Don’t like writing? Think writing is for weenies? Do you pick up books and base their chance of being purchased based on the ratio of half-naked women on the cover to sexual euphemisms in the title (The most successful known ratio to date has been 10 to 1 belonging, of course, to The Bible)? If you said yes to any of these questions, then the following post is probably not for you. Why you may ask? Well the reason being is that you may confuse my list of what I believe to be trends of bad writing (and all bad writing related incorporations) for being exceptionally good writing. The confusion that will settle in your brain will be enough to kill you ten times over and then an eleventh time on top of that.
Writing has been around for ages (almost 4 years now!) and as a result of other people’s success, many have tried their hand at writing. They think to themselves, “If a story about gay vampires and personality-less women can be hugely successful, then my story about gay vampires mummies and personality-less women will be just as successful!” Unfortunately for the human race, they are probably not far off the mark. This doesn’t change the simple fact, however, that with new rookie writers comes a lot of new rookie bad and horrible writers.
The main offender would be those darn teenagers and their rap music, always stomping all over my begonias on my lawn. This isn’t to say that all bad writers are teenagers, but almost all teenagers are bad writers.
What makes bad writers so horrible though? To me, there are different types of bad writers. There are the bad writers who generally realize that they are not fantastic writers and want to improve. These people may or may not be good writers in a couple of months/years/decades, but the fact is that they have the right idea.
Then there are bad writers who write the worst shit in the world. The type of writing that hurts your brain to read it, the type of writing that you think to yourself only one word (“WHY?!”), the type of writing that absolutely needs to be buried very far underground so as to not harm other people with it’s harmful UV rays. Then when you say that their story could use some improvement, you are somehow at fault for not “understanding their vision.” Well yes, I suppose you’re right. I couldn’t understand your horrible, awful, atrocity of a vision. I apologize that when I read stories I expect to be entertained, not in physical pain. My bad.
This is supposed to be a list though, right? Then let’s get a-listing (not to be confused with A-Listing) on trends of bad writings and things that if you want to be a better writer, you’ll avoid.
Number One: Character Naming
If you’re writing a story, you probably have characters in it. Characters are a key part of any story (unless it has no characters, then it’s really more of a poem) and as a result these characters have names. Naming characters is a difficult thing to do, and trust me I am well aware of the difficulty. I can’t name characters for shit, so trust me I know your pain.
So there you are naming your character and you start going through names in your head. “What should I name my protagonist? Should I name him Randy…maybe Henry…what about Johnathan…or Candy. Yeah, maybe he’s a stripper. No wait, that’s not right…” You’re desperately trying to come up with something decent, so you start thinking of names of other characters you enjoy.
This may or may not be you, but this is a lot of other prospective writers. Confused as to what I’m about to talk about? Well, what I am saying is that there are people who thoroughly enjoy watching japanese animation. As such, the characters in these stories have japanese names such as Sakura or Me Llamo Biscuit. Then it hits you like way too many bricks falling on you (Any number greater than zero bricks is way too many bricks); what if you were to name your character something cool like that?
It’s perfect! You’re writing a story about a kid who grew up in the suburbs of Arkansas, he’s lived with his mother and father (Julia and Bobbert, respectively) and it’s only natural that they would name their child Ichigo. All normal American parents name their pure American child born in America on American soil in an American hospital living in an American city with their American relatives something as un-American as possible.
Number Two: Setting, Setting, Setting
Your story has its characters now, but these characters have to interact somewhere right? What’s a story without a setting, a place for the action to take place? Now it’s time for you to make that difficult decision, so you think to yourself what’s the easiest place you can write about. Unfortunately, this is probably your thought process: “Hmm, so I go to school. I could make my character be a student and then something ca-razy happens that turns his life in school into being way ca-razy.” You are of course well aware that ca-razy is a sub-branch of plain old vanilla crazy.
Your idea of writing about a character that goes to school, however, has been overdone. It’s been beaten to death, been turned into the worst type of “new writer cliche”, been beaten to death by Colonel Mustard with the candle in the living room. It’s understandable that people would choose a school as their setting, because what do teenagers know better than the angst-filled public education institute that they are currently presiding at. So they’ll place their character in their “made up” angst-filled public education institute where they will undergo many angst-filled public education institute situations, possibly they are shunned or embarassed by other angst-filled students at the angst-filled public education institute.
