Plot Device Obsolescence, Part the Next

We’ve already talked about how new tech can make old plot devices unworkable (with cell phones being the primary example.)  But there are other plots and plot developments that time and social change have rendered, if not dead forever, at least unusable for the foreseeable future.

Consider, for example, the persistent suitor.  Used to be, you could play this one for comedy, as in the Warner Brothers Pepé Le Pew cartoons, or play it straight, as in the long courtship of Anne Shirley by Gilbert Blythe in the Anne of Green Gables series, or in the equally extended courtship of Harriet Vane by the titular hero of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries.

These days, not so much.  No matter how good the writer or how well-presented the material, a goodly portion of the readership is going to take one look at the relationship dynamic and go, “Ugh! Stalker!” and lay your book aside, possibly by throwing it against the nearest wall.

And what if your presentation of the relationship is well-written, firmly based both in character development and in historical and regional context, and unquestionably believable?  In that case, a certain proportion of your readership will call you out for knowingly perpetuating a harmful stereotype by making it look good.

Really, there’s no way to win on this one.

As usual, I’m not saying “Don’t ever go there.”  What you decide to write is your call, and nobody else’s.  But I am saying, “If your muse is telling you that’s where you absolutely have to go, then do it with your eyes wide open to the consequences . . . and be sure you do it well.”

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