"And you will stand there, wondering how we did it..."
Linkara: Ooh! I know how! (points up toward the ceiling)
Text: Inhumanly Awful Writing
This is an index of tropes that are often indicative of plain bad writing.
When done unintentionally, these tropes are usually bad signs. When done intentionally, they're often signs of parody
, comedy, or just the writer being ironic or stylized
Please note that Tropes Are Tools
, and many highly acclaimed works have used these tropes successfully.
Not to be mistaken for Writers Suck
, which has more to do with Butt Monkeys
than bad writing.
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- Aesop Amnesia: The more times a character is taught a lesson without learning it, the lower the viewer's opinion of him/her and you.
- Angst? What Angst?: Make your characters react realistically to setbacks or tragic events. Too little angst makes them unrealistic and callous. See Wangst for the result of too much angst.
- Character Derailment: Characters can grow, but don't suddenly mutate them into something else.
- Character Shilling: Having characters suddenly talk up another character for no real reason doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
- Chickification: Stripping the action from an Action Girl does not work, and pisses off all the feminists in the audience.
- Conflict Ball: Don't have a character cause conflict just because the plot says so.
- Creator's Pet: Treating a certain character with tons of love when they really don't deserve it is never a good idea.
- Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Making almost every character a despicable scumbag and giving absolutely no hope for the rest will only tire out the audience until they lose interest in the story.
- Derailing Love Interests: Breaking up a promising relationship just to get the official couple together is not going to sit well with the viewers who care more about the characters than the concept.
- Designated Hero: Having your hero Kick the Dog and still expecting your audience to accept him as an Ideal Hero because you say he is doesn't usually work, and makes your protagonist unlikable. If you want a darker hero, an Anti-Hero or Villain Protagonist will usually work better than trying to ignore your character's flaws.
- Designated Love Interest: If you say that two characters are in love, don't make them hate or be apathetic to each other, actually go out of your way to make them love each other. Otherwise it just feels contrived.
- Designated Villain: Having your villain Pet the Dog or come off as harmless and still expecting your audience to see him as a monster just because you say he is doesn't usually work, and makes your antagonist petty. If you want a lighter villain, an Anti-Villain or Hero Antagonist will usually work better than trying to gloss over the redeeming aspects of your character.
- Die for Our Ship: Attacking a rival of your pairing of choice doesn't necessarily make that character a bad person and makes you look petty.
- Distress Ball: Don't have a character get kidnapped for no good reason.
- Draco in Leather Pants: Have an acceptable reason for making a truly evil character suddenly be nice. "He or she is hot!" will not do.
- Dull Surprise: Have your characters emote during events that would make a real person do so.
- Failure Hero: While having the hero lose from time to time adds some realism to the hero and drama to the story, if they lose every single fight or mission, not only will it destroy any and all tension, but the reader will feel bad for relating with the hero.
- Faux Action Girl: If you say that a girl is strong, then make her strong. If said Action Girl comes off as too weak, the audience will begin to hate her.
- Hero Ball: Heroes are expected to make bad decisions every now and then, but when they directly aid the villains, it becomes this trope.
- Idiot Ball: When the character is suddenly acting like an idiot.
- Informed Wrongness: If a character is actually in the wrong, prove it.
- Invincible Hero: A hero who can't lose is boring.
- Invincible Villain: A villain who can't lose is even more boring.
- Jerk Sue: Having a character be a complete Jerkass who gets away with it just because the author designates them as such and says you should support them does not make for a strong character, and is more likely going to turn out be a case of Creator's Pet, and often The Scrappy. Also, it tends to look like a half-assed effort when the author just throws in some secondary throw-away detail in an attempt to make you feel sorry for the character and expect you to not get upset when they behave like a jerk for no other reason than they feel like it at the time.
- Mary Sue: A flawless, invincible character who never loses at anything makes for a boring story. Mary Sue Tropes and Common Mary Sue Traits contain lots of information on different types of Sue.
