Top Ten Tuesday: Unpopular Bookish Opinions

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

It’s going to be interesting to see how everyone responds to this week’s prompt. I wasn’t sure if I could come up with enough responses to justify participating this week, but luckily I did.

1. Sometimes the movie is better than the book.

For example, The Hobbit was a fantastic book. Peter Jackson’s trilogy based on it was not something I’d ever watch again.

2. While I regularly seek out #OwnVoices stories, every author who is willing to do the appropriate research should feel free to create characters from any background or identity they wish.

Speaking as someone who is bisexual, it makes me so happy when mono-sexual authors write bi characters so long as they talk to people from my community about our experiences and listen to our feedback on how to create non-stereotypical characters if they have any questions about the appropriateness of their ideas.

The more representation we get, the better! I’d also love it if we could create a literary culture that expects inclusivity in every story and applauds authors who put the work in that is necessary to create fresh characters from a wide range of backgrounds.

3.Stalking and jealousy aren’t romantic.

I see this a lot in young adult novels especially, but it bothers me when a young girl is harassed by a guy who knows she’s completely uninterested in him. It’s even more concerning when he continues to pursue her no matter how often she turns him down or tries to avoid him. Sometimes these “love interests” will also start telling her to stop talking to certain people, insist she dress a certain way, or make other big changes to who she is as a human being without her consent.

The thing is, this isn’t romance. It’s abuse. This is a totally unacceptable way for anyone to behave and should never be part of any romantic storyline…especially when it’s written for teenagers who might not have enough life experience yet to catch these red flags if or when they pop up in real life.

4.  Characters who die must stay dead.

I’m looking at you, super heroes and other inhabitants of graphic novels.

Exceptions to this rule include ghosts, zombies, and vampires, but  character can only be one of them. If they take this path, they should be exactly as dangerous as all of the other ghosts, zombies, or vampires out there.

I have no interest in the “true love makes it safe to kiss a creature that wants to eat me” trope. If a character is a monster, let them be a proper monster.

5. Short books are better than long ones.

There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but in general I believe it’s better to leave the audience wanting more than to turn what could have been a tightly-written 200 page novel into a 400+ page monstrosity.

I do not need dozens of pages of descriptions of the flora and fauna of a universe in the vast majority of cases. Give me the basic rundown of how that world is different from the one I live in and let my imagination fill in the gaps. It’s so much nicer to get straight to the plot than it is to wade through what I think of as unnecessary descriptions.

6. Proselytizing books are unhelpful.

No, this isn’t about any particular religion, ethical stance, or philosophical belief. I don’t care what point the author is trying to make or even if I happen to agree with them. Books should never be used as an excuse to sermonize.

They should be used to, you know, tell a story and entertain their audience. By all means introduce a sympathetic character who happens to be on your side of issue X if it happens to genuinely fit the storyline, but always stay focused on developing the plot and characters instead of pressuring the audience to join you in your love of big, purple hats or personal vendetta against cilantro.

7. Hype is like a drug

I tend to be cautious about books that are heavily hyped up. If they’re still receiving glowing reviews six months or a year after they are published, I will start to take the overwhelmingly positive response to them more seriously.

This isn’t to say that I avoid reading books that have overwhelmingly positive reviews, only that I try to temper my expectations if the response to them feels too good to be true.

8. Excessive slang makes novels feel dated before their time.

In no way do I expect characters to speak formal English all the time, but will we remember what TBF or honey wagon means 20 years from now? If every single scene in a book is filled with slang terms that are only a few months or years old, it makes me wonder if people will still find it readable in the future.

9. Some love triangles should have unconventional endings.

Love triangles would be rare if I had my way. In my opinion, they’re overused and often take up space that would be better allotted to resolving the main conflict. If they’re going to keep existing, why not wrap them up by:

  • Everyone turning out to be polyamorous
  • The main character choosing to keep dating around instead of picking from their first two options
  • The two love interests deciding to date while the main character ends up happily alone
  • All three characters finding partners who are better matches for themselves elsewhere
  • Everyone ending up happily single for now (or forever)
  • The main character picking one person for a romantic, committed, asexual happily ever after

I believe we need much more diversity in what is counted as a happy ending in tales that decide to make love a conflict.

10. Most stories should not have romantic subplots at all.

This might be my most unpopular bookish opinion of all, but I’ve grown weary of how often characters in non-romance genres suddenly end up in relationships when they have more pressing concerns in their lives like running from a hoard of zombies or figuring out who the killer really is before they become his next victim.

