What are your big no-no’s of writing?

And I don’t mean the obvious problems of bad grammar, bad spelling, and et cetera. I mean certain preferences and habits that you’ve formed over your lifetime of reading things. Aversions that you’ve developed or tropes you’ve noticed you dislike. For example, I have a friend who “nopes out” any time a love triangle is introduced: the trope annoys him too much, and he feels it’s overused. Another won’t read anything with overcomplex names, like N’yanfortvi. It’s all a matter of personal preference, of course, but there’s usually some underlying reason, as well.

What are the things in fiction that turn you off, make you roll your eyes, or make you go “oh, hell, no”? They can be minuscule things that just bother you, or hard rules that make you set down the work as soon as those rules are broken. I’ve put down some of my own to share, though I’ll probably add more as I think of them. I’m really interested to hear if others have preferences and dislikes and rules of their own, and how they came to be or what the reasoning is behind them! Hopefully it can help foster discussion and thought about our own writing as well, whether it be CS or otherwise. :slight_smile:

As for me, my big no-no’s are:

  • Stories that start with dream sequences. (Exception: if the dream has great and tangible significance later on, this is okay. I just dislike dreams that introduce high-action, high-stake scenes as red herrings, only for them to never matter later on.)

  • Stories that end with the revelation that it was all a dream…

  • “Bathtub” stories: stories in which no action actually occurs, and the character sits in one place (often a bathtub) and just thinks about some stuff before the story ends. Sometimes stories can do this well (I think Borgias wrote one where a guy was trying to put on his sweater?) but I usually lose interest by that point, anyway.

  • Stories where breasts are compared to fruit: “melon-like tits,” “breasts like gently-sloping avocados.” (Now hear me out on this one… those are real quotes. I used to work as an assistant editor for a lit mag, and you wouldn’t believe the number of submissions we got that did this! It was an actual thing. “Here’s another fruit-breast comparison…” I can’t do it anymore)

  • Stories about someone remorselessly cheating on their partner and having great sex with their mistress/side-man. And then that’s it. That’s the end. Essentially what we called “affair fantasy porn.” Also happened a lot—and no, I didn’t work for a porn mag!

  • Stories where characters say “lol,” “jk,” or “rofl” out loud

  • Stories in which characters are unironically racial stereotypes, and talk and act that way constantly. The character of Lee in Steinbeck’s East of Eden is a good subversion of this: he often talks in broken English or “pidgin,” but this is all a ploy to get people to underestimate him and talk freely in his presence. He’s actually a deeply-philosophical scholar who plays an integral role in guiding the characters of the story. It’s only on the surface that he seems to be the stereotypical “Chinaman.”

  • Stories in which a female protagonist is a helpless, shy, fragile, or weak “damsel in distress,” and stays that way throughout the end of the story.

  • This is oddly-specific but any story that is an allegory for going to the bathroom. I also taught a creative writing class for a few years and a student wrote many drafts of a story in which soldiers in brown uniforms parachuted out of a dimensional hole in the sky, only to find they had landed mistakenly in an ocean and were drowning. All of their names were a variation of Sergeant T. Urd…

Anyway, let’s hear everyone else’s thoughts! :slight_smile:

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What’s the point if you’re not gonna be controversial? Let’s be a bit controversial.

  • superhero stories
  • high school stories
  • more world-building than narrative
  • exhaustive lists of character options before the game has begun
  • several thousand words of text before a single choice has been made
  • a story that sets up a cool premise and then doesn’t deliver on that premise at all
  • a story that features a party of heroes with unresolved sexual tension with each other rather than doing something fun or unique with its setting that you can’t get anywhere else.

I guess the last two are pretty much the same thing in different words. I see it a lot.

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Things that I have an “allergic” reaction to include:

1: Obvious copy-cat works meant to cash in on whatever is “it” for the moment. Harry Potter-like books and GoT variations set me off almost immediately.

2: Stories that claim to be “historical” or “historically-based” but that are so far off, my brain revolts at accepting their setting.

3: Skin-tone references that use food as descriptors … is the author hungry when writing these or are they just not aware of the issues involved in doing this? Either way … “Danger Will Robinson!”

4: Stories that constantly rewrite canon - this is a huge issue in a lot of games. If the world-building an author did needs updating and revision with each and every new twist and turn, the author needs a better editor and pre-production process.

5: Constantly screaming characters. Intensity is not conveyed by constantly screaming, not even in pulp horror.

That is a short list of triggers off the top of my head. I’m sure I have more but this is a start.

Scary.

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When people write from a female narrative, but constantly mention stuff that women almost definitely don’t fixate upon and is obviously for men.

E.g. “As she woke up from bed, she noticed her heavy bags of sand were adorned in light. She got up, ready for the day ahead, her MASSIVE BAGS OF SAND tugging at her clothing.”

