I’m starting a new series of writing-craft articles called “Don’t Do This”, taking an in-depth look at some of the more dubious choices made by published authors and TV/film writers/directors/editors, and the reasons you don’t want to copy them without knowing exactly what these elements will cost your story.
I want to do this without any nastiness towards my fellow authors – so, where the examples in question come from books, I am going to block out identifying details and show only the actual issue I’m discussing. I would ask commenters to please avoid shouting out the book title and/or author if they recognise the material (and I will censor comments that don’t abide by this request).
I will, however, identify commercially-successful Movies and TV shows I use as examples. These have a slew of professionals working on every aspect of production and therefore I think it is fair game to call them on their weaknesses. Secondly, there is greater likelihood that popular shows/movies have already been seen, so spoilers are less of an issue, and there is more chance to learn from specific examples. I will attempt to create a non-spoiler generic summary, though.
First up is Horror. Kristen Lamb wrote a blog post explaining How Horror Fiction Can Make Us Better Writers. I both agree and disagree with Kristen’s theory. Horror handicaps a story, by distancing the reader/audience. So, yes, it can make you a better writer because you have to work harder. But a writer who doesn’t understand this handicap can get stuck in a cycle of attempting to increase the body count and the gore level, more graphically describing violence, and inventing new and improved ways of shocking their readers.
I explain my reasoning in detail using the TV show Fortitude as an example, here:
and here is the spoiler-free summary: