Top 5 Lazy Writing Sins

Anything can be done well. All these sins could be done in a funny or inventive way, but on average they are signs that the writers are being lazy.

TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life
TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life

5. Genre Blindness

Any writing set in modern day should not only be aware of its predecessors but so should its characters.

If a character is about to fight a vampire, they don’t need ancient texts, wise masters, etc etc etc to figure out how to kill them. One of your characters will have heard of vampires and has an idea how to kill them. Even if you are writing a different version of the monster there should be a character that has at least heard of them from pop culture.

Not all characters have to be genre savvy but one or two should have a passing knowledge of the immense cultural background of most stories.

Why is this lazy?

This is a way for authors not to have to do research on what a character would know based on their culture, age, and geographical area. It means you can make up the rules and pretend the game is brand new. It avoids the, “But I thought werewolves couldn’t control themselves and hated silver” discussion.

It can be done well but only if the world is different enough from ours to make sense.

4. Nice and Boring VS Dangerous and Exciting

Good is bland, the nice guy best friend is the safe choice, and everyone prefers Spike. The decision to go for the “bad boy” over the best friend / boy next door is ubiquitous in 90’s movies and TV.

It’s not only lazy, it’s dumb. It either ends with the main character hurting and brooding over their lost love, or the bad boy having a heart of gold.

It makes the main character either dangerously naïve, suicidal, or dumb; while making the love interests boring stereotypes.

Why is this lazy?

It’s been done, it relies on stereotypes that are so overused they’re clichéd, and it’s needlessly angsty.

I can be done well if you’re trying to show a flaw in the main character, however you have to follow through with that flaw.

3. I’ll tell you later

The character has suddenly gotten super strength and their friend asks them how it happened. They’re in a big battle so the hero says. “I’ll tell you later.” And they never do.

If a power, machine, etc is worth having in the story and the characters know, it’s worth explaining.

Why is this lazy?

It’s a short and quick response to avoid telling something that has been, or will be, shown to the audience. But Peter Parker saying, “I’ll tell you later” can just as easily be done with him saying, “I was bit by a genetically altered /radioactive / alien spider. Crazy eh?”

This is extra lazy when the audience doesn’t know the answer. It’s used to build tension and mystery but rarely does it ever get explained. Maybe hand waved with a mention of Magic or Clark’s Third law.

This can be done well if the characters and the audience are told at a later, or earlier, point in the story.

2. Dangling Plot / Forgotten Backstory

This is really two annoyances in one but they both have the same reasoning, convenience. A dangling plot could be something as simple as a voice taking control of a space/time ship saying, “The Silence will fall” and then exploding that ship and never explaining who that voice is or why they could control and destroy something that no one else has been able to do.

A forgotten backstory could be a sister that disappears and is never mentioned before or a magic item that the main characters have but would make life too easy for this story so they’ve forgotten. Same with the rules of magic.

The best stories wrap up all their plot points, Chekhov’s guns, and work around the rules they’ve set for themselves.

Why is this lazy?

Both of these are ways for a writer to force the world and characters to fit the story they are building. Sometimes working with a large amount of history is daunting, but weaving the story into the world and characters makes it richer and much more interesting.

1. I’m not broken I’m super

Wanting to explore and represent a disability, social class, physical illness, or mental illness is a laudable goal. Unfortunately a lot of writers seem to want to portray these states of humanity without wanting to learn about them.

The character is autistic but they have savant syndrome. The character is blind but they sonar vision. The character is poor but has an incredible talent.

The root of this sin is not doing enough research or not knowing the people a writer is trying to portray. It is also a sign that the writer thinks these characters are lesser or broken as opposed to just different.

Why is this lazy?

Writing about people you don’t understand beyond the surface level is a quick way to misrepresent them. Just because you’ve seen Rain Man and Adam doesn’t mean you understand anything about autism.

If you’re not willing to put aside your prejudice and learn all you can about the characters you’re writing, then you shouldn’t be writing those characters.

 

Did I miss any, do you disagree?

Éric

4 thoughts on “Top 5 Lazy Writing Sins

  1. I totally misread the first point as “Gender Blindness” and then was 100% confused when you started talking about monsters and vampires but decided to roll with it before finishing the point even more confused and then reread the title and was like “OOOOOHHHHH genRe blindess…yess…ok, i get it now”

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