book loses credibility. On the other hand, your ending has to be solid. To me, it's a delicate balance. Biggest thing for me is, this is a smart female cop who wouldn't be foolish enough to rush off and make an arrest by herself.

But there are other ways to strengthen it if/when I need to. I just find a lot of books seem to rely on the same basic cliches/stereotypes/recycled plots and it gets old fast.
Not to beat a dead horse. Just wanted to mention that many police academies are figuring out how to modify hand-to-hand combat training to leverage women's natural centers of gravity (our hips) rather than asking them to rely on their shoulders as men do. So a small woman taking on a large man IS realistic - if she had the proper training/trainer, which you'd obviously need to set up earlier!
As someone who has trained though, I know it's still very easy for a woman to get her ass kicked. If someone's going to write that and convince me they definitely need it built into the character and the storyline to sell it. More than anything (for me in this case) it goes to the situation - they're going to arrest the guy. No way would this particular female cop rush off to confront this guy alone. In the scenario they're all entering the house with a warrant for arrest, and even if she happened to encounter the guy first on her own someone wouldn't be far behind her. Since she's the lone, dominant female cop (the only female cop with a name in the ms) it stands to reason the person not far behind her would be a guy.

It's just an example, though, of where I found myself getting my back up automatically because of overused story elements. It's one of the most consistent comments I get in feedback for stories submitted to Spinetingler - "Seen this story a million times and there's no fresh spin on it."
Give her a taser and fry him in the nuts. That'll take down any man.
So you're suggesting a weenie roast, Stephen?
I just want to say up front that I mean all this in the friendliest and most helpful way. I don't mean it to be snarky at all. Okay, here goes:

Sure, she can (and should) just pull the gun and arrest him - she's a cop, it's her job, she does it all the time. There's just no way in the world we believe she can be killed in this scene (in your 10th book, maybe, but even then...), there's no real suspense. In fact, to answer your question about what overused device I'm sick of it's this main character in peril thing. Unless you start offing other main characters after page 300, I skip the fight scene and go to the outcome.

If it never bugged you, it shouldn't bug you now. You're writing a book, not a movie - they're different. You're absolutely right, this effort to make the ending "dramatic" almost always causes it to lose credibility. And because almost never (ever, ever) does the outcome ever differ from what you thought it would be, how can there be any suspense? Unless this is the first book the reader's ever read...

Of course, you have to keep in mind, I just won a "worst ending" award.
But John, I don't understand why the fuck that person thought your ending was bad. Not for the life of me. I mean, I've read a few weak endings, sure, in the span of all books I've read but never even considered your book close to that category. And I'm not just saying that. I mean, you **** people up and, well, uh, you know.

On a completely different topic, they're filming the Mayerthorpe movie in the village that neighbours mine, so it will be famous on Canadian TV as the stand-in for that. My village remains the hot spot for Brokeback Mountain groupies who want to see where it was filmed.
Skill is more important than size, IMO.

Wait a minute...

What was the topic again? ;)
Perhaps we should move this over to another thread and see what the popular consensus is Jude!


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