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Discussion: Favorite Writing Pitfalls

kelson.philo's picture

Alrighty, what's yer favorite writing pitfall?

Mine is the 'anti-cliché cliché'. These are the clichés that result from actively trying not to be cliché in the first place.

To be fair, I think these are more common in televised productions than in books, but, then again, maybe I just haven't read enough. As an example, I'll take one from a recent popular scifi program, which shall, for the time being, remain nameless.

Take a main character and then build up a lot of hooplah around them and then kill them off. Make a big to-do about it. "Oh what a terrible waste. Truly, a horrible thing has happened."

But here's the thing: you're savvy enough to notice that the actor hasn't left the show and sure enough, come season finale, there they are again with some pretty spliffy deus ex machina knowledge to complete the Main Group's Quest. You're not surprised.

Example two: Take a character who is responsible for most of the atrocities suffered by the Main Group. Put him on trial for his life. Make sure the jury is stacked against the character, so that he is definitely going to lose. But! Because he is the only source of conflict for the storyline, he will not get the death sentence. No surprise.

There's my beef (oops! cliché!), howsabout yours?

Clichés that I hate

Like the comma one - I tend to use hyphens a lot.

But the cliché that I hate to come across is where one character is trying to tell another something important and the writer makes the other one say "don't tell me right now I haven't got time to listen." This one annoys the hell out of me as it is so contrived. Unless the other character is actively fending off the alien hoards at the time, she HAS got time to listen and then the story can move on so much faster.

KarnuVap - but you can call me Mr. Vap.

Overpunctuation.

Until I edit them out, I usually have too many commas. A sentence with good balance and rhythm can largely punctuate itself. I think that too little punctuation is, on the whole, (those commas are not really necessary, are they?) - that too little punctuation is on the whole better than too much. What do people think?

kelson.philo's picture

I'd agree with you. Simply

I'd agree with you. Simply on the basis of saving people from eye strain.

Words, words, words.

I'm also someone who tends to focus too much on how to word something, and when that happens, it's all too easy to lose the momentum I need to keep going on a first draft and get it done.

Before I know it, I'm dead in the water on a new project, and once that happens, it can be very hard to get started on it again. I'm really good at getting myself into this pitfall! =)

kelson.philo's picture

I hear ya. Ever read Rudy

I hear ya. Ever read Rudy Rucker's Transrealist Manifesto? I think it offers an intriguing metaphorical method for keeping things fresh, using the idear of a labyrinth with various things to see along the way. That's a gross simplification, of course, but I think if you have general points that you want to eventually visit, a person might have an easier time keeping the steam going. "Now, how am I going to get to that point? Hm..."

Here's a link to it.

That's an intriguing

That's an intriguing approach he's describing. It would probably work pretty well for Oort Cloud too.

I haven't read Rucker, actually, but I've been meaning to, and now I'm curious to see if he's been using this approach in his stories, and if he has, how well it's turned out. It does seem like it might help a writer keep moving and not get stuck in a rut.

Thanks for the link!

easy; mine is

easy; mine is the.
o-my-god-this-prose-is-supposed-to-be-so-good-I-forgot-to-emphasise-meaning-or-story

kelson.philo's picture

Hahahah...very good.

Hahahah...very good.