We’ve all probably read bad writing at one point or another. Most often, it is the result of stagnant plot. Here are some things I noticed seem to kill a plotline*:

  1. Creating purposeless drama. Far too often, an author will have a character experience twenty million disasters just so their character has to struggle. Through EVERYTHING. In short: No one is that unlucky. If you want to bring your character to a climax/breaking point emotionally, one catastrophe should be enough. If it’s not, you’ve either created a nihilist or a vegetable.
  2. Refusing to pitch your babies. These are scenes you can’t chuck because you’re emotionally attached. But scenes like that act as a parasite. They will choke you and your story. So if they hinder your character or take away from theme, then they probably need to go die in a pit. Sorry.
  3. Trying to make something unrelated fit in. You know that spark-of-genius scene that you just know has to go in your story? It doesn’t. It might be the goose that laid the golden egg, but if you’re writing about ducks, keep the geese out of it. Save it for when you write about geese.
  4. You are absolutely stuck. Something’s gotta give. If it’s not your characters, it’s probably your plot. A bad plot will suck even your characters dry, leaving you with dust-bunnies in a desert of boredom.
  5. It wouldn’t happen in reality. Even in the case of fantasy fiction, if it wouldn’t happen to you, it probably doesn’t have a place in your writing either. Always write from the perspective of a real person, remembering to not stretch it too far to accommodate melodrama or cheesy resolutions.

 *As I disclaimer, I want to emphasize that this is by any means an exhaustive list, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t break these rules for the purposes of parodying, creating unreliable narrators, etc. And I’m speaking from experience, so I’m not immune to these either.

 Please add your own as well! I’d love to hear them!