Jul 10 2008

11 Examples of Gimmicky Writing

Published by at 11:03 pm under Writing Articles

Gimmicky writing is when a writer tries something “new” that annoys readers, rather than actually giving a better reading experience.

1. Having more than two point of view characters.

2. Having only non-human characters, particularly if you wait more than a page to tell us what’s going on. (Telling us halfway through that all the characters are squirrels or computers or toasters is definitely a gimmick of the worst sort).

3. Writing without the letter E.

4. The detective is the killer!  The monster was really the hero all along! The damsel in distress is the world’s most powerful superhero!

5. The story is narrated by someone who’s either dead or in the womb.

6. The story is in reverse chronological order.

7. Not naming the characters.

8. Leaving the characters unnamed for 90% of the story, just so you can “surprise” us at the end by revealing that the main character is really some historical personality (usually Hitler or Jesus).

9. “It was all a dream!” Or a hallucination or hologram.

10. Mixing high fantasy with high sci-fi: space dragons! Magical cyborgs! Zombie unicorns!

11. Present tense.

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “11 Examples of Gimmicky Writing”

  1. ekimmakon 10 Nov 2010 at 3:14 pm

    2) is bad writing, but it can make a good joke. Was done in a Garfield cartoon.

    (Garfield is watching a horror movie)
    Man: Yes, come with me Alice
    Garfield: No, don’t go with him Alice
    Man: Trust me Alice
    Garfield: No, don’t trust him Alice
    Alice: Oh, I do trust you. I feel safe with your hand in mine. Your other hand on my shoulder. Your other-
    (Alice screams)

  2. Lighting Manon 11 Nov 2010 at 1:49 am

    I swear, I’m going to get a novel published, leave the protagonist unnamed throughout, all kinds of brilliant, wonderful, simply awesome unicorn-farting events happen to him, and the very last lines…

    “So, with his dying breath expelled, the man, the savior, the lunch special, Meat Loaf Aday died.”

    “And he still wants his effing money back.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tRqf1oLX4w

  3. JVKJRon 24 Jan 2013 at 6:26 pm

    No more than two POV characters? Is that really bad?

  4. B. McKenzieon 24 Jan 2013 at 7:54 pm

    First, I’d recommend taking all of my articles from before 2010 with an especially large grain of salt–some of them are more idiosyncratic than helpful. That said, I’d stand by the advice that having 3+ POVs is more likely to dilute the story and/or distract from the most interesting characters than it is to contribute much. If the third character is removed enough from the two main characters that his/her story cannot be mostly covered by the first two characters, I think that’d probably be a red flag for plot incoherence and/or poor POV selection/placement.

  5. Elecon 25 Jan 2013 at 12:39 am

    With regards to number eleven, a book, Vanguard Prime, was written in present tense. I, for one, found it took some getting used to, especially when they had scenes such as “he sits in his cell and waits.” One the other hand, it had a good plot line and story, so, my questions is, does that make up for the present tense writing?

  6. B. McKenzieon 25 Jan 2013 at 7:12 am

    “One the other hand, it had a good plot line and story, so, my questions is, does that make up for the present tense writing?” I think that present tense narration would definitely decrease the publishing prospects of a manuscript. It would probably annoy many more editors than it would intrigue, and it would take so much time to fix that an editor who was firmly against the present tense would have little choice but to reject.

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