- Most Writers Are Male / Most Writers Are Adults: Women are likely to be written from ignorance, stereotypes, and/or in unsympathetic ways (either in the form of misogyny or over-sexualization), and children will have unsettlingly adult personalities projected onto them.
- Motive Decay: If the villain has a motive, they should be expected to at least attempt to carry through with it (if not to its conclusion).
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Don't give a character a new ability out of thin air depending on the situation.
- Out of Character: Moments when the character does something that he wouldn't normally do without any justification.
- Positive Discrimination: Don't make the female or minority characters better than the others simply because they are minorities, and don't make the male characters incompetent simply because they are males.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: A character's moral standing should be based on their actions as a whole, not solely on their actions toward the main character. A sure sign of a Mary Sue or a Designated Hero.
- Ron the Death Eater: Have an acceptable reason for making a truly good character suddenly be mean. "I hate him or her!" will not do.
- Special Snowflake Syndrome: Make sure your character actually fits into the universe you've put him/her into. If your character doesn't fit (for example, elf mages fighting crime in the Big Applesauce), make sure there's a solid reason why they're there.
- Stupid Sacrifice: Characters shouldn't give up their lives for nothing (if the character is not a Martyr Without a Cause).
- Villain Ball: See Hero Ball, only swap "heroes" and "villains".
- Villain Sue: A flawless, invincible villain who never loses at anything makes for a boring story just as much as an ordinary Mary Sue.
- Wangst: Make your characters react realistically to setbacks or tragic events. Too much angst makes them unrealistic and annoying.
- Wimpification: Stripping the action, common sense, and characterization from a male character to add Wangst and gender stereotypes applied to females is a good way to piss off many of the audience, including but not limited to feminists and actual gay or bisexual men.
See also Contrived Stupidity Tropes
Bad Plotting can make for a bad story:
- Aborted Arc: Plot points should go somewhere eventually.
- Ass Pull: Don't introduce major changes and/or important elements at critical moments in the plot without some foreshadowing or justification.
- Cliffhanger Copout: This is what happens when a Cliffhanger's resolution comes in the form of tweaking the continuity between back-to-back installments (usually creating Plot Holes), a refusal/failure to follow through with delivering a big Reveal after setting an audience up for one, or outright aborting a story arc.
- The Chris Carter Effect: It's a good idea to actually finish things. Sooner or later, the audience will get bored with you screwing around and not getting to the point.
- Coitus Ensues: Don't write a sex scene if there's no reason for the involved characters to have sex.
- Continuity Snarl: Plotlines can snag if you aren't careful.
- Cruel Twist Ending: Do not make twist endings excessively harsh for its own sake.
- Deus Angst Machina: Too much misfortune makes too little Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
- Deus ex Machina: Do not save your characters with an Ass Pull.
- Diabolus Ex Machina: A Downer Ending pulled out of thin air might be amusing for shock value, but it doesn't make for great storytelling.
- Ending Fatigue: The viewer should probably not be yelling "END ALREADY!"
- Fridge Logic: Though much more forgivable than a Plot Hole, this can be bad if it doesn't have enough Fridge Horror or Fridge Brilliance to go along with it. If you have a complicated universe, don't gloss over the minor details.
- Gratuitous Rape: Rape is an incredibly grave subject matter. Don't shoehorn in a rape scene just for shock value.
- Idiot Plot: Unless it's part of their character, the plot should not be forced to move forward solely by people making stupid decisions.
- It Gets Better: Just as the viewer shouldn't demand the work to end already as with Ending Fatigue, they shouldn't be forced to sit through hours of exposition or padding to get to the actual plot.
- Just Eat Gilligan: If there's an obvious solution to the problem(s) that drives the story, you would think the characters would go for it rather than ignoring it.
- Kudzu Plot: It's fine to have a dozen different story threads at once, but you have to be able to tie them together. If they go off into infinity without ever being tied, who's going to care about any of them? The pieces of your Jigsaw Puzzle Plot have to fit.
