Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tired Storylines

Girl finds out she’s pregnant. She’s excited and a little scared. Either way she can’t wait to tell boy. He’s the love of her life and it’s a new step for them. It doesn’t matter if he’s a husband, boyfriend, or fiancé, they are together for good. Just as she’s about to tell him he makes some dumb comment about how he’s not ready for kids, or they can’t afford kids, or it’s not the right time for kids. Girl is sad. Can’t tell boy now. Eventually she tells him and it all works out beautifully.

It’s also done over and over a million times. In fact, in the past two months, I’ve seen this same storyline on two different television programs. It’s an easy conflict and obviously it works, but is it really the best conflict to be using?

Jessica

36 comments:

Philangelus said...

I guess we could try it with "Boy finds out he's pregnant" and see what happens from there...

Devon Ellington said...

Agreed. I change channels or put down the book when this is the plotline. Sick of it. I haven't seen it handled in a new and sparkling way in years.

magolla said...

Boring plot line. Overdone. Personally, I like Philangelus's solution: The same, but different!

Kimber An said...

I read tons of books, or about them, as a blogging book reviewer.

I see tons of tired storylines among published novels.

And I wonder, "Is this all authors are writing? Or, is this all publishers are publishing?"

Among aspiring authors, I think, "Uh, guys, we can do better than this."

Among publishers, I just have to assume they're only publishing those stories because they believe those are the only stories which will sell. Although I suppose they can't publish anything different than what's sent to them.

It is baffling.

Project Savior said...

What if she can't tell him because he's a priest in the order of the Opus Dei and she is carrying the Anti-Christ?
That could spice it up.

Heidi Willis said...

I loved Emily Giffin's Baby Proof, which was about a married couple that had married with the decision not to have a baby and then one of them changed their minds. It was a fresh take on the storyline, I think, since it wasn't an actual baby so much as the idea of one.

I agree, though, that it's hard to think of a new way to tell this story that hasn't been done. I'd think it would have to be the secondary plotline in a book to be able to pull it off well.

Anonymous said...

Like all storylines, it depends on how well it's done :)

Suze said...

Not to mention the sub-plot to the movie The Rock... sigh.

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

Heidi, a great example. Loved Baby Proof! This storyline may be overused, but I think it has an element of the human condition that will always hold some place in society. Whether it should be a big piece of what is available to read is a completely different question!

Marissa

Ryan said...

Personally I like Stephen King's twist on it. Girl finds out she's pregnant. Dumps boy. World ends through the effects of a superflu. Girl winds up with good ole boy from Texas.

Dara said...

Like others have said, the plot could be fresh if a few twists are added :)

Creepy Query Girl said...

Ugh- I have scene the 'I can't tell him now' scenerio used and reused my whole life- my mother's daytime soap operas swore by it.

JDS said...

Great point, Jessica. I linked to your blog from mine, as you inspired my post for the day. Thanks!

http://experimentinfiction.blogspot.com/

Layne said...

"to be using"

Watch the grammar, Jessica.

Janet Morgenstern said...

Sadly, Philangelus, that has been done. I can still hear Schwarzenegger's voice crying, "It's not a tumor!"

Kate said...

I confess I like the Stargate Universe take on it (which I confess includes the confession that I like Stargate Universe :)

Kate Douglas said...

Love this--and since there are supposedly only seven basic plots (or three, or 36: http://www.ipl.org/div/farq/plotFARQ.html)available to all the gazillions of writers out there, it's a given some will be done to death. I honestly think it all comes down to voice--if you can tell a tried and true (and done to death) story in a new way, you just might find yourself with a winner.

Kristin Laughtin said...

True, nothing's that original anymore, and every story's success depends on the telling. Some people must appreciate the familiarity, or these stories wouldn't sell (or in the case of TV shows, the programs wouldn't be watched).

Still, this plot is among the most overdone, as are the "girl gets pregnant, permanent-boy-fixture is happy, but OH NO it's not his baby" storylines. Fresh takes are appreciated.

Anonymous said...

So true! I'm also tired of this plot: the middle-aged man has an affair, wife is devastated then starts a new life--only to have hubby come begging. Isn't this scene played out in real life too (e.g. Jesse James, Tiger Woods, et al) BORING!

Please explain: I've sent agents a fresh, new idea, but they turned it down saying it wouldn't sell in this market because it was TOO different. So they all want the same old, same old--but told in a new way. HUH??? We're readers too---give us something ORIGINAL!

Cheyanne Young said...

WHAT?! I was just saying how I never see this plot line in YA.

Can anyone tell me YA books that have this plot line?

Tim Susman said...

Personally, I like when someone starts out on a tired plot like this and then it takes a new turn. Like, boy makes comment about not being ready for kids. Girl says, immediately, "Well, get ready." And the story is about something else--their conflict, their becoming parents.

In TV programs, "Frasier" used to do this particularly well.

the Ape said...

Agree. Can we also dispense with the mirror image plot line about marriage?

Nick Saw said...

I have always wanted to see what would have happened if Juno would have had an abortion. A real, poignant, rich story about a brassy teenager who is suddenly weighted with a guilty conscience. I think experiencing that with her, going through the eclipse, her evolution, would be quite emotional and certainly relevant considering what a hot topic abortion is in today's society.

Mira said...

I like what Kate Douglas said and agree - it's all in the telling.

If I were an agent I think this would be tricky - because, you're right, Jessica, things do feel overdone - like vampires - and it would be easy to hear the pitch and think 'it's been done before.' But, really, hasn't everything been done before, pretty much?

On the other hand, some authors could write the phone book and I'm there.

Anonymous said...

Overdone and a major turn-off for me.

I know people can be stupid about sex, but I really don't want to read about girls having sex before they develop some pregnancy plan with their romantic partner.

What about this twist? Girl is NOT pregnant, but fakes it to manipulate the poor sap into staying with her to satisfy her psychotic ego needs. Might make for a good thriller.

I hear that's a fairly regular story in real life, but I've not seen it in books or movies myself.

beverley said...

How about this one. The girl is pregnant and tells the father and he truly DOES NOT a kid with her. There's no simple solution because he can't force what he doesn't feel. I'm digging that one way more.

susancolebank said...

If the characters make me care and the build-up is terrific and the motivations are firmly there, then I'm up for this tired storyline. :o)

Ruby Johnson said...

`Isn't this plot line being played out on THE MENTALIST right now? One female cop is smiling a lot and her lover is wondering why.

Too Cute to be Very Interesting said...

Anonymous from 3:30 - First season of Glee. Wife of glee club leader fakes pregnancy.

Kelly Wittmann said...

But is the boyfriend/ fiance/ husband a cop who just has two weeks to go before he can retire and live the good life in Florida? 'Cause that would make it even better.

Lucy said...

@ Kate Douglas

Thanks for the link! That was more interesting than I thought it would be. :)

John said...

As long as a pregnant vampire is the MC, I think you're ok.

Mary McDonald said...

If you want to see that plotline done differently, and done very well, I might add, watch Friday Night Lights this season.

Greg Wilhelm said...

Wow! I just saw that exact same storyline (word for word) play out on an episode of 'The Nanny' the other night.

JulieLeto said...

Saw a show once, can't remember which one, where the girl goes to tell the boy she's pregnant, but he tells her he's joining the priesthood, that it was his calling and he's happy for the first time in his life.

She keeps quiet, raises the child on her own...then dies. Father is now informed he's a father.

A fresh twist, I thought. I wish I could remember the show! I think John Ritter played the father.

Angie said...

"It's not a tumor!" is actually from Kindergarten Cop, not Junior the movie someone above was thinking about.