Don’t just rewatch the good stories

What you can learn from professional lazy writing

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures

The Covenant came out in 2006 and the first thing I thought was that it was “The Craft” with boys. “The Craft” came out 10 years before this movie and has become a cult classic over the years so the first time I saw the trailer for The Covenant, I thought it would be a great film.

I was wrong.

The movie itself is about four friends who are the descendants of the original settlers of a northeastern colony. Oh, and they’re also warlocks. Sounds like a cool concept, right?

In reality, at least in both times I’ve watched this film, it’s a ridiculous mess of teenage angst with some magic thrown in, and filled with every magic related TV trope you can imagine.

Some of the rules make sense — magic that pulls from your life force, for example. You get an unlimited magic pool until you ‘ascend’ or turn 18, and then magic pulls from your own life force, aging you as you use it.

The rest — unlimited magical resources, but when they fight the ‘big bad’ all they use is telekinesis to throw stuff at each other. It’s like fighting Darth Vader in The Force Unleashed — you can’t hit him, so you stand across the room and force-throw boxes at him until he dies.

Yes, you can literally box Darth Vader to death like a little bitch.

So what can you learn from watching stories like these, full of lazy writing?
  1. Avoid Cliches — Cliches have their place in writing, but if you use too many of them, you risk turning your story into one big cliche.
  2. Don’t Build Stereotypical Characters — If your character can fit into one or more categories on TV Tropes, you might find yourself having to rewrite them. Sarah, the new girl in The Covenant, is the stereotypical damsel in distress.
  3. Emergency Temporal Plot Holes — When the Daleks initiate their emergency temporal shift to escape sure defeat, it ensures that they’ll be around to appear in future episodes, but it’s almost a lazy way to cover up possible plot holes. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures made fun of this — “It was me that stole my dad’s keys!”
  4. Fanservice Only Goes So Far — Everyone loves seeing references to their favorite shows, books, or movies but it only goes so far. Don’t water down your story in favor of nodding to others.

We’ve all probably been guilty of lazy writing at one time or another and we all see it crop up in movies and TV shows. Watching movies or TV shows that annoy us with their lazy writing styles can be a great way to learn what not to do.

Watch lazy movies. Find the things that annoy you the most and make a mental note not to do them in any of your stories. Go back and read some of your old work and see if your writing shows any of those lazy traits.

Writing is like any other skill — the more you use it, the better you get.

What lazy writing tropes have you noticed in your favorite shows or movies lately?

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