Do It Your Way

Perhaps because of the angry fan reactions to the end of Game of Thrones (I never saw it), Ryan Lanz has a fine post Let Your Characters Live On Without You.

“A writer actively made a choice, it was their choice to make, and there’s nothing their audience can do to change it once it’s published and out there in the world.”

This resonated with me. I have been disappointed by the endings of series, especially  ones that started grandly and slowly died.  Sometimes the author does better with a stand-alone or I can re-read the first book without troubling with the rest.

Worst case scenario, I avoid the author’s other works.

The real consolation is that I learn something. I can’t blame the authors who risked telling their stories! Instead, I add to a list of things I won’t do in my own writing.*

Here are some from my list, a few so old that I’ve forgotten the story that disappointed me.

  • Don’t build up a girl as a strong, intelligent female and then have her take unquestioned orders from an oracle, a newly-met boy, or a stranger who says “Everything you thought was true, is a lie!” (This is a mash-up of several books.)
  • Don’t make characters unconscious (sleeping, knocked out, drugged by the villain) so they miss crucial conversations or so other characters can do heavy lifting.
  • Don’t make everyone love/protect your protagonist unless it’s clear WHY the protagonist is lovable/valuable to those characters.
  • If the protagonist’s friend or family member is kidnapped/tortured/killed, NEVER LET THE PROTAGONIST FORGET. (Especially if it’s convenient to make the kidnapper/torturer/killer into a key ally of the protagonist!)
  • If an enemy has vowed to destroy/kill the protagonist, do not use deus ex machina or a secondary character to avoid the head-to-head conflict.
  • Don’t make lazy correlations as shortcuts to understanding characters; e.g. religious = fanatic, gay = artistic, old = feeble.

*Gail Carriger, author of Soulless, recently Tweeted things she was tired of in YA novels. One was the male stalker who becomes the love interest.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Do It Your Way

  1. Your list is so good. I read books to the end, even when they have some annoying flaws, but it’s harder if there’s a lot. The third one applies to Twilight because Bella was not lovable. That became really obvious when Alice Cullen left for a while.

    Can you share the rest of your list?

    • Twilight breaks a rule from TV episodes/series that I disliked: Don’t make a baby grow up super-fast just because you (the writer) can’t figure out how couples can still be happy after Baby makes three.

      As for my list – all right! But give me a few days. I’m in the middle of exam week!

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. “If the protagonist’s friend or family member is kidnapped/tortured/killed, NEVER LET THE PROTAGONIST FORGET. Especially if it’s convenient to make the kidnapper/torturer/killer into a key ally of the protagonist!)”

    Lyra’s bff Roger in His Dark Materials. Her father Lord Asriel murdered him by separating him from his daemon to create energy. Scarred me for life!

    • Lyra was one of the reasons I made the first rule. She was all headstrong and tough in the first book but listening to ouija (whatever the “-ometer” thing was) and letting “murderer” Will take the lead in the second book. I heard that the movie made it so that Lyra’s father didn’t murder Roger, if that’s any consolation. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Pingback: Story Taboos: A Personal List | The House of Nonsense

Comments are closed.