Bad Writing Advice VI, “Is it Bragworthy?”

“Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated.”
~ Sir Richard Branson, Virgin

My favorite books are the ones that sound impressive. If the book is too complicated, too emotional, too wimpy, than when I’m summarizing their plots to my friends, their eyes glaze over and I begin tripping over words and end up looking like an idiot. My advice to writers is to write awesomely. Otherwise, readers might opt for cooler-sounding material.

Think of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. The series is about a vampire who’s attracted to a human girl but he doesn’t want to turn her into a vampire because given the choice he wouldn’t have wanted to be turned into a vampire but eventually he turns her into a vampire. That’s a great idea that sounds cool when you say it aloud. In fact, it was so easy to explain that they made five movies out of it, and when they got to the last book, they split it into two films.

Puppy loved a vampire once.
Puppy would have used immortality to cure cancer, but what does Puppy know?

Then there’s Frank Herbert’s Dune. I feel ridiculous when I try to explain to friends that the Imperium’s currency is worm poo and people have to eat it to fly space ships, and the other currency is water. Plus, for a science-fiction series, there’s a serious lack of robots. That really turns my friends off. A story set a thousand years in the future and no robots. Doesn’t make sense.  In fact, Dune is so convoluted, the characters spend two-thirds of the book explaining how its universe works until they finally realize there’s a plot. The book almost ends awesomely, with Paul Atreides wiping out fools for slaying his father in a Django-style bloodbath. But then Paul marries some anime princess and it’s over. And Baron Harkonnen, the true enemy of the House of Atreides, is offed by some random Fremen girl. Ridiculous.

Besides, my friends like to point out that the plot of Dune is too similar to Star Wars. Arrakis is a cheap copy of Tatooine, and the Fremen are basically Tusken Raiders. The Fremen even have their own banthas, called shai-hulud, which they ride. I’ll bet Frank could have saved everyone a lot of trouble if he’d just set Dune in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

puppy
Puppy found “Dune Messiah” to be an illuminating treatise on the nature of religion.

Unsurprisingly, the Dune films (there were two attempts before the movie studios gave up) were crud. Alejandro Jodorowsky collected a harem of creative geniuses from America to Europe, including Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali, Pink Floyd, Moebius, Chriss Foss, and Dan O’Bannon, and even they gave up. Incidentally, Jodorowsky’s art design department would find work on the Alien films, having learned their lesson about convoluted sci-fi series.

Basically, if I can explain your story to my friends and not sound like an idiot, than I’m probably going to read it. Or just call your book Bearpocalypse. Actually, definitely call it Bearpocalypse. How could anybody resist an apocalypse of bears? But don’t call it Bearmageddon — that’s taken.

There are no wrong answers… except the wrong one.