- Lost in Medias Res: If there's not enough exposition when starting out In Medias Res, the viewers will feel completely lost and lose interest in the story.
- Only the Author Can Save Them Now: Do not put your characters in a situation where only a Deus ex Machina can save them.
- Plot Hole: Don't think the audience won't see when you forget to cover something.
- Relationship Revolving Door: See Yo Yo Plot Point
- Romantic Plot Tumor: Unless the plot is romance, don't let it take over.
- Series Continuity Error: When you set something in stone, you can't chisel it out without leaving marks.
- Shocking Swerve: Don't have a Twist Ending just to have a Twist Ending.
- Story-Breaker Power: Make sure your powered characters are reasonably strong. An Invincible Hero is boring and it takes away any dramatic tension.
- Stranger Behind the Mask: If you're going to have a Reveal, make sure that the revealed character has been met before.
- The Stations of the Canon: When important events in a Divergence Fic are treated more as checkmarks than plot points.
- They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: If the premise is interesting, DO something interesting with it.
- Trapped by Mountain Lions: If someone's in a story, they should be part of the plot, too.
- Unfortunate Implications: Be careful with the way you portray certain characters and the situations you put them through; viewers could get the wrong idea.
- Voodoo Shark: When patching over a Plot Hole creates a different, possibly more troublesome, problem.
- Yo Yo Plot Point: It's okay if a few plot points repeat themselves throughout the series, but if it's the same story every other episode, your audience is bound to get bored.
In amateur writing (or stuff that just simply didn't get the proper proofreading
), bad writing is sometimes inherent in the form and presentation of the work itself:
- And That's Terrible: Telling the reader how evil the villain is, instead of showing it (or even doing both). That's a bad thing.
- Author Filibuster: The reader/viewer/player/etc is (theoretically) interested in the plot. Stopping it so that you can talk about something that's important to you will only make them less interested in what you're writing.
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: When you translate the works transformed appropriately.Translation
- Character Filibuster: Putting those words in someone else's mouth doesn't help.
- Concepts Are Cheap: Using concepts and buzz words to pad out a thin script.
- Critical Research Failure: Before you claim something as fact, always...well...do research first. Unless it is intentional or In-Universe.
- Department of Redundancy Department: Repeating statements is irritating. Repeating statements is asinine. Repeating statements is annoying.
- Dude, Not Funny!: Never joke about serious issues unless it's done in a funny way.
- Emphasize EVERYTHING: If everything is emphasized, then nothing is, and you've done nothing of value except annoy your audience.
- Featureless Plane of Disembodied Dialogue: Conversation doesn't happen in a vacuum, so label what is said by who said it.
- Gratuitous English: Randomly popping in meaningless English words that you don't know the meaning of is a bad idea. If you want to write in English, know the meaning of your English and make sure it's grammatically correct.
- Gratuitous Japanese: It's generally not a good idea to use random bits of Japanese unless you're a fluent speaker, lest you come across as pandering to Occidental Otaku. Either write in idiomatic Japanese and learn how to properly pronounce it if you need to, or just write in your native language.
- How Do I Used Tense: Unintentional shifts in tense are highly distracted and confusing.
- Informed Attribute: Saying something is so is not the same as making it so.
- Like Is, Like, a Comma: Like, constantly using the word "like" in, like, every other sentence gets incredibly, like, annoying to read through.
- Meaningless Meaningful Words: "Brevity is the soul of wit."
- No Punctuation Period: Run-on sentences make a story much harder to read especially when there should be pauses yet there is no possible way of defining when they would appear and can usually be avoided.
- Rouge Angles of Satin: Jest beak oars hits spilled car wrecked lay docent main hits than write ward. Translation
- Said Bookism: A form of Purple Prose. Using fancy substitutes for the word "said" in the fear that the dialogue doesn't speak for itself will cause people to foucs less on your work and more on the words used.
