Recently, several of the blogs that I've been reading have been talking about avoiding things. For example, Gretchen, over at The Happiness Project, wrote recently about her aversion to plotlines that involve unjust accusations. I don't share that aversion, but I've noticed that there are certain story lines that I don't appreciate and will avoid if a realize that a story is heading that way.
For example, I avoid movies in which an animal gets killed. I can read books where that happens, depending on the book and the purpose of the animal's death, but I have actually refused to see movies where I know the animal dies.* It's a soft spot that I have, and I won't subject myself to movies (or television shows) that are going to tearjerk me by killing an animal.**
And it's not exactly an aversion to a storyline, per se, but a character will lose me if he or she cheats on a spouse or significant other. It's not enough to make me avoid a whole book, but if I can't relate to a character who does such a thing, and it's almost impossible to get me back on that character's side. There's just something about that level of betrayal that makes me angry and unforgiving.***
Gretchen's post is also really interesting in terms of what other people object to. Pretty much every device used for creating conflict in a story is someone's pet peeve. There's no way to avoid this, as a writer, so I guess the only thing to do is hope that you haven't alienated everyone with your choice of plot.
* I Am Legend, for one. I saw the trailer for that movie and I knew immediately that the dog wasn't going to make it.
** True story: I saw Iron Man 2 this last weekend and in it, Mickey Roarke has a bird. He leaves it (for a variety of spoilery reasons) and asks someone to get it for him, but instead they bring him a different bird. That bothered me. What about the original bird? What happened to it? And then, after he bonds with the second bird, one of the bad guys takes it and puts it in a bag and we never see it again. That bothered me, too. What happened to that bird? Is it okay? We know what happened to the bad guy who put the bird in the bag, but the bird itself? No idea. It's not as bad as if the birds were actually killed in the movie, but it still bothered me.
*** People always assume that I feel that way because I was cheated on, but I actually never have been (at least, not that I'm aware of). I don't know where I get the distaste from, just that it will turn me against a character almost as fast as the character stepping on a kitten.