NO, NO, NO. DO NOT DO THAT.

stop sign

I have an idea for a story. I enjoy Battlestar Galactica, so I think Apollo or Starbuck should be in my story. I love watching Dr. Who, so the much discussed Clara will have a place. Oh yeah, the doc from BSG is great, so he will be there.

Clichés are good, yes? I love clichés, it makes the story run so much smoother.

How could I forget? Explanation for every little action any of my characters make is a no-brainer; because, duh, how will anyone know what is happening without detailed exposition for every action?

Intense action sequences must be broken up with internal narrative; and inconsistencies during those scenes will go unnoticed, so I just gotta stick to the detailed explanations.

And this, this is the most important I have to remember: the tough, grizzled guy gets the woman who instantly falls for him upon meeting him, but she must also act stern and show she doesn’t give a shit when he reacts like a silverback gorilla challenging an intruder. People just won’t find it believable if she doesn’t show a little backbone.

facepalm

Let’s break down the reasons why the above is so wrong.

STEALING CHARACTERS

It is okay to take inspiration from a fictional or real person to create your fictional person. That’s perfectly okay. Nearly every single fictional character ever created has been inspired by person(s) of myth or reality or a little of both. What is wrong, is stealing wholesale from a character someone else has created.

For example: The Chief of Medical on Battlestar Galactica is an old man with silver hair, a rough voice, slight stoop to his back, and smokes cigarettes whenever he gives people bad news.

So, if your doctor is an old man with silver hair, a rough voice, slight stoop to his back, and smokes cigarettes whenever he gives people bad news; you’re not inspired from the doc on BSG, you’re just being lazily and stealing.

CLICHÉS

  1. The soldier with a lot of tattoos is a hot head and great in a fight.
  2. The man from a country in South America, he prays with a rosary before every mission even though he’s agnostic.
  3. A settled new planet has a bazaar, homes made out of rock, and low wealth, and is, of course, settled by people from Middle East nations.
  4. The tough guy leader has a checkered past, doesn’t care about himself cause he’s a leader, and he gets the girl.

The above are called, “clichés”, although I think number 3 is also an overt racist stereotype, and number 2 makes you seem ridiculously uneducated.

I wish I could say people hate clichés, but if that were the case The Big Bang Theory would not be popular. Clichés do ensure you’ll have a ton of really terrible reviews, and not nice things coming from word of mouth because of the lack of originality. You’ll never get away from every cliché, but don’t over do it and stay away from the stereotypes.

EASE UP ON THE EXPOSITION

No. I’ll say it again. No. You do not need to explain every little goddamn thing. If you are writing a military sci-fi book, you do not need to tell the reader what MRE stands for. If the person reading a military sci-fi book does not know what MRE stands for or what a MRE is, they are in a super duper tiny minority and they will look it up.

Explaining precisely why a character is going to do something, and then having the character do exactly what was in the previous two paragraphs is called, “telegraphing”. There is no such thing as good telegraphing, unless you are using a telegraph to send a message to another telegraph. You’re not though, you’re typing on a keyboard.

Ease up on the exposition, and while you’re writing, pretend for just a minute that your reader has an iota of intelligence and can figure something out without you having to paint the Mona Lisa in every paragraph.

INCONSISTENCIES

If you are in walking with maglev boots on the outside of a spaceship in the vacuum of space and you jump off…You will not land with a thud against the ship.

THE DAMSEL

Take a moment to look at what year it is. You’re reading this on a web browser; the date is going to be somewhere within eyesight.

It’s the year 2016 CE. It is not the Mad Men era in the 1950s.

If you create a character who is a giant asshole with mood swings so violent, he has an armed guard to meetings, the woman he talks to will not instantly fall in love with his rugged handsomeness and manly attitude when she meets him for the first time. She will not tell the guard to leave the room while he slams his fists on the table because his authority is being challenged. Seriously, if you think this is perfectly okay for a story…

book and coffee

I love reading; great stories, wonderful stories, just okay stories, it really doesn’t matter. However, authors are supposed to uphold some sort of standard with storytelling. Not everyone on Earth writes stories, which means being the bulwark against terrible storytelling falls to just a small percentage of all alive.

