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“Could Do Better” Syndrome

May 18, 2015

This is sort of a companion piece to “The Unbearable Lightness (and Sadness) of Writer Brain“, which I posted a few weeks ago. I seem to have more thoughts on the matter, and if you can’t indulge grumpiness on a blog, when can you?

So, the fall TV shows are wrapping up this month, which means that I start evaluating whether or not I want to continue with them next year. Most years, I drop one or two from my watch-list and this year’s no exception. My reasoning gets more and more about lazy storytelling every year, though. A couple years ago, I quit two shows because the writers were going for the reset button every single finale. Apparently you can’t have drama without the romantic leads being on the outs with each other? Last year I quit a show because the story had gotten so convoluted the characters were nearly not themselves anymore. This year, I’m dropping a two shows for being boring, and one because I spent almost all of last season literally saying to myself, “I can do better than the writers with that material.”

I mean, they were taking the easy or cheap way out for nearly every single plot twist last season, and that’s on top of the inconsistencies in the world-building. Heck yeah, I could do better.

And it’s the same with books. I mentioned in “Unbearable Lightness” that formulas make me grumpy and/or kick me out of a story, and there’s nowhere that’s more true than in urban fantasy. I used to read a lot in the genre, but now there’s only a handful of writers that I’m following because, well. There seems to be this general failure of imagination, with too many books following too similar characters and too similar stories, for all that the magical powers are different.

Again, I find myself saying, “I can do better.” I know what the tropes are. I know the clichés. I know how people have tried to subvert both and failed. I can see all sorts of characters, professions, settings, scenarios that haven’t been tried. (Why haven’t they been tried? Or, if tried, not published?) I can look at a plot twist and come up with two or three ideas to make it more interesting.

I’m in the middle, literally, of one of a “do-it-better” novel right now, and even though I’m tearing my hair out about the plot structure, I’m still holding onto that kernel of hopeful knowledge.

I can do better, and I will.

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