Writing Pet Peeves of Mine that I’m Also Guilty of (Part 2)

I’m just going to jump right into continuing where I last left off. If you haven’t read part 1, I highly suggest you do so.

5. Characters with more baggage than I can handle

There is usually one character that is so unfortunate and so tortured that you want to reach into the medium that they”re in, pull them out, and cuddle them until the torture stops. Which, spoiler warning, is never. I love tortured characters but I’m not capable of writing them well. I struggle with drawing the line between character torture that is relevant to the plot and character torture for the sake of character torture. As a result, a lot of my tortured characters become caricatures or just plain inhuman.

This is what works for me: I put myself in the shoes of the character and ask myself if I think I could survive it with every part of myself intact. The answer is usually yes for things like break-ups and deaths of people they weren’t close with. About everything else would be a no. If I don’t think I can handle it and survive, I should probably tone down with the torture. This isn’t really a hard and fast rule. If I can’t handle it but I think someone else could, then I’ll leave it in. For experiences I’m not familiar with — well I usually avoid writing about it because I look it takes a lot of work to pull off — I look for anecdotes of survivors. From those anecdotes, I try to find a similarity between them like the type of coping mechanisms or the type of triggers that they avoid as a result of the trauma. Then I try to come up with a slightly different response with those common denominators in mind. Typically, I avoid describing the trauma because it’s usually not a main plot point. I usually stick to how the person deals with the aftermath.

6. Having characters with very similar backgrounds

If there is room for a character to be affected by family issues, financial difficulties, sexism, and racism, my characters will have all these things in their bio 7/10 of the time. This is mostly laziness on my part. When I really care about an issue, I will read extensively on it. Since I’m already a lot familiar with it compared to other topics, I tend to write about it more.

There’s only one way to fix this: stop being lazy. Yes, a lot of people face these problems. But if that’s all that ALL of your characters face, the it’ll be difficult differentiating them. Do more research and read about the experiences who deal with these issues. Even if you must give all of them the exact same problems, show how their reactions are different. Don’t do what I do and make everything the same. I had to rewrite about everything for one of my stories because of that. That was not fun.

7. Infodumping

I don’t think many people think that infodumping is a good thing. As someone who visualises scenes vividly but has difficulty describing them, I get very frustrated when I watch any form of visual media where people behind it don’t take advantage of their ability to relay subtle details. A movie that I watched recently that shall go unnamed (yes, it’s the same movie that I mentioned in part 1) was apparently so fond of infodumping that the characters felt more like walking textbooks than people. That being said, I also do this a lot because describing things is difficult for me.

My solution for this is a little counter-intuitive. Let yourself infodump, at least for the first few drafts. These are details that you probably intend to include in the final draft anyway. It’s just that the execution is a little… eh. Just be mindful of these segments as you write them. Change the font colour, highlight, underline, whatever. You can get back to it once the main plot of your story has already been refined to the best of your abilities. If you don’t want to write it in your drafts, write it in your notes. Even if you don’t end up including these parts, it’s always good to have back-up ideas.

8. Plot twist for the sake of having a plot twist

This is my biggest pet peeve and also the one I’m most guilty of. I think most creative people can relate to wanting to surprise the audience. It’s a good feeling. To me, there’s nothing more satisfying than finally having all these minor confusions culminate into a plot twist. I want to elicit that response from people through my writing. Unfortunately, I never drop enough hints that makes the plot twist not-cheap. I try not to give in to the urge to surprise the reader at every turn because when I do, it’s usually done really sloppily.

What I do to avoid this problem is to extensively plan out the events leading up to the plot twist. It has to be something that is possible, but the reader just never considered it likely because you kept them thinking that events would unfold some other way. It’s crucial to drop hints before it actually happens so that it doesn’t feel like it came out of no where. Personally, I like it when the clues are hiding in plain sight. I love being reminded that I’m not as smart as I think I am.

That isn’t to say that you can’t include a new plot twist that you thought of in the process of writing. What I’ve done in the past list to list out all the things that would need to happen for the plot twist to make sense. Don’t be conservative when you’re doing this. Throw in as many details as you can think of. Once you’re done, decide if you feel that the plot twist is really worth rewriting all those segments. If the answer is yes, then first finish your draft as if you never thought of that new plot twist. There have been few things in my life more annoying than spending days rewriting parts of your manuscript then realising that you want to remove that plot twist. By the time you’re done editing it again, you’ve lost momentum.

Those are my eight writing pet peeves that I’m also guilty of! I hope that this has been helpful to you, or at least entertaining to read.

If there are any writing pet peeves that you have, I would love to read about them. Feel free to leave a comment below!

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