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Ten Elements of Bad Storytelling: Inroduction (+ Annotation)

First, Annotation: Mistborn Chapter Thirty-One

Second, check out this cool Deviantart profile where a reader is posting their fanart sketches of Mistborn. Awesome!

Finally, onto the meat of the post. As I mentioned last week, I’m going to run a feature on the blog over the next couple of weeks in which I’ll discuss some elements of bad storytelling that we authors often use, and often get away with. Today, I’ll do the introduction. After all ten are posted, I’ll collect them into a single essay and post it in the appropriate section of my website, with a link from the blog.

Ten Elements of Bad Storytelling (we all use)

I used to play an RPG with a friend of mine, Nathan Jennings, who would often chastise the rest of us for trying to rush through things in order to get to the fights. It became cliche for us that he’d yell out “Bad storytelling!” every time we’d cut a corner with our characters, being too lazy to come up with proper motivations or explanations for why we were doing what we did.

I’ve come a long way in my storytelling skill since then. However, the more I become part of the publishing industry–and the more I talk to others about how to write well–the more I realize that there are some crutches that a lot of us authors use when it comes to telling our stories. These are the short-cuts, the easy fixes–many of them things we tell aspiring writers never to do. Yet, then we turn around and use them ourselves in our writing.

Are we wrong to do so? I’m not completely certain, to be honest. That’s part of the reason I want to write this essay. I want to look at some of these things and see how vital they are to the process, and if we can even realistically escape using them in commercial fiction. I’ll ask the questions: Does bad storytelling always indicate a bad story? Why do we use these crutches? When is it laziness, and when is it good to use elements of bad storytelling? (If that’s even possible.)

Maybe in writing this, I’ll realize that these are things that only I use, and thereby expose myself as a hack! Perhaps Oz shouldn’t show off the contraptions he uses to make his magic. Or, maybe, people will claim that some of these aren’t even accurately defined as ‘bad’ storytelling elements, but instead simply necessary tools for writing books.

Either way, I suspect it will be a lot of fun to write. And so, sit back and enjoy. I’ll count them down from number ten to number one, in order of which ones I think are increasingly grievous sins (particularly when used incorrectly.)

Next: #10–Coincidental Meetings and Discoveries!

(Also, note, this is a rough draft of the essay. I’ll probably touch it up as I go, so some lines/ideas may change over time.)

|   Castellano