Look, I’ve been happily married for years. Romance and love are incredible experiences…but there are many other equally thrilling things to explore in fiction and in real life.

I dislike the cultural pressure that is placed on folks to be married or in a longterm romantic relationship regardless of whether that’s something they actually desire in the short term or long term.  I feel like making every character have a love interest only makes this pressure more intense.

Despite the occasionally critical things I’ve had to say about romantic plots today, I am in no way opposed to them in general. I simply wish it were as common for characters to be asexual, demisexual, polyamorous, or even simply too focused on building a career, dating around, or fighting the undead to settle down right now as it is for everyone to pair off by the final scene in so many of the books out there.

116 Responses to Top Ten Tuesday: Unpopular Bookish Opinions

  1. Great list Lydia! I don’t mind the romantic sub-plots so much (I like romance!) I just don’t like it when they aren’t well done (instalove) or are too predictable. I’d love to see a love triangle with an unconventional ending!

    • Great article! I love love love romance in a book, but it has to ‘fit the story’! But this goes for everything though. So many elements in a book nowadays, especially in the YA genre for example, is often there because society ‘needs’ it to be there which impacts the author’s writing imo. It just has to be in good balance haha.

  2. Love your list! I totally agree with 10 – as someone who’s single I’d love to see more characters in fiction choosing to be single and celebrating it, rather than being constantly told through fiction that I must be terribly lonely. Also 100% YES to 4 – I want death to mean something and for actions to have consequences, if anyone can come back from the dead then why I should I worry about anyone?

  3. Gosh I can’t agree enough about romantic sub plots. For me, they quite often feel very contrived and get in the way of the action. I have many friends who are happily single and are accomplished, interesting and fulfilled individuals and I should like to see that reflected in novels. I enjoyed considering these points with you!

    • Yes, exactly.

      Romantic storylines that feel natural are perfectly fine to me. I often enjoy them.

      Just don’t push romance into a story that doesn’t need it! 🙂

      And thanks.

  4. Great list! I do agree that running for your life is more important than falling in love, but I am a big romance reader too so I do enjoy romance as subplot when it’s done well and doesn’t feel forced 🙂 And yes, hype is so much like a drug! It’s so dangerous and being part of bookstagram has definitely made it 1000 times more potent for me lol

    My TTT

  5. I love your list. I’ve been burned by hype so I try to avoid it. If a book is really hyped and I want to read it, I usually let the hype pass. That works better for me. Like you, I like my monsters mean. I do like urban fantasy so a lot of times there are romantic elements with shifters and things but when it comes to vampires, I draw the line. I want them mean and vicious…and without sparkle.

    I also don’t feel every book needs a romantic involvement. I don’t hate romance, but I don’t read strictly for it either. There’s usually not a lot in horror which is good. I actually like long books. I don’t think the length matters as long as the story is good. I’ve read both great short AND long books.

    Again, nice list!

  6. I read a quote somewhere that made me laugh and nod in agreement. “A love triangle is a threesome that hasn’t figured it out yet.” So yeah, I agree with your first bullet point there. 😀

    Also, I once had to return a book I’d taken for review because there was so much Brit slang that I understood NOTHING. That is not fun by any stretch of the imagination.

    Here is our Top Ten Tuesday. Thanks!

  7. I am 100% with you on love triangles, unneeded romance subplots, and too-long books. I think most books could use better editing, to be honest. (Not to say I won’t read a 400+ page novel, or that all books that long are too long. But in general, long books need pruning.)

  8. Ah, number two is so important! I absolutely HATE the whole “write what you know” thing. How boring is that? Also, fantasy wouldn’t be a thing. And I would no longer be able to be able to be friends with murder mystery authors, just in case.

    I confess that I love the coming back to life trope, but only in genres where it belongs. Like with superheroes, if they didn’t come back, that would be disappointing. It just fits the tone, I guess. And in anime/manga. I mean, everyone in Dragonball Z has died at least once and been brought back. It feels more like a running gag at this point lol.

    I definitely agree about the hype. I’m always suspicious of books that seem like everyone loves them, because I often feel like they don’t live up to that (and really, how could they?).

    You know, I was just thinking the same thing about love triangles while reading another post. I’d love to see it end slightly differently, like if the two love interests chose each other instead of the MC. How fun would that be?! Great list!

