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

Éric’s Top 5 Pet Peeves

Everyone has things that annoy them. I’m certainly not an exception (I annoy a lot of people.)

I’m normally a pretty relaxed guy but I go through phases where I have to stop myself and say/sing “Let it go.” If I don’t, I’ll just get grumpier and grumpier until I explode in a semi-comic rage.

There are things that no matter how happy I am, they will piss me, royally, off. So with no more delay here are:

Éric’s Top 5 Pet Peeves

5. Small Talk

I’m not talking about seeing a friend on the bus and asking them how they’ve been. I’m talking about the useless words to fill the void of silence.

Them, “Hi”

Me, “Hello”

Them, “So the weather is really weathering huh?”

Me, “Yep. Canada Eh?”

ARG! Why? Sure, it used to be fun and screw with people by going off script and saying I like winter or hate heat but it’s just so boring. (I love weather and the science behind it. I totally fanboyed when I met Mark Robinson.)

4. Being Corrected

If I’m pronouncing something wrong, made a spelling mistake, or got Jeffrey Dean Morgan confused with Javier Bardem (again) I don’t mind being told I’m wrong.

If I say I hated The Dark Knight rises and you tell me I’m wrong, I will strangle you with my mind. My opinions, feelings, and philosophical thoughts are not yours to disprove. Star Trek 2: The Khan Strikes back wasn’t a Star Trek movie and I’ll happily argue it with you but don’t tell me I can’t feel that way.

3. Drivers that idle in the pedestrian crossing lane

I get that you’re in a hurry and that you want to be as close to the stop sign or light as possible but there’s this nice little part of the road that’s meant for pedestrians to cross the road. I’m not in a steel shell, I should be walking in front of you, not behind you because you’re too fraking impatient to stop at the right place.

OH and by the way this:Yeild

It’s a yield sign. You need to stop for other cars and pedestrians and YIELD to their passage. It’s not a park in the middle of the lane sign or speed up sign. YIELD you stupid metal clad morons!

2. People who walk and smoke

I get that you can’t smoke in parks, city events, restaurants, bars, workplaces, etc, but how would you like it if I started spraying skunk smell as I walked?

I’m just trying to get from place A to place B, I don’t need your noxious smoke in my face. It stinks, makes me want to vomit and punch you in the face.

Don’t even get me started with the jerk-faced-morons that smoke in front of doors.

Someday I’m going to snap and start carrying a spray bottle and start treating you like a misbehaving cat.

1. Positive People

Being genuinely happy and positive is something that makes everyone around you feel better. Being perky or super-positive at people is annoying.

If I’m upset, no amount of telling me how I should be happy will help, unless you’re trying to make me angry. Seriously, let me be grumpy or not like mornings. What’s it to you?

I think all these disgustingly happy/perky people are hiding something. Either deep seated sadness or dead bodies.

 

That’s my top 5 pet peeves for the moment. I’ve purposely left out the category “Stupid People” (Climate change deniers, Antivaxers, Gamergaters, Rabid Puppies, preachy-angry religious or atheists, and people who give their carnivorous pets vegan/vegetarian diets, etc) and “Boring Conspiracy Nuts” (People who say: Aspartame is bad, Big Pharma, the liberal cabal etc .

 

What are your pet peeves?

Éric