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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I'm sorry. I deliberately steered the thread off track so no one would know how little I read. Or at least how little I remember what I read. :P
Geesh, no worries Christa! I'm a painfully slow reader. I've just read a lot recently by necessity. Yesterday I was tied to a bed as I'm pressing hard to finish a book and get a review in for the new Spinetingler.

And it's very hard for me to sit for the length of time it takes me to read the average book straight through. In an average month I'd say I usually read three or four books - and that's IF I'm not working on a manuscript. I'm on my sixth book this month, and expect to finish a seventh before April. But this is a real rare month for me, and when I start the next ms in earnest my reading will suffer.
Oh, I was trying to be funny!

I read about a book every other month right now. It's terrible, and I miss it. Not to mention it's not a great example for the kids (especially as Hamlet is starting to express interest in reading). I generally get back to it when I notice my writing starts to suffer... and when my freelance schedule allows it. Sigh.
Yes, but, I bet you're reading a lot of kids books to them. You've got two young children - that'll keep anyone's hands full!
Let me make a comparison between predictability that works and predictability that doesn't. What worked for me: the train wreck happening in House of Sand and Fog. Towards the end, events unfolded that logically led to the next. But by then, Dubus had so intricately plotted each character that I was hoping they wouldn't do what I thought they were going to. When they did (not precisely, but close enough), it was that much more devastating.

On the other hand, Tawni D'Dell's Coal Run was terribly predictable, and that made it boring. I cared less about the characters because it was so obvious where they were going.
Well...I can understand not wanting to make the ending a)predictable and b)unbelievable. On the other hand, there are ways to make this work. If your protag goes to make the arrest with another officer, the other officer can be delayed or injured, adding to the suspense. It's also a way to give the protag a chance to use her brain in addition to her physicality & training before her fellow officer arrives to help finish/clean up. It's possible to pull it off, though a bit tricky.

If you've done your job in the rest of the book, the reader will be so engaged in the story & so concerned about the protag's safety/taking down the killer, that unless you really make it rote, the scenario suggested could work just fine.

My biggest beef in modern crime fic has less to do with the final showdown than with the final twist. I can't tell you how rare it is for me to read a book & actually be surprised by the twist. I can usually spot them a mile off. You know, "oh look, THAT'S coming back for sure." Then again, I figured out the "secrets" to "The Sixth Sense" and "Fight Club" (and no, I hadn't read the book for "Fight Club," but I sure as hell did after the film) long before the denoument, so I may not be the best person to comment on the effectiveness of a twist. One of the more effective ones I've read happens near the end of AMERICAN SKIN. Made my day when I realized I was wrong!
Totally with you there Angie. I find reviewing Bruen books a bit of a trick to review because I don't want to give anything away!

That said, when the issue goes up in a couple days, I have a review of a book that could have been an A on my reading list despite some obvious issues of predictability, but the author blew it at the end. A wise man once said to me your ending sells your next book. I've thought about that - could be the subject of a whole other thread. But I loved the character and I was engrossed by the story despite the fact that it was obvious where things were going but that believability issue for me did undermine my overall level of satisfaction with the story.

As is addressed in more detail in the review...
Personally, I'm sick of fiendish serial killers who seem to exist solely to provide multiple bodies on demand and a climactic scene where the intrepid protagonist is trapped alone with said fiend. To hold my interest in such a book the author must have either a very interesting set of characters or some brand new technique of criminal investigation. Or perhaps both as Jeffery Deaver manages to accomplish. I like to learn something when I read.
It might be something about dog training, or photography or culture or local history. I just enjoy that added facet of expertise because I know there are entire fields of knowledge about which I know nothing. So teach me. Of course you must also entertain and not give a lecture.
FEMJEP!! You know the sort of thing. Our heroine hears a noise in the basement, the power is out, she is wearing tight skirt and stilettos and despite previous attempts on her life, goes down the stairs armed only with her small purse. Flinging book against the wall time.

Then there is the old with-holding information trick that really annoys me. "I asked her a question and what she told me revealed all". But we're not told what that was. Forget it..

OH and of course the one where the whole investigation has gone along in a rather cerebral fashion and suddenly at the end there's a chase and confrontation scene. Doesn't always work for me.

Yes, there was a book that threw me a giant curve. It was DEAD SIMPLE by Peter James. Stag night party. The prank was putting the groomsman in a coffin and burying him and leaving him for a while. Car is hit by truck and occupants are killed leaving groom stuck in coffin. It was all reading like a plot from an episode of CSI I saw once until around half way, when the author did an abrupt about face and nothing was quite what it seemed.
Sandra, are you taking into account that people who create plots for a living are harder to surprise? Granted, the writer who told me, in detail, how George R.R. Martin's A Song Of Ice and Fire series is going to turn out was a bit ambitious; but in general, you think in plot ramifications and are more likely to be able to predict them than your general audience.

(The one I'm sick of is Main Character Endangered By Being Unjustly Suspected of Murder. Once, good, twice, okay, but three thousand times, it's tired!)
Possibly to some degree, but there are a lot of readers who are exceptionally well read and have more pet peeves than I do. A book I read very early on after I started reading crime fiction is my GAG book for a long list of reasons - one I referenced on David's POV thread today, but also because of FEMJEP.

And there's a discussion going on right now on 4MA about a series of books and how tired the readers are of the overuse of FEMJEP in the books. It is hard to know how much to discount because of how an author's mind works, but I see similar complaints from readers as well.

It's very hard when I review because I try to be fair...
The Cleaner, by Brett Battles. It's the only ending I've read in ... three years? four? five? ten? ... that was a complete surprise to me, and yet perfectly obvious once it was revealed. So, so, so cool!

And Sandra, I hear you. I was appalled when I learned that woman-in-jeopardy was actually a "plot type," and sometimes even referred to as a genre. I hate that passionately. I don't know why, but I do. There's some darn good writing and some great suspense in some of those books!


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