Sunday, January 11, 2004

You'd Think Most of This Stuff Would Be Obvious...

Inspired by the mediocre Buffy novel I'm reading, as well as the many, many other mediocre TV-tie in novels I've read in my life, I'd like to present:


  • I do not need long, boring chunks of exposition telling me who all these characters are and what their relationships and backstories and etc. are. I already know these things, because I am a fan of the show. If I were not a fan of the show, I would not be reading a book based on it.

  • Even if I weren't familiar with the show, it should not be necessary to explicitly tell me, e.g., that Xander is zany and Willow is perky. If you are doing your job as a writer, these things should be clear from their actions and dialog. "Show, don't tell" is a piece of writing advice that's garnered a lot of criticism from people who misinterpret what it actually means. But it's still good advice.

  • If you're going to create original characters, make them interesting people in their own right, not just plot devices. And that means actually making them interesting, not just, you know, saying that they're interesting.

  • Do not spell an established character's name wrong. Ever. There is no excuse for it, and if you do it you deserved to be soundly thwacked and to have your keyboard taken away from you for a period of not less than a year.

  • Also, do not use a minor character from the show and turn him into someone completely unrecognizable. This also merits thwacking and keyboard-deprivation. (Doing it to a major character merits disembowling.)

  • Don't get cute and meta unless you're really, really sure you can pull it off. If you have a character think something like, "Well, at least Event X provides amusing comic relief from the exciting drama of Event Y" (and they're not being ironic), you'd better be damned sure that X is funny and Y is exciting and dramatic, otherwise readers will roll their eyes and laugh at you.

  • If you need a character to do something for plot reasons and are having trouble justifying it as being in-character, for gods' sakes, either come up with a good reason to force the character's hand or change the plot. Do not invent an incredibly lame reason and then state it repeatedly over the course of a hundred pages, as if sheer repetition will make us accept it.

  • There are some plot ideas which have been used so often that there should now be a moratorium placed on them for the indefinite future. Identify these, and avoid them. For instance, "There has been no vampire activity around Sunnydale for weeks, making everyone nervous because it's Too Quiet(tm)" might have been an interesting idea the first time it was used. Maybe. It has, however, long since gotten annoying.

  • I'm sure I could come up with many, many other suggestions, but I think those will do to start with. Consider this a public service posting...

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