Even worse when this is in an “original YA fiction about strong female lead” who actually is told to be badass, but when you look at the plot they basically get helped/ rescued at the time. It’s not enough to just say “they’re strong and independent”, you have to actually write them as such.

And I absolutely hate writing that is complex in order to appeal to a specific group of people (e.g. elitists.) I can’t rememebr the name, but that “book” that has a fan following, about a family or something and murders. (Just searched, called house of leaves, couldn’t get past the first 10 pages. And the footnotes)

Although that last one is personal opinion, for many seem to like it. To each their own, but I’d still recommend not expressing already complex objects via needlessly complex descriptions

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Going to be simple. This is mostly related to IF, though, especially to some of the WIPs:

  • Looking at the mirror and realize that you have green eyes all this time (and similar char-gen variant)
  • Cut-in-the-middle character generation.
    By this, I mean something like: “…as I see my: a) rich auburn… b) lush green… c) dark chocolate…”
    So, is it my eyes, skin, or shortcake?
  • A barrage list of 20+ stats %-bar on my first press of [Show Stats] button.
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Besides the larger evils of sexism, racism, and other forms of discrimination, there are quite a few personal preferences:

  • Unnecessary romance.
    I usually dislike romance (I know this is a very unpopular opinion) and it doesn’t help that most romance in the books I read seem shoehorned in for the sake of it, or plot-stopping to the point that you could cut out most of the romance scenes and nothing would change in the story. People shouldn’t stop saving the world/planet/country because of their love interest.
  • Stories where the protagonist keeps trying to get out of their protagonist role. Sometimes, this can be a very compelling story, but most of the time, it doesn’t hold up since the benefits so clearly outweigh the negatives that it just…isn’t clear why they want out.
  • Prophetic dreams unless there’s a narrative reason for them. Allegorical dreams full of symbolism don’t do much for me. Sorry. (Of course, someone making the protagonist dream something is fine. It’s just the unexplained, vague dreams I dislike.)
  • Excessively jargon-y works.

In CS games, I have one: forced romantic feelings and forced attraction. It makes it really hard to play ace/aro characters. If it’s forced in-narrative (mind-control or similar aspects), it makes it a bit easier to swallow.

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Ohhh XD what a fun thread lol… The things i can think of right now is…

  • Having protagonists which are dead weight in the story.
  • Shoe horned love interest. Like atleast have the player end up alone if they want without detracting much from the story
  • Having to choose between doing something incredibly important and relationship building. Like i get it there are times we have to focus on our work rather than building relationships but atleast give players a chance to have another moment with them.
  • Stats and the options making no sense. Like not knowing which choice focuses on the strength stat aspect etc…
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Whoops :no_mouth: :upside_down_face:

The journey is about to begin.


“Throw the Dungeon Master into the death pit!”

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Purple Prose. Seriously, what’s with this “raven locks” trend? Can’t you say curly dark hair like a normal person? I’ve seen stories where a PoV narration was completely different compared to how the character actually behaved.

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Let me see…

  1. Forced Love triangle is a big no-no for me. I did enjoy it when I was into K-dramas but I felt it is just too overused.

  2. Having to choose between stat and relationship.

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If we are talking about actual stories:

  • I can’t read shy meek girl stories. The girl who ‘wears glasses, has a 7.9 GPA, the only friends are Chip, Napkin, and Penny, face is always described to be a tomato, tucked in shirt at all times,’ type of girl. Give the story extra points if The Plastics come up to her and dump their lunch all over her and she does nothing about it. Her personality doesn’t change throughout the story and when she eventually meets her One True Love that’s actually on the football team and they’re dating the head cheerleader, she decides that education isn’t as important anymore and ‘ditches’ class to meet up with him.

Is it easier just to say typical stereotypical stories?

  • Any character that’s rude for absolutely no reason throughout the whole book. Look, I can understand if you’re impolite since you haven’t had the best childhood or you’re just not any great with words, but if you’re purposely disrespectful and never actually say sorry… why? Just… why?

  • PROTAGONISTS THAT NEVER ACTUALLY FIX THE CONFLICT.

  • PROTAGONISTS THAT IGNORES THE CONFLICT UNTIL THE VERY LAST SECOND.

  • CONFLICTS THAT COULD’VE BEEN SOLVED IN THE LITERAL EXPOSITION.

  • Any story that starts off with “Once upon a time…” or ends with an abrupt ending.

If we are talking about IF stories:

  • When stats starts off with either 5% or over 60%. Especially the former if it’s supposed to be a ‘short’ story and stats matter.

  • If the story starts off with action and the last sentence is literally “And then…darkness.” Like, did I seriously use all my strength to knock Man Ray out and the moment he touches me, I get knocked out?

