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Bad Writing Index

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"And you will stand there, wondering how we did it..."
Linkara: Ooh! I know how! [Points up toward the ceiling]
Text: Inhumanly Awful Writing
Linkara, Atop the Fourth Wall, "Amazons Attack Issues 5 and 6"

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, eccentric, or stylized. Hopefully.


Please note that Tropes Are Tools, and many highly acclaimed works have used these tropes successfully.

See also:


Not to be mistaken for Writers Suck, which has more to do with Butt Monkeys than bad writing.

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    Crazy Characterization 
  • Aesop Amnesia: The more times a character is taught a lesson without learning it, the lower the viewer's opinion of him/her and your story.
  • Angst? What Angst?: Make your characters react realistically to setbacks or tragic events. Too little angst makes them appear callous or ditzy.
  • 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: Be careful when you decide to make an Action Girl less action-oriented; if not done properly, it will annoy your audience.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Don't make a character disappear with no explanation, hoping the viewers don't notice.
  • Compressed Vice: Don't have a character develop a bad habit or flaw out of nowhere solely for the sake of setting up An Aesop (doubly so if it contradicts previous facts about the character), and especially don't show its consequences in a hamfisted, unrealistic manner.
  • 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 the story excessively bleak and giving absolutely no hope will only tire out the audience until they lose interest in the story.
  • 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.
  • 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 see them as a paragon of virtue because you say so doesn't usually work; rather, it makes your hero unlikable.
  • 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 come across as harmless or even too benign and still expecting your audience to see them as a monster because you say so doesn't usually work; rather, it makes your villain petty and perhaps far too sympathetic.
  • 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. Otherwise, it can make scenes that are intended to be dramatic hard to take seriously.
  • 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 do this against all common sense it becomes annoying.
  • Idiot Ball: Don't have characters make uncharacteristically stupid decisions just because the plot would grind to a halt otherwise.
  • Informed Wrongness: If a character is actually in the wrong, prove it.
  • Invincible Hero: A hero who can't lose is boring.
  • Invincible Villain: Villains are expected to win some, but making it so they seemingly can't lose wears out their appeal.
  • 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.
  • Kiddie Kid: Often happens when writers try too hard to avoid having their child characters behave like miniature adults (see Most Writers Are Adults below), but unless the child is supposed to be immature for their age, this option isn't much, if at all, better.
  • 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.
  • Moral Dissonance: Don't have the hero behave contrary to their usual morality and be completely oblivious to it.
  • Most Writers Are Adults: Unless it's supposed to be unsettling, don't write children with unsettlingly adult personalities projected onto them.
  • Most Writers Are Male: Don't write women from ignorance, stereotypes, and/or in unsympathetic ways (either in the form of misogyny or over-sexualization).
  • 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.
  • Race Tropes: Tread carefully with these. Having a minority character act like a walking stereotype screams lazy writing and will upset people.
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Bashing a female character for liking/doing traditionally-feminine things is another form of misogyny, and can piss off the audience.
  • Romanticized Abuse: Make sure that your romance is actually a reasonably healthy relationship. If abuse, either physical or emotional, is presented as sexy or sweet, the characters could become Unintentionally Unsympathetic, and viewers may get the wrong idea of what an acceptable real-life relationship requires.
  • 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.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Define your characters by something other than being the lover or crush for The Protagonist, or the archetypal "perfect" boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • 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.
  • Strong as They Need to Be: Don't have characters suddenly gain or lose power without any explanation.
  • Stupid Sacrifice: Characters shouldn't give up their lives for nothing (if the character is not a Martyr Without a Cause).
  • Suddenly Sexuality: While diversity is good, retconning an already existing character as gay if you can't be bothered to create a new character can be difficult to pull off if there are any prior indications in the story of the character being attracted to the opposite sex.
  • Villain Decay: Don't have your antagonist lose their power and competence without a good reason.
  • 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.
  • What an Idiot!: If audiences can see an intelligent decision that they expect the characters to make, don't have them make dumb ones instead.
  • Wimpification: Stripping the action, common sense, and strength from characters to add Wangst is a good way to piss off the audience.

See also Contrived Stupidity Tropes.