I’m here to tell you that your idea is boring as shit (if you hadn’t caught that already). What’s the way to remedy this? It’s very easy, avoid writing angsty stories about angsty teenagers at angsty schools with angsty teachers. This is not to say that your setting couldn’t be a school, but think to yourself whether or not it really has to be a school. Your story is about a teenager (possibly filled with angst) who is seemingly normal. Your character meets a “suspicious” person and suddenly their world is turned “upside-down” because now they have all these special powers and the government is very racist against special-powered people and they don’t believe they should be married because they feel that marriage should be between a man and a woman…
Whoa, whoops! Got a little side-tracked there! What I am trying to say is that your setting doesn’t necessarily have to be in a school. For example, your story could be just as effective if performed in (why not?) the Sahara Desert! Your character could be a teenager (possibly filled with angst) who is seemingly normal in the desert. Your character meets a “suspicious” cactus and suddenly their world is turned into nothing new because they still live in the desert. This might sound different than your original idea, but the plusses are that it takes place in the desert.
Number Three: Pitiful Attempts at Humor
You probably think you’re a funny person. You remember very clearly that time you were out with your friends and you did something that barely qualifies as mildly amusing and suddenly you’ve decided that today you’ll work on your life-long dream of being a stand-up comic. This is nothing like yesterday where you decided to fulfill your life-long dream of being an artist, no this is completely different. Now it’s the next day, and you’ve figured out that your life-long dream since you were a small child has been to become a writer (duh). Why not combine the best of both worlds though? You want to write stories but you want to make people chuckle to themselves in the process. Maybe your story is very serious (possibly in the desert?) but there are openings for humor.
So you begin to write in a blaze of poorly written fire. You start writing your story and also try and add a few “chortle-startles” as you call them when not in the vicinity of anyone you know to breathe oxygen. You take a look at your first chapter and you think to yourself (possibly in the desert?) that you are the most hilarious writer to have ever existed. Unfortunately, your first chapter has almost no content at all and is simply just a sea of poorly written jokes, horrible punchlines, unhumorous situations, and (if you took my advice) the desert.
How do you remedy this? There are some ways to do so. The first and most obvious remedy is to stop trying to be so goddamn funny you horrible excuse for a comedy writer. Not everyone can write humor, it’s not a skill that every writer is capable of. It’s not easy to write in a way that’ll produce a chuckle, and then on top of that there’s always the possibility that the type of humor you are writing does not appeal to the reader. Trust me when I say this is a real problem, especially when you are deciding whether or not you want to attempt a certain type of humor. “What if the reader doesn’t enjoy it? What if they hate it? What if they get offended?” These are things I used to ask myself before I said fuck it and decided to write the type of humor that I wanted to write (specifically, good humor).
The other way to remedy this is to put humor but don’t put the amount of humor you initially forced in there. There’s a second part to this remedy as well, and that is to ask several people to read over your work and ask them whether or not they think the humor is good, helping, or detrimental to the storyline. Slapping in a joke in the scene where a pair of camels are ripping the protagnist’s best friend in half is not a good idea.
Number Four: Novels of Description within the Novel
Confused by what I am saying? You won’t be as soon as I explain it to you. I want to ask you if you have read any bad stories lately. You probably have because it’s staring back at you on your computer screen. Let me ask you this then, does this look in any way familiar?
“Becky entered the room desert walking pretty fast-like and stuff. She had golden blonde hair with curly pigtails with blue ribbons in her hair. She was wearing a red t-shirt that says ‘Show me da money’ with white squigglies on the sleeves and her pants were faded blue jeans that were bejewled to say her name only the person who bejeweled it misspelled her name as ‘Bucket’. She was wearing white sneakers with rainbow laces and she had painted on them to make them look prettier. Her skin was tanned because of the hot sun and now she was sweating and she had this look on her face like she didn’t really want to be in the sun but now that she was in the sun she sort of had no choice. There she was, there stood Becky.
Becky is also about five foot, eight inches tall and she was sort of lanky with a lot of freckles on her face…”
There is one question that comes to mind when you read this “excerpt” that I just wrote up right now: “Who gives a fuck?” Is Becky that important that we have to care so much about the excruciating detail of her apparel? That next paragraph better end in, “Then Becky was stabbed by fifty muggers Saharan thieves and she died what experts would call the most painful death that any human could ever experience,” because that is what everyone was hoping would happen the second Becky’s stupid face was mentioned.
Ease up on the detail when describing characters. Detail is good and all, but too much detail and every single one of your characters is going to have to end up like Becky for your story to even survive past Chapter Three.
So what now? I’ve explained some things you should avoid when writing, but your story probably still is lacking! Well, unfortunately I can’t help you in this one post alone. So what is Jamison Trumpets going to do for you? We’ll keep you in suspense (just like any desert-themed book would do) and continue with our insights on writing and how to improve it.
Do you have any suggestions or ideas that writers should generally avoid or be cautious around? Want to see your idea on this list come to life with my own personal brand of horrible writing? Shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and if it’s spot on or good enough, you’ll see it in an upcoming post (with your name in “da credits”) and you can brag to all your friends how you showed up on a no-name blog written by somebody who nobody really knows!