  • Already set relationships. If I am starting a story and it tells me that I am married to someone that I didn’t choose, I automatically dislike the book. Especially if there’s other romances and I like another character but the only way I can get with them is if I cheat on my SO.

  • When the story is too… descriptive. I don’t know how to put this, but when a story stops being a story and starts being a monologue written by Shakespeare himself, I Suddenly Need To Leave.

  • When the MC goes over what they have done throughout the day. For example, ‘I reminisce about how I suddenly stopped that car from crashing into the tree, decided to climb up said tree and save Mr.Whiskers, and somehow flew across the city to get home since my curfew is at 10:00pm and it was 9:59pm’ It’s like… we understand. We were there, remember? Actually, we made the choices to do all of the choices you’re reminiscing about.

  • WHEN CHOICES DON’T ACTUALLY MATTER IN THE STORY.

  • WHEN CHOICES THAT SEEM VERY IMPORTANT ACTUALLY HAVE NO EFFECT IN THE STORY.

  • WHEN CHOICES THAT SEEM INSIGNIFICANT ACTUALLY HAVE A HUGE EFFECT IN THE STORY.

Uhh… I mean, if a story is interesting enough, I would just ignore those little details and just continue on with the story.

35 Likes

In novels? Books where there is the lone girl in the main group…and worse she gets jealous when another girl joins the squad. Because she has nicer ears or some crap.
(Dear author girls dont thirst for male attention to such an extent that they’d turn againts other girls sk vehemently.)

In IF games? Stories that dont know any other way of introducing character creation other than a baby birth sequence.

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SQUINT


Ok, I should preface this by saying that my preferences for books and IF games are…different enough to warrant separate lists. I’m one of those weird people that actually want different things from different forms of media.

This is largely because I have a harder time identifying, like really identifying, with characters and plots that don’t directly affect me or any player character that I have made.

So…onward to my lists!


No-Nos for Books:
  • Please, god, no clumsy protagonists. I…that’s not a flaw…
  • Love at first sight
    • Love in general seems really tricky for most writers to grasp. The only depiction of love I’ve ever enjoyed in a novel is Ned and Cat’s romance in Game of Thrones, but they’d been married for almost fifteen years and were very clearly in love and oh god, except for the part where they died I want what they had… T-T
  • Hey, can I, idk, not have a protagonist who’s “not like other girls”? It’s kinda sexist, so maybe don’t write it? But what do I know? I’m just a girl. [giggles]
    • Ok, but seriously, that’s a huuuuuuuuuuuuuge pet peeve of mine. All of the cheerleaders I knew in high school had to maintain 3.0 GPAs, none of them were idiots, only one of them dated a football player (also, most of the football players were also the baseball or soccer teams, like…football isn’t the only sport, my fictional writer dude), and they were all like the nicest people in school. You know why? Because they would cheer people on, bro.
    • I just…ok, it’s that the stereotype of cheerleaders is so weird. Like, has it ever considered hack writers that the reason the popular kids are so popular is because they’re nice people that you want to hang around with???
    • I haven’t even been in high school for years, but I’m still just…so irritated by these inconsistencies. Super Bad and 21 Jump Street still remain some of the best depiction of high schoolers in all of media.
  • Love Triangles are of the Devil and should be wiped from the Earth
    • Like Water for Chocolate still remains the single worst book I’ve ever read in all my years and I still want to gouge my eyes out for having read it. My life has been made lesser for reading it. And it’s all because of that stupid goddamn love triangle that was so stupid, Pedro was stupid and useless and deserved to be caught on fire except oh he was but the author couldn’t even let me enjoy that right. And when he did die at the end I hated it. That book…fuck, I hate that book.
  • Long names kinda irk me?
    • I mean, what the hell is even wrong with Tita??? Like…okay, yeah, you love Pedro, but he’s married to your sister, and you know your sister wasn’t that big of a bitch to you growing up, for the love of god, why do you hate your sister, Tita???
  • The use of the word, ‘random’. I grew up…on Quizilla in Late Aughts…and holy god in heaven, I don’t know how I made it out alive. I just know that I survived, and have gained a special hatred for this word. also the word ‘rawr’ but I’ve been coming around to that Oh hey, look, it’s my childhood in meme form.
    • Gertrudis was the only good character in that entire book, and here’s why—jk, this joke is dead…not like my hatred for this book, that lives on.
  • Chosen One stories
Things that I hate in Books that I like in Games:
  • Love Triangles, but only if I’ve consented it to—there’s nothing worse than a love triangle where I legitimately don’t care for one of the romance choices coughLuckycough
    • @anyone who’s here from the Wayhaven thead, the love triangle route there doesn’t count because A/N’S BROMANCE IS TOO PRECIOUS I CANNOT HURT THEM LIKE THAT
  • Love at first sight—but only if I get to choose that for my character. Again, I don’t want to get forced into a romance I don’t want
  • I WANT MY PROTAGONISTS AS CLUMSY AS THEY ARE CUTE

That is all.

