I already know what you’re thinking. Going against this advice is the building block of any creative writing course or class. Stating the obvious means you’re (1) undermining your readers and (2) you’re probably just a lazy writer. That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I am saying is that sometimes avoiding the obvious means overlooking some very exciting stuff. But don’t take my short word for it – let me explain what I mean.
Now, by stating the obvious I don’t mean writing a predictable plot from start to finish – you can still add unforeseen twists to your heart’s content. I mean that if you set up for something to happen it should happen.
How many times has the following happened in books you’ve read or TV you’ve watched?
A: I’m gonna talk to him.
B: Don’t you think that’s a little dangerous?
A: Sure. But I have to know. I have to tell him to leave me alone.
Two hours later:
B: How did it go?
A: He said he wasn’t going to bother me anymore.
B: Okay cool.
WHAT?! No, not cool in the slightest! Unless what actually happens in the confrontation is a major plot point that needs to be revealed further into the story, do not set up drama that’s never going to happen. I think writers fear that showing drama will make their writing resemble a soap-opera, but I beg to differ. Why give us set-up and aftermath when we could have action?
Basically, my frustration with this can be summed into a sentence I’ve already used in this post: Don’t set up drama that’s never going to happen. This will apply to many sorts of situations, mostly with characters whose morals are questionable, or who are part of a minority. It is a phenomenon in which the writer seemingly recognises a minority but at the same time fears that writing a character who is a part of that minority will alienate their audience. Similar situations include, but are not limited to:
- Your character is bad. Only not really, he’s just behaving that way because of, let’s say, a curse. Not like any of it is actually his fault. So there are no consequences, because you know, he didn’t know what he was doing.
- Your character has this one friend. They behave exactly like they are falling for each other. Only, you know, they are best friends so no way.
- Your character dies. Only not really, haha, it was all just a dream.
You get my point. For example, queerbaiting drives me absolutely insane. Setting up a homosexual relationship and then passing it off as a homoromantic one is not right. Go with what your characters tell you. I don’t mind a little “will they, won’t they” fun, but as a reader and viewer, I demand action! Writers are supposed to be brave. So be brave and let your characters be who they are.
So sometimes, just sometimes, give your audience what they expect. Walk bravely towards drama. Trust me, your readers will love you for it.
What do you think about going for the obvious solutions? Do you have any cautionary tales from books/films/TV? Which writers succeed in setting up drama and seeing it through? Comment your opinions and let’s chat!