- Shallow Parody: Do not spoof what you're spoofing unless you know well about what you're spoofing.
- Show, Don't Tell: Telling the reader that something is X, rather than showing it's X is a sign of laziness on the author's part.
- Strawman Has a Point: If you can't even attack strawmen without being defeated, you may need a new profession.
- That Makes Me Feel Angry: Telling the reader what a character is feeling, instead of showing it.
- Translation Train Wreck: Bed telephones not particle via misunderstand through reverses all reeling meats inside dolphin non fluffy. Translation
- Unintentionally Sympathetic: Failure to create antipathy to a character in the audience.
- Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Failure to create sympathy to a character in the audience.
- Wall of Text: The formatting (or lack thereof) combined with a lot of redundant words makes the text seem impenetrable, and will make the reader lose the track after a few lines.
- The War on Straw: Not a direct cause of bad writing, but a frequent component of it nevertheless.
- Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: Other bad grammar and usage.
- We're Still Relevant, Dammit: Blatant attempts at keeping Long Runners current often are starts of a Dork Age.
- Writer on Board: This is a story, not a treatise.
- You Keep Using That Word: As Mark Twain said: "Use the right word, not its second cousin."
See also Stylistic Suck
TV Tropes Style
is not exempt from this. Please consult the Permanent Red Link Club
for further details.
- Bold Inflation: Don't bold tropes' names. Tropes need no emphasis, if something's very important, then it should be specified in the description instead.
- Conversation in the Main Page: Remember, TV Tropes is a wiki, not a forum or chatroom. Conversations just clog up the articles and make them too long/tedious to read.
- Examples Are Not Arguable: If you're not sure if what you're writing is an example or not, take it to the discussion page instead of coating your example with Weasel Words.
- Examples Are Not Recent: When writing an example, avoid using the word "recent." What's considered recent now won't be in a couple of years. It just makes more trouble for other tropers to edit out the word "recent" once it isn't recent anymore. Act as if every work that was ever published came out several years ago.
- Justifying Edit: Tropes Are Not Bad. Avoid responding to examples with a "to be fair" addendum. If a trope is actually justified, the justification should be added into the example itself.
- Linking to an Article Within the Article: Having a link on a page that leads to the exact same page is completely pointless and redundant. It's even worse if the link is potholed or if a redirect is used, as this can trick the reader into wasting their time clicking on it and thinking they're going somewhere when they really aren't.
- Not a Subversion: Misuse of the word "subverted." A common sign of this is use of phrases such as "partially subverted" or "somewhat subverted."
- Permanent Red Link Club: The worst articles in this wiki go here.
- Red Link: Make sure your Pot Hole to another page of this wiki links to an actual page with content. See That Troper for more details.
- Self-Fulfilling Spoiler: Be sure your spoiler tag hides what you are trying to spoil. If a reader can easily guess what is behind the spoiler tag, it becomes useless.
- Sink Hole: When making a Pot Hole, make sure that the article being linked bears relevance to the Pot Holed text.
- Square Peg Round Trope: Make sure that the example that you want to add fully fits the trope. If it's "not really an example", then it's not really an example, and it shouldn't be added.
- This Troper: Writing about oneself in a Main wiki article. The goal is to make Main articles sound like a single person is editing the article, not multiple people. Besides, personal comments just clog up the articles.
- Thread Mode: Don't clog up a trope entry just because you don't understand why it's there.
- Type Labels Are Not Examples: Any relevant context needed to explain the example should be given in the example itself. Don't simply label it "type X" and force the reader to open a separate page just so they can understand what it means.
- Weblinks Are Not Examples: If one has a trope example, one should write it down, in adequate detail, where it is relevant, not rely on a URL link to some other page to explain what it is.
- Word Cruft: When writing an example, just stick to writing the example and try to avoid saying useless things that don't need to be said.
- Zero-Context Example: If you're going to leave an example, please explain what it is. Not everyone will understand what you've written about.
