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This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Bad writing launched as Bad Writing Discussion: From YKTTW

Working Title: A Terrible Writing Trope: From YKTTW

Lord Seth: Removed:

I'm also skeptical as to whether Anti-Climax should really be listed.

Ethereal Mutation: Anti-Climax always leaves a sense of emptiness and disappointment in people. Describing things as "anticlimactic" is almost always a negative thing. About the only time an Anti-Climax "works" is when the joke is supposed to be on the audience (as per a Shaggy Dog Story).

The Kitchen Magician: Would So Bad, It's Horrible fit on here?

Ethereal Mutation: That's more of a result than a cause. Mentioning it as such in the main text works, though.

Nibbles: I propose that a lot of entries here, like Anti-Climax or Broken Aesop, are not really signs of bad writing, per se: they just frustrate common expectations of fiction. I think that this page should, in order to keep it meaningful, be limited to truly always-bad tropes. Unjustified tropes, common mistakes, and that sort of thing.

Here's a sample partial list from Some Tropes Are Bad, a page I set up before realizing this one already existed:

Always Bad
Tropes which are always bad, even if outweighed by resultant positives.

Bad If Unjustified
Tropes which are bad barring a sufficient explanation.

Luc: Much of the above is not actually Bad Writing. The classification for this page should be less on badness, and more on what kind of badness. I don't mind if there's a separate page for Bad Tropes that covers non-writing bad tropes. Hell, I started this page purely to stop Pot Holes to Writers Suck. Maybe Bad Execution?

James: Should Only the Author can save them now be added to the list (Or at least the 'Bad if unjustified')? Also why is Americanitis on here, it is not always bad; As noted in it is is just usually not done well, but that doesn't mean it cannot be done well. So it should probably be removed or given a different section then 'Always Bad'. Same goes with Executive Meddling, see Protection from Editors. It is also not really bad writing, it is more of a case of bad editing.


matruz: Could the What Happened to the Mouse? possibly fit here?

Leigh Sabio: I second.
Leigh Sabio: Should Mary Sue be removed? There are examples of good Mary Sues, and not in the Parody Sue or So Bad, It's Good way. For instance:

Ethereal Mutation: Considering nobody can agree on any set objective criteria or reliable method of reproduction, yes, it should. At best, it's just a fan reaction and is mentioned in the opening as such.

(Several weeks later.)

Ethereal Mutation: I've removed all of the Bad Writing categorization from the Mary Sue types outside of Possession Sue (since it specifically involves Character Derailment), Thirty Sue Pileup (not quite sure on this one, but it seems like it wouldn't produce very good results), and Black Hole Sue (the token TV Tropes mascot Mary Sue specifically defined from the start as bad with a block on examples and major edits to prevent what would otherwise be inevitable Trope Decay). The reasons are:

  1. The terms are really contentious in their definition and application.
  2. It's completely subjective to the point where even its status as always "bad" is a debate in and of itself.
  3. Very few definitions allow for characters to be "scientifically proven" (for lack of a more evocative term) as a Mary Sue. One person's Ass Pull is another person's "holy shit, that's awesome!" Because of this, it can't really be called a "trope" and this list revolves around bad writing tropes, not reactions.

Rebochan: This site does not define Mary Sue as subjective. Until the Mary Sue tropes change to Subjective Trope, they are valid tropes and they are definitely examples of bad writing. Let me ask you this - if you were an author and someone declared your main character a Mary Sue, would you take that as a compliment to your skills? I put the Bad Writing label on there because there is no use for Mary Sue except to accuse the author of bad writing. I know there is a small contingent of people who want to apply the Mary Sue label to every character in fiction by trying to claim it's not "bad", but that goes completely counter to the very origins of the term - an attempt to point out bad writing in fanfiction.

I mean, let's take a look at the Sue topics:
  1. Villain Sue: A villain so powerful as to be boring because nobody can defeat him.
  2. God-Mode Sue: A hero so powerful as to be invincible and boring because no villain can defeat him.
  3. Jerk Sue: A character who is a complete asshole but isn't called on it for apparent reason.
  4. Purity Sue: A character that is so perfect that they are impossible to relate to - no accolades they receive are based on actual work, they possess the physical attractiveness beyond that of any earthly person, and they have absolutely no flaws to speak of...aside from the vomiting of the readers when confronted with someone so insufferable.
  5. Sympathetic Sue: A character who is flatly written and only defined by some great tragedy.
  6. Relationship Sue: A character that only exists to be the perfect mate to a chosen character - and that's it.

I'm sorry, do any of these tropes sound like examples of good writing? Even The Other Wiki points out this is bad writing. Pay special attention to the Criticism section, in which several authors as early as the 1980s talk about being afraid of writing Sues. I don't see any reason to strip the Bad Writing label from these tropes under these circumstances.

I feel this bears repeating - there is no such thing as a "good" Mary Sue. The characters listed above are not Sues and it's really easy to point out why.

