C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Writing: Pet Peeves

The following post appeared on my Facebook fan page. Thought it might be of interest here, too.

Last night I told you I didn’t care for characters doing dumb things to create artificial drama in a story. It’s fine if the characters are already dim. It’s annoying when they’re supposed to have bare minimum intelligence but act like morons to get to the next plot point.

Classic example:

The slasher victim runs upstairs where she’ll be trapped instead of sprinting out the back door. They’re often athletic cheerleaders in those movies. My daughter’s a cheerleader and tumbler. She could backflip away from a masked killer with a knife faster than he could run.

What else makes reading a chore?

1. Big blocks of text, run-on sentences and sentences that are not varied in length.

2. Exhaustive physical descriptions of characters. Readers usually fill in those details based on a few broad brushstrokes.

3. Cruelty for its own sake. Jesus Diaz has endured torture, but it does not devolve into torture porn. Instead, the dialogue is witty and clever, and the scene advances the plot. He’s a hitman, but he often talks and cons his way out of trouble.

4. Footnotes. I’m reading a novel called Dietland at the moment. The descriptions are fresh. (“My heart fluttered like a moth caught in a lampshade.”) However, the footnotes are a superfluous gimmick meant to lend credulity to the fiction. No need.

5. Chapters that go on too long.

6. Ending the story forty pages short of the end of the book.

7. Getting bogged down in so many technical details that the reader is beaten over the head with the writer’s research.

8. A story with one grim tone. I want a roller coaster ride where I can cry one minute and laugh the next. I slide lots of jokes and irony in amongst the horror. When done right, it doesn’t spoil the tone. It enhances the reading experience. Talk to any nurse, funeral director or cop. Gallows humor abounds in the face of horror.

9. Lazy writing turned The Walking Dead from somewhat interesting into a hilarious hate watch. Lazy writing asks you to overlook too much and makes the adventure too easy.

Another example is an old legal drama called The Rainmaker. The premise is a young, inexperienced lawyer takes on the system and wins. The problem with the screenplay is things go far too smooth and easy for him at every turn. He breezes through the plot unopposed. It’s a win without a triumph if the bad guys fall over just because you show up.

10. An unsatisfying ending. Hate ’em, but there are all kinds of endings.

I can do happily-ever-after. (Citizen Second Class yields an unexpected kind of happy-ever-after, for instance.) Sometimes it’s happily-ever-after-for-now. Triumph that comes at great sacrifice is good. I like to offer slivers of hope for the future, even amid chaos. I enjoy Twilight Zone endings. I don’t mind a good cliffhanger at all as long as I see it coming. (Hence, This Plague of Days, Season One is called This Plague of Days *Season One*, just like a television series should leave you breathless for the next season.)

What’s an unsatisfying ending? Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds was a triumph of special effects for its day. I guess that’s why no one noticed that screenplay was missing a third act. It’s kind of like how Johnny Cash was a great success but he didn’t sing so much as talk.

Johnny Cash, the original white rapper. (Did I just blow your mind?)

What are your pet peeves?

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write killer crime thrillers and a lot of books about the end of the world. Check out all my books at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: writing, writing advice, , , , , , ,

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