Gruesome Game Design
- Disappointing Last Level: Be sure players still have interest in finishing your game by the time they reach the final level.
- Fake Balance: Make sure to have proper balance in your game, otherwise players will hate something/someone for non-story reasons.
- Fake Difficulty: If you're going to make a game difficult, make it fair. Similarly, the game's difficulty should not come from artificial/nonsensical/completely arbitrary means or a painfully obvious cheating AI.
- Game-Breaking Bug: Don't let a glitch cripple the playability of your game.
- Moon Logic Puzzle: Make sure the puzzles in your games are logical.
- Obvious Beta: Clean your game up and make it look presentable before releasing it.
- Pixel Hunt: If the player must search for something, don't make it too hard to find.
- Unwinnable by Mistake: Thoroughly test your game before releasing it to ensure that it is reasonably difficult but not impossible to beat.
See also Error Index
Miserable Music/Lousy Lyrics
- Gratuitous Rape: Deserves a second special mention here. If you are going to address the topic of rape in your lyrics, address it in some meaningful way and be ready for the consequences.
- Last Note Hilarity: Unless you are a comedy/parody act, you don't want the audience to laugh at your music.
- Misogyny Song and Misandry Song: The Unfortunate Implications of playing either straight are a very big and controversial issue, and unless you wish to be involved in a controversy, avoiding creating these songs is probably a very good idea.
- Painful Rhyme: Don't force rhymes. If something doesn't rhyme, you can make a non-rhyming song that can be just as good as a rhyming one, or try to find rhyming words that both describe what you want and rhyme.
- Something Something Leonard Bernstein: Depending on your genre, this might actually be workable. But in anything requiring clear vocals, this is automatically bad, and even in more permissive genres overly relying on it is often a bad idea.
- Vocal Range Exceeded: Don't write things your singer can't sing, and if you're the singer as well as the writer, be realistic about your range and capabilities.note
- Canon Defilement: People who are reading your Fan Fic probably enjoy the show for what it is. Not for what you would like it to be. Seeing beloved characters mangled into whatever form you desire is probably going to cut down on your audience, unless you're Neil Gaimannote .
- Cliché Storm: Be original, or at least try to. Don't steal overused ideas from other works.
- Dan Browned: If you haven't done the research, don't claim you have.
- Demonization: Some of your potential audience may actually see where this position is coming from, if not actually agree. You'll turn them off by your exaggerated portrayal. It also makes it seem like the position you hold isn't nearly as solid as you think, since it can only stand up to strawmen.
- Glurge: If you're trying to write a heartwarming story, make sure people don't find questionable things underneath your message before you do.
- IKEA Erotica: Sex should only be as boring as it is to the participants.
- I Suck at Summaries: If you can't be bothered to summarise your fic properly, then why should people be bothered to read it?
- Marysuetopia: Mary Sue in society form is still Mary Sue.
- Moral Dissonance: Don't have the hero behave contrary to his usual morality and be completely oblivious to it. Also see Angst? What Angst?.
- Narm (when caused by the writing): Make your dramatic/climactic scenes convincing, not cheesy. Don't go over-the-top. Make it realistic. Think about how a person in Real Life would behave in the situation.
- Nightmare Retardant (when caused by the writing): If something is supposed to be scary, either don't show it or actually make it scary.
- Relationship Writing Fumble: Viewers can latch onto romantic subtext, even in places where it's not supposed to be.
- Strangled by the Red String: People going directly from being strangers to being genuinely in love is not very realistic or satisfying to watch. If you're going to make two characters fall in love with each other, try to take it slow.
- Strictly Formula: Although this can occasionally be a good thing, it's not recommended to have the audience easily predict what is going to happen in the next episode, and the next episode after that.
- Viewers Are Morons: Treat your audience as if they know the basics, because we do. Most of the time, anyway.
- Writer Cop Out: Have the strength to follow through, or don't take the shot at all.