  9. I completely agree about shorter books vs. longer ones. I have been contemplating reading Outlander but am balking at the page count of the first novel alone, for the reasons you mention. This was a great list!

  10. Great list! I agree with most of them, especially with 2, 8, and 10.

    2 – No one is perfect. For as long as the book is written without bias or without ill intentions, I will recognize and appreciate the effort.
    8 – I recently read a book that incorporated slang and references used when I was growing up, so it quite entertaining for me to read. I don’t think younger readers (or when they grow up) will find these as entertaining though. I’ve found that every time I visit my hometown, the slang I learned from my last trip is no longer widely used, so I don’t understand why some writers incorporate too much slang in their books.
    10 – YESSSS. While I enjoy love stories here and there, I don’t think they’re absolutely necessary in all stories. I tend to like stories more when I realize that there was no (almost random) romantic ending for anyone.

    I’m a bit more flexible with 9 depending on the writing/execution. 🙂

    Looking forward to reading your future posts!

  11. Awesome list! I agree with a lot, but especially:

    Lately, a lot of book adaptations have blown me away. The most recent one being Good Omens.

    As for the stalking/jealousy thing… Omg yes. Could not finish a Discovery of Witches because the relationship felt so toxic and creepy.

  12. I agree with you on several of these (although I like the romantic subplots most of the time). Stalking is not cute; if you’re going to write that into the story it should be obvious that that kind of thing is not healthy. Not only can slang make a book dated, so can technology. A book I absolutely love seems a little dated now when I read about people checking their pagers. Echoes compares the size of one of the leaves to be “about the size of an iPad.” It works if you’re writing a book that is rooted into one specific time period, but if the year is ambiguous, it can limit the lifespan of a book.

    • Yes, exactly. I have no problem reading books about abusive relationship when the narrator is clear that what the abusive partner is doing is NOT okay. I do have a problem with the romanticization of this.

      And good point on the technology. You’ve got to be pretty careful about how you write that stuff these days since it changes so fast.

  13. I totally agree with you on the stalking and jealousy – when did that become something that people were just so cool with happening in books? It’s not cool, it’s totally creepy!

  14. I agree on the representation to tell. Just because that isn’t your identity doesn’t mean you can’t have a character. I don’t think that a story primarily about the identity is someone else’s story to tell, but with research, it’s great to include characters of different backgrounds and sexualities.

  15. I totally agree with you on the character death stuff. I love when there’s tension and the stakes are high. It makes me care so much more about the characters. It falls a little flat if I don’t fear a little!

  16. Omg yessss #4!!!

    First of all, I’m tired of reading about wars where no one dies. And then on top of it people keep coming back!!! People die in war. Let the dead stay dead!

  17. Great list! Totally agree with you that some books (many books) have unnecessary romances. It seems as if authors cannot let go of the story if they don’t give every character a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Most of the time, they would be better off on their own! 🙂

  18. Nice opinions! I find myself agreeing with some to a degree. I legit can think of only 2 movies I enjoyed way better than the book. Though to be honest, I had probably watched the movie about 1000x before being old enough to read the book, so by then the book was just kind of meh in some ways. Lol!

    Thanks for visiting my TTT post!

  19. I agree with #2 wholeheartedly. I also think it’s helpful when authors create diverse characters with different backgrounds because it forces them to learn more about other people’s lives–plus more representation in books, so it feels like a win-win. Yes to #4 also! It feels like a cop-out when everyone comes back–it takes out the suspense.

    ANd honestly, I think my favorite on this list is #8! Excessive slang kills a book for me and I swear I never see people mentioning this, haha.

  20. So true about #1. I mean, I usually prefer the book, but not always. And The Hobbit… wow. Yeah.

    Well said on #2!

    And #3- oh my gosh I just don’t get that appeal. If it would be creepy/ abusive/ stalkerish in real life, wouldn’t it be in a story too lol?

  21. I would like to see more stories with no romance. It enjoy reading about platonic friendships or family relationships just as much.

    I’m a big supporter of Ownvoice authors but I do think if an author (regardless of ownvoice) is willing to put in the work and create a good character then more power to them. On the flip side, if they mess it up – they should be able to handle the criticism (hopefully not a mob attack).

  22. Honestly love this list. And to be finding so many people agree that movie adaptations can be okay or BETTER. I also thoroughly agree that a tight shorter book is better than a tome, and and that characters should stay dead (god don’t make me sob over a character and then BRING THEM BACK.)