    Mishandled Morals 
All of the below only count if they aren't being Played for Laughs or spoofed:

    Poor Plotting 
Bad Plotting can make for a bad story:
  • Aborted Arc: Plot points should go somewhere eventually.
  • Arc Fatigue: The longer a storyline goes while making no progress, the less the audience will care about it.
  • 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 the depiction of the intercourse doesn't add anything to the story.
  • Continuity Snarl: Plotlines can snag if you aren't careful.
  • 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 victory for the bad guys 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!"
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: If you want to write an uplifting ending, make sure that the audience can agree with you that you wrote one.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: Previous installments included something that would resolve the problem of the week. The something is not brought up.
  • 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, or have so much it loses impact.
  • Idiot Plot: Unless the characters are supposed to be idiots, the plot should not be forced to move forward solely by people making stupid decisions.
  • I Just Knew: Characters need an in-universe reason for knowing (or not knowing) something in advance.
  • Just Eat Gilligan: If there's an obvious solution to the problem(s) that drives the story, don't have characters ignore or arbitrarily dismiss 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.
  • Slow-Paced Beginning: 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.
  • 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.
  • What Cliffhanger: A cliffhanger which merely promises that some shocking plot twist will be revealed later, instead of just revealing it right now, is usually not that exciting.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: If simple arithmetic in a story doesn't add up, fans will notice and be left scratching their heads.
  • 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.

    Senseless Styles 
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.
  • Beige Prose: Short, terse passages. Too much is unemotional and flat.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: When you translate the works transformed appropriately.Translation 
  • Character Filibuster: Putting an Author Filibuster 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: Unless it is meant to be intentional or In-Universe, make sure that anything treated as real-world fact isn't so obviously incorrect that most of your target audience will realize you have very little knowledge about the subject you're dealing with.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Repeating statements is irritating. Repeating statements is asinine. Repeating statements is annoying.
  • Designated Evil: Audiences will object to presenting an action as "evil" if you fail to present a better alternative course.
  • 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 Foreign Language: Don't put foreign words if you don't understand the meaning or grammar. It can make you seem illiterate to actual speakers of the language.
    • 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.
  • IKEA Erotica: Sex should only be as boring as it is to the participants.
  • 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: Don't add eloquent-sounding words unless you know whether they actually go there or not, and don't think they will make you sound profound if they actually make you confusing.
  • 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 focus 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.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: Telling the reader what a character is feeling, instead of showing it.
  • Totally Radical: Don't put slang without understanding the meaning just to look "cool". Overuse of slang can make your work an Unintentional Period Piece.
  • 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 will cause them to like characters you want them to hate.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Failure to create sympathy for a character in the audience will cause them to hate characters you want them to like.
  • 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!: When trying to keep Long-Runners up to date, throwing in recent pop culture references and fads won't help at all. Instead, it just comes off as stupid, instantly dated, and possibly even the sign 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 Troubles 
This Very Wiki is not exempt from this. Please consult the Permanent Red Link Club for further details.

    Gruesome Game Design 

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.
  • Rhyming with Itself: Repeating a word and trying to pass it off as a rhyme just sounds lazy.
  • 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.
  • Dan Browned: If you haven't done the research, don't claim you have.
  • Deliberate Flaw Retcon: When critics and audiences point out a significant flaw in your work, people are unlikely to believe you if you claim it was intentional.
  • Fetish Retardant: If you write something intended to turn on your audience, make sure it doesn't suffer from Squick, Unfortunate Implications or Narm.
  • Glurge: If you're trying to write a heartwarming story, make sure people won't find questionable things underneath your message before you do.
  • 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.
  • Narm: 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.
  • Parody Retcon: If you're setting out to make a parody or a satire, announce that from the outset. People are unlikely to believe you if you only claim that your work was intended as such after the fact.
  • Shipping Bed Death: When not handled properly, a pairing becoming canon can kill the audience's interest in the story and/or characters.
  • Tyop on the Cover: If you can't even profread your title, don't expect the audience to find the rest of the work any better.
  • Writer Cop Out: Have the strength to follow through, or don't take the shot at all.

Alternative Title(s): Bad Writing


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