Friday, July 2, 2010

Falling Into The Trap

The worst mistake we writers or actually any creative person can make is by Falling Into The Trap. In a nutshell I want to talk about  the  Writing Trap, or,  a large writing hole that we writers are susceptible to fall into in  the successive books that we write. We can fall into this writing trap  due to  several reasons; overuse of  certain types of clichés and stereotypes, use of a similar style of narrative in all the books we write even though the books  may not be a part of a series, use of similar settings, use of similar protagonists in all the books, not deviating from the same  and often  predictable  thought patterns and plot twists.

This can be attributed to the fact that  once the writers have discovered or stumbled upon a  successful formula, they want to  use it  for all its worth. Perhaps they endorse the view why mess or meddle  with  something that has worked well. But what they forget is that a certain style the readers may have adored once, may not find takers the second or third time round.

Many times I have felt  a strong feeling of Déjà vu when I  read the next set of books written by  few  writers. I get the  feeling that I have met the characters before at another time in another place (read in a previous book). Even the setting has no novelty as it’s the same one as the last book  written by the author. The problem faced by the main character and  the way  the conflict has been resolved  is something I had guessed halfway ( very often much earlier) through the book.

Its at that  time  I feel cheated and  upset, that the author has  fallen into a self made  trap and unknowingly and unintentionally sucked us readers into the trap. These writers become predictable, it’s easy for the readers to guess their next move  or,  the way the plot will now twist and turn.

Today’s generation of readers have several things vying for their limited and often straying attention. And, if the writer has  nothing new to offer  they are quick to discard the book and the writer.

The only way we can avoid this vicious writing  trap is by adopting the mantra of  Originality. This  will sustain the writer if he or she is in for the long haul. There are several writers who have adopted this approach  successfully: Roald Dahl; each book of his was different  from the other,  for example  there was no similarity in any of these books ; George’s Marvellous Medicine, Twits, Mathilda, James and the Giant Peach, and  Charlie and the Chocolate factory.

Another writer  who escaped this trap is J.K Rowling. Though the seven potter books had the  same setting of  Hogwarts and  the same set of   characters, each book had something new to offer. There were surprises  and shocks  in plenty,  new entrants who took us completely unawares, several times the plot took unexpected twists that had us readers eager to know what would happen next.

This trait of unpredictability  is single handedly responsible for keeping  readers hooked and the writer far from the  writing trap.

 Have you ever felt that a particular writer is falling into the  trap? How do you  personally manage to avoid the writing trap that  we writers can easily fall into? Please share, we all can learn from your experience.


  1. Great post. I know what exactly what you are talking about but the coffee hasn't quite kicked in so I can't think of any particular authors who've fallen into the trap. But your reference to Roald Dahl is a great one. He's one of my favorite authors and a perfect example of an author who is both unique and totally Original!

  2. I'm still learning, honestly. I haven't been doing this writing thing for long but I am learning that I do have a tendency to want to write about similar protagonists. But I guess that recognizing that flaw (at least, it's a flaw in my eyes) is a good step to keeping my ideas new and fresh.

  3. I've noticed that some of my favorite authors will reuse and recycle. It's a great lesson of what not to do. Great post Rachna!

  4. I really liked this post, Rachna. Right now I can't think of writers who DO fall into the trap, but your post certainly alerts me that I should monitor my own writing and see that I don't. I'm sure it's one of those trends that creeps up on one.

    Meanwhile, your post reminded me that something I appreciate about one of my favorite authors (Lois Lowry, whom I interviewed) is that all of her books are different. The protagonist is different (except in her series, and then they grow and change), her plots are different. Each book she writes is a unique jewel of a book, and you never have that deja vu you mentioned.

    I'd like to hear about other authors who manage that constant originality.

  5. I need to remember this advice. I tend to use similar locations and I know my females have some similarities. I will think of this when I write my next one!

  6. Rahma....Roald Dahl is my favourite too, not only was he original and unique, his wicked sense of humor was very appealing.

    Lydia, though I have been writing for a long time, I have noticed I have a tendency to write about a similar topic for two consecutive stories. Nowadays I choose different topics so there is no similarity at all.

    Anne..many of my favourite authors too recyle and reuse. I do feel bad when they do that. Its like they cant be bothered to create something new.

    Elizabeth... when I read Lois Lowry's interview on your blog I was very impressed with her range of books, she has written on different themes, that bear no resemblance to each other.

    Terri, this is one advice all of us should keep in mind.

  7. I agree with your example of Roald Dahl, but with JK Rowling I'd say that the Potter books were a series, so I'd treat them as one book. We'll only know if she has escaped her (successful, rather lovely!) trap with the next books she writes, if they are completely seperate from anything to do with boy wizards. But you know, I think originality and a good story is the key - some authors I pick up as I know what to expect, and I like what I am expecting!

  8. Hey Rachna, thanks for joining my blog. I'm now a follower!

    I like to be an unpredictable writer myself. It's good because it challenges me to be different and go outside of my comfort zone. As writers, I think it's important we are constantly pushing ourselves.


    PS: I'm a major Roald Dahl fan! I've read pretty much every book he ever wrote, even the books he wrote for adults too.

  9. Jayne.. though we can consider Rowling's seven books as a series or as one book, I feel she offered something new in each book. To see if she has escaped the trap I agree with you that we have to wait for her next few books.

  10. Jai.... welcome to my blog and thanks for joining me. I am unpredictable too, that's the only way I can avoid boring my readers.

  11. Nice post, Rachna. I do know writers that fall into that trap. They think they have to. In order to be published and to keep publishing. I don't agree that Rowlings fell into the trap. She may have set the trap, but they were her books. Each book had different things to offer.

    Some writers feel they must copy other more successful writers so as to become like those writers. I want to be me. A published Robyn Campbell. *grin*

    And I want to write fresh, new stuff. I am working on another book about Anna and Claire, but it is different than the first.

  12. What an awesome post, Rachna. I get so annoyed by this and I'm afraid to fall into the same trap in my writing. Perhaps too afraid. It's better to fall into this trap in a first draft and change it later than to allow yourself to not write for fear of the trap. :(