One of the first lessons you learn as a writer is that there is a HUGE difference between what you find fun to write and what is actually good to write. Now bear with me here, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t write something you enjoy – in fact, you probably should. What I’m saying is that when you write, it’s very easy to write what you WANT to instead of what’s best for the story or characters, or makes the most sense.
As an example, one of the characters I’m writing (not to toot my own horn) is a well-rounded character with clear motivations and background. She’s a heroic being, but is not without flaws, and over the course of her story goes through serious moral struggle and trauma. As such, I would never make her put a banana split on her head, schreech “I WILL BE THE ONLY HIGHLANDER!” and use her daughter as a battering ram, despite the fact that it would probably be hilarious.
This is a bit of an extreme example, but there are much more damaging and much simpler traps to fall into. For example, any fan of doctor who is probably familiar with the fanbase’s hatred of a certain blonde teen in a shopping mall. Man I hate Rose Tyler. (Billie Piper’s awesome though, hope she has a great career)
This character is a rather unfortunate example of one such pitfall (unfortunate because she shows up everywhere, constantly, until Russel T. Davies is taken out of the head writer). Namely, this personal maxim of mine: “If it’s important to the character, make sure there’s a scene showing it.”
I can hear you scoffing now. ‘Well duh, David, of course the character needs to act likeable!’ Trust me, it’s nowhere near as obvious as you think at first.
See, when you make a character, you know everything about them – their hopes, their dreams, likes, dislikes, plans for the future, etc etc. You know them more intimately than anyone, exactly why they’re people you should like. Rose is a character that is completely unlikeable, being put into a position where the writer clearly wants you to think she’s absolutely wonderful (she becomes god-emperor for like a minute) and I personally think this is why. Russel T Davies already liked Rose, and thought of her as the Doctor’s best companion, so he didn’t feel the need to show us this. Instead we needed to see her act jealous towards Sarah Jane Smith almost immediately on meeting her, question the Doctor’s decision to try to kill a planet-destroying monstrosity that wiped out his entire race, and get pissed off at her boyfriend for moving on after she disappeared into a magic blue box with two hot guys (one of whom clearly wants to ride her) without him and disappearing for a year. (Or two. I don’t remember which, writing at 1am)
Russel T Davies may have seen Rose as a kind, caring person with a bit of an attitude, but we never got to see that. Instead, scenes were shown with her being a total jerk for no good reason, occasional love scenes with the Doctor and constantly being told by the show that we were supposed to like her.
The end result was a character so maligned by the fanbase that her very name is poison.
There’s many pitfalls like this. The one I fall into most often is the trap of what I choose to dub “logic screws”: essentially, things within the story that are so beyond stupid that the reader will probably just stare at you akwardly.
So there’s the first half of the title. Why the second half?
Well… quite frankly, writing absolutely stupid trash just for the fun of writing it is still fun! Call it a guilty pleasure, but I love writing insane, stupid shit that makes absolutely no sense. I think you should spend at least SOME time just throwing idea after idea on paper just for the fun of it, ignoring quality entirely, if only for the stress relief… and stuff. The trash is what helps you get through the hard work needed to make something good.
I mean I’m never going to show you guys scenes with Lone Star songfighting his way past an eldritch abomination in the shape of a horse while his split-personality girlfriend who’s pregnant with his baby and the baby of the other personality’s boyfriend, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to write.
… Okay. Finals are over. Next week, write something BEFORE 1:30 am on the day it’s due.