Let’s do the world good.

Let’s create magic with words.

 

4 WRITING TAKEAWAYS FROM DAREDEVIL (TV)

Daredevil-TV-Logo (Small)

 

Daredevil, a Netflix Original Series, is one show in the growing stable of Marvel television shows. Serious at its core, it’s sprinkled with humor like a master chef adding salt to a dish; not too little so it has no affect, but not too much so the humor ruins the vibe. The writing stands head and shoulders above competition even outpacing other Marvel enterprises, with production values on par with big budget movies. Combined, the recipe makes for the best Marvel show and one of the best television shows ever produced.

Now, yes, Daredevil is a television show and thus naturally inferior to curling up with a good book, yet through the phenomenal writing of scripts and show pacing, a writer can takeaway quite a few great tips.

 

SLOW REVEALS

Daredevil excels here. The first episode origin story that tells the audience why the hero is filled with angst and why the villain is evil and hates the hero, is skipped in favor of the natural lifestory reveal. The writers of Daredevil decided the story should follow the person; Daredevil, Matthew Murdoc, is someone who works in the shadows and by night, and his story reveal follows that work ethic.

In the first episode we are introduced to Matthew Murdoc at the end of the crash that gives him his abilities, then thrust directly into his nightlife routine of beating the snot out of criminals. It’s here the viewer is given a taste for how the show will play out: the past will be revealed, not all in one huge chunk—an infodump if you will—but over time in small bite sized pieces. It’s like when you meet a new person. That person, or you, don’t make introductions and then launch into a backstory covering from age 5 up to three minutes ago. It’s weird and unnatural. Writing should take a cue from real life on explaining backstory like the writers of Daredevil follow.

 

RELATIONSHIPS NEED CONFLICT

No surprise here. Romance is the largest book genre by sales volume because relationships are full of tension. Women, and men, don’t purchase romance books because they are all huge, sentimental, love struck, romantics. Some may read romance for that reason, but in general, people yearn to see or read about relationships that are full of so much conflict that interested parties would have split long ago in real life, but they continue on at least speaking terms in the story. It’s a storytelling device that the romance genre excels in, and here Daredevil follows with greatness.

The writers in our show create tension between every single character, even Foggy and Murdoc who are best friends, and the drama is built slow like a pot of water coming to a boil. Conflicted relationships that develop over time, not in three sentences, are fascinating—in real life, in movies, television, and especially novels.

 

SURPRISE

It’s difficult to give an example from Daredevil about the surprises the writers use. To do so would ruin some of the most amazing scenes ever created for a television program.

The writers of Daredevil are able to produce these shocking scenes, not because they reach a point and think, “Let’s throw a twist in!”. Rather, they set a character down a path, with a morality you think you know they follow, and then force the character onto a road that could make them possibly go against their moral code.

It is difficult to envision without proper examples, so watch at least through Episode 11 of Season 1. When you do, keep in mind that twists like that cannot happen to every character in a novel or show. The more characters you toss moral twists at, the cheaper each subsequent one becomes. Going back to the salt analogy; too much can ruin a dish while too little will have no effect.

 

UPPING THE ANTE

Daredevil starts small and then increases the pot like an overconfident drunk playing poker.

Many TV shows and novels believe that if they lay out this massive, convoluted plot from the get go, they can coast to the end and keep the attention of the reader/viewer. The writer(s) could not be more mistaken.

Again, this is one of those that examples from the show would ruin what the writers have created. Suffice to say, every single episode throws another pepperoni on the pie, just one piece, enough for added flavor but not overpowering. By the end of the season, those single pieces create a mountain ready to topple over and create a surprise ending.

How do you do that in a novel though when most novels are not serials? You can up the plot ante with each chapter, subtly building until the penultimate chapter is a pressure cooker with the lid about to explode off.