No-Nos for Games:
  • Miniscule, I mean, miniscule stat bumps. Let me be a badass Action Sue, damn it!
  • ROs that go nowhere
    • and I don’t mean physically or emotionally, I mean they literally lead you nowhere. In Zombie Exodus, Tom becomes an RO, and hell yeah I jumped at the chance he’s got a silver fox vibe going that I cannot resist, but if you follow it all the way through…you die.

it's%20BAD%20WRITING

Hmm, I had less no-nos for games than I did for writing. :thinking: Again, this might be because I’m better able to slip in the PC’s mind and play as them, so I’m more willing to forgive a loooooot of dumb crap, lol.

17 Likes

Hmm…there is a long list but to keep it short

Here are the few things i think as no-no for me

too much twisted writing (i prefer simple and straight style of conveying).

long , very long unnecessary chatter between characters unless its related to plot.

weak protagonist (just a personal preference)

useless side characters

Mixing genre’s (horror + romance =no 4 me)

Unrewarding/unsatisfactory endings (carries 80% of my marks)

6 Likes

It should be a flaw. It should be a flaw that is played up for more than simply throwing a convenient wrench in the plot. And it should not be played as a “oh, this is to make the character seem cute” thing. Actual clumsy people end up with chipped teeth, bruises, broken bones, and a more than healthy dose of anxiety accompanying things as simple as strolling through a crowded shop.

Same with other flaws. If you have an arrogant character unwilling to work with others, don’t just have them talk about how great they are and how everyone is holding them back. Put them in a situation where they need to rely on others, but ultimately choose not to due to their hubris. If you have a shy character, don’t just give them paragraph-long monologues about how they would love to do this amazing thing but they’re so shy. Have them refuse to speak up when they know something important because they have the irrational fear they will be ostracized, have them retreat into themselves during times of stress because that’s what shy people do quite often.

If you put in a flaw, make it a flaw. That’s my pet peeve.

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^this guy clumsies

I agree 100%. As an irl clumsy person who has bruised herself nearly every day of her life, it makes me veeeeeeery hesitant to try out new physical things.
And running? Fuhget about it, that’s just asking for a faceplant.

But then it’s also super hilarious, like when I was laughing so hard I fell out of my desk and then the desk tipped over and landed on my ribs and I had bruises for like a week—I’m not being disingenuous, that was actually super funny to me, and I kept laughing even after I got hurt (it was a really funny joke that I don’t even remember anymore, because I got…well… districtacted).
Ooh, or when I was seated in the back of the classroom, but every time I would laugh, I would unconsciously throw my head back and I’d bruise myself in the same spot—luckily after the third time the teacher moved me, but still. Comedy gold.

Clumsiness isn’t all rainbows and sunshines, it also isn’t all just getting hit in the face by dodgeballs, it’s failing to open your milk carton having it spill everywhere, it’s moving your knee at the wrong time and doubling over in pain because you hit it against the steering wheel, and it’s bending over to kiss your dog on the head by they get excited and jump up at the same time making headbutt your dog.

Clumsiness can be very, very good, but is often used very, very badly.

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I understand the upsides to many flaws, but it seems like the downsides are never really brought up for a few that have become what I refer to as “Standard Cute Anime Traits.” When someone with an abrasive personality that constantly calls even the people they are clost to idiots is brought up, it’s rarely in the context of “their constant abrasion and lack of regard for people who are supposed to be their friends is isolating them socially, causing them to spiral further into their bad habits and thus further isolating them in a downward spiral.” It’s almost always “this is the primary or secondary love interest for the protagonist.”

Excuse me while I gag, because I just referenced the “harem” romantic comedy subgenre.

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This:

tvtropes.org/g00/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BuryYourGays
:angry:

Otherwise, I do agree with a lot of the points raised by other people (especially @Flaine1996 and @pizzamarket), but…

These all sound like my WiP… :cold_sweat:

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How come you’re starting with a dream sequence @ParrotWatcher ? I guarantee there are at least half a dozen ways of better achieving the effect you’re going for.

  1. Overly Weakening the MC or overpowering the villain just for the sake of a “challenge” when the same was not the case before that final “showdown”

  2. Unnecessary Social Commentary

  3. Boring Childhood ROs (does anyone even romance them?)

  4. Unnecessary Character Creation choices (Does it even matter if my hair is red, white or blue?)

  5. Filler characters MC is supposed to feel for

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