Yesterday and today I was listening to the audiobook version of Redshirts by John Scalzi. Now, if you haven’t read it already, and I would generally recommend that you do, I won’t go into any spoilers here. Let’s just say that one of the main things it points out is how bad or lazy writing relies on poor logic, coincidence and, quite often, characters making very poor decisions, all because that’s what the writer needs to get to the next part of their plot.
I’m sure you know what I mean, you can probably think of examples. It might be the ever reliable staple of the teenage victim running up the stairs rather than out the front door; it might be a character doing exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time, triggering the next dramatic event. It doesn’t even need to involve characters, it could be some suspiciously useful (and unlikely) technology. One of Britt’s favourite objections, when we do get time to watch something together; is picture or video enhancement. Being a photographer, she has a fairly good idea how much you can zoom in on an image before you lose all definition.
I know for a fact that I’ve been guilty of some of this. No, not the stairs one, I don’t think I’ve been that bad. But I have had characters make dubious decisions to ensure the plot went in the direction I wanted. At best, I’ve tried to make the decision in keeping with the character.
At the least, I know it’s something I need to be aware of, and I am doing my best to make sure that I catch any slide in that direction while I’m still in first draft territory. Or if it gets past me there; hopefully I’ll catch it on a revision.