Rebochan: So somebody went and tagged all the Mary Sue tropes as subjective. Not sure if that's sticking, but that does affect this argument if it does.

Ethereal Mutation: It has been subjective in pretty much every single way short of the little pink banner for about as long as it has existed (certainly as long as the articles have been treated as Somebody Else's Problem and near-impossible to fix as a result; ask around and it becomes quite apparent most established, constructive members would like to pretend they don't exist). The main article shows it through the fact that which aspects are accepted pretty much comes down to each individual person and while one would like to believe there's some objective criteria to the subtypes that is just being willfully exaggerated or disregarded, it's hardly localized to any sort of easily disregarded minority (not to mention that the crux of the argument against most contested examples really comes down to "people like this character" and little else). The lack of Subjective Tropes tagging until recently really just comes down to oversight at this point (I certainly stopped caring enough to tag it myself).

If the term itself ever had a specific meaning, it was diluted long before it even left the Star Trek fandom. One of the referenced interviews from 1987 reveals female authors writing male characters (presumably without much difference outside of gender with the way they talk about it) specifically because their attempts at female characters were always lambasted as Mary Sue no matter what they actually did with the character. Unless the definition is supposed to be "any female protagonist created by a fan" (although accusations of Gem from the original series episode "The Empath" being a "Mary Sue" from around the same time period disproves even that), it either shows a large Double Standard (which, at its core, is almost never based on anything objective) or just the simple reality that it has always been within the eye of the beholder.

Another article talks about how the term has actively discouraged people from writing and even cites it as a reason why there are so few competent, believable, and identifiable-with female characters (presumably within the fandom, but I'm going by the quoted part of the book). If it were a "trope" with a set of criteria that could be held across the board, one would be able to simply say "do this, not that", but it gets flung around with reckless abandon regardless what people do and the only way to avoid the label is to, well, not try at all.

As far as whether the entire mess of subjective, impossible to quantify in any way likely to be accepted across the board (and, hence, not a "Bad Writing" trope any more than Seasonal Rot or The Scrappy) is "always bad" in and of itself... there is a genuinely large number of people that don't view a character as automatically "ruined" by being a Mary Sue (e.g. "I know Golden Age Superman is a total Marty Stu, but that's what makes him fun") and many that even adopted the term to various extents (e.g. Bob and George specifically calling Bob a Mary Sue).

...to be honest, I'm not even sure how one is supposed to quantify Thirty Sue Pileup without an objective notion as to what the "Sue" refers to and it even has the added bonus of being very contrary to a lot of the definitions floating around. As such, it probably doesn't really belong here, either. Might not really have any place as an actual article on the site, but that, as mentioned above, is Somebody Else's Problem at this point. It's kind of hard to really care about the Mary Sue pages when next to nobody else does.

Rebochan: I certainly feel your pain about the giant pileup of garbage that has become the Mary Sue pages. Somebody linked one of them to me as "evidence" that their declaration of a character as a Sue was supported by TV Tropes and was therefore accurate. I had to inform that these pages are hardly usable for justification anymore because of all the problems. Maybe they should have been subjective all along, though nobody ever brought that up.

Still, just imagine if Mary Sue drew the kind of attention that I Am Not Making This Up or Rape The Dog did. Maybe then something would have gotten done.

Rebochan: And they've all been untagged. That's it - discussion on boards is here. There is a Crowner active. Come hell or highwater, something will fix Mary Sue or I will be very cross!

James: To a degree I think it is bad writing because if gives someone that feeling your probably doing something wrong.

Matruz: I consider that Unfortunate Implications should be here, although it has been argued that they can sneak upon good writing, fact is, most of the time they don't (just read the page's examples), especially if it the writer incurred in one or several inadvertently. Not to mention that Unfortunate Implications is major source of Old Shame, Moral Dissonance, Broken Aesop and other bad writing tropes.

James: However it is subjective and isn't bad writing in itself though.
Leigh Sabio: Should She Then Saw The Glint Of Triumph In His Eyes really be on here? Maybe it doesn't happen in real life as much as it does in fiction, but I have seen actors convey emotion very well through just their eyes, surrounding muscles, and eyebrows. (Leonard Nimoy, anyone?) Sometimes, a person would rather conceal an emotion/intention, and so they would only express it very subtly. Using eyes can be a shorthand for those who don't want to spend paragraphs upon paragraphs detailing the subtle movements of a face.
Tsochar: Removed Infant Immortality. Just because it's unrealistic (and that's dubious, given the relative paucity of infant characters) doesn't make it bad writing. I'd rather not meet anyone who would say "there are no dead babies here; this book must suck." Also, the example itself specifically mentioned Crapsack World as the only instance in which it applied. That's not a bad writing trope, that's a trope coupling that some apparently believe doesn't work well.

Would It Gets Better come under Bad Writing? Pretty much the opposite problem of Xen Syndrome / Ending Fatigue.