  23. I totally agree with a lot of these, but especially #10. I primarily read romance and often get judged for that. I always point out to people that want to give their unsolicited opinion on my reading choices that the majority of their reading could be considered romance, it’s just not marketed that way. Because you are absolutely right, non-romance genres always seem to spiral into romance by the end. No matter that I love romance, I am also pleasantly surprised when I read a non-romance book that actually stays that way throughout.

    • What a silly thing to judge people for. Sorry that’s happened to you.

      Yeah, so many genres have added romance subplots to their stories. I’m totally cool with it if it fits the plot and character arcs, but I do think this is overused in a lot of cases (especially in the sci-fi genre).

  24. YES. I especially appreciate your last point. It’s endlessly frustrating to me that seemingly every book has a romantic subplot. I recently went through a break up and it’s been really difficult trying to find books to read that don’t focus on romance in some capacity. I’ve been reading a lot of children’s books and memoirs/nonfiction, but even then it’s hard to get away from discussions of relationships. Anyways, great list!

    • My condolences on your breakup. That’s always a rough thing to go through.

      And thanks. I hope you find a lot of non-romance books this summer.

  25. Totally agree that some books just do not need romance at all – especially in the genres you described! I also am wary of hyped books, books that literally everyone except me is talking about even before it’s been released.

  26. Very interesting ideas and opinions. I agree that it needs to be presented that you don’t need a romantic partner to be happy, but I do enjoy romance in stories. I have seen so many books made into bad movies. I did not participate this week as I didn’t think I would come up with 10.

  27. Terrific post, and I agree with many of your points. The stalking and jealousy thing is particularly worth stating — no, it’s not romantic when someone stares obsessively or shows up wherever you go. I agree about the slang as well (and I’d include things like product names and technology too) — these kind of things are so specific to a time, and those kind of books just don’t age well.

    • Thank you!

      Yeah, product names are another good thing to be cautious about including in a book. You never know when a company might go out of business or something.

  28. I’m SO with you on the non-romance. I get so bored at having a romance forced in on all books even when it means nothing to the overall book. I also hate when jealous/controlling dudes are romanticized. It’s gross.

    As for length– recently I’ve been thinking almost all the books I’ve been reading could be 50 to 100 pages shorter and still get the point across. I’m totally like you, no flowery descriptions needed!!

  29. We’re going to have to agree to disagree on #10 (romantic subplots). Books are awesome ways to find a happily ever after that you don’t usually get in life! If you find and marry someone you love that’s awesome but leave a little something for some of us out here in the cold C:

  30. Slang can definitely date a book quickly! As can technology in this day and age as it rapidly changes. I totally agree that books should not be used to preach a point. I get easily annoyed when books get overly preachy about a lesson or a point they are trying to make. I don’t have a problem with subtly ones, but the preachy ones get on my nerves.

  31. Totally agree with the slang one! Contemporary novels date so much quicker than historical/fantasy world books I think, because cultural references as well as slang are so specific – even things like the real world bits of Harry Potter are starting to date now.

  32. Well, we may differ on a couple of things but so many of these are spot on.
    I don’t like the whole stalking/abusive romance angle – it’s not romantic at all.
    Triangles – please stop using love triangles.
    Inevitable relationships – I think this is so overused that I’ve found myself sometimes pairing up in my mind who will end up together -and then being overwhelmingly and pleasantly surprised if the story doesn’t go down that route.
    Lynn 😀

  33. What a great list. Numbers 5, 6, 7, and 10 should have been on my list. I don’t enjoy being preached to. I read to enjoy a book. As for number 7, I didn’t even read Harry Potter until 2015 because that much hype turns me off.

    Thanks for visiting my blog on Tuesday.

  34. Many good points here! But I’m the opposite when it comes to romance. I love romance! To be fair though, I read romance and fantasy/urban fantasy with strong romantic subplots – that’s the stories I choose to read so it’s what I expect. It’s rare I choose to read outside these parameters and when I do I don’t expect/necessarily want romance.

  35. I don’t notice it so much in books (probably because I don’t read the right genre), but when it comes to TV shows (and sometimes movies), I always say: they’re probably not permanently gone (meaning when a character “dies”). Time and again characters seem to come back to live, and it’s a little too cliche these days. 😉

    Thanks for visiting Finding Wonderland last week, Lydia.

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