Hey folks. For starters, I want to emphasize that the following is an attempt at satire. It was inspired by a skit I recently saw on the Baroness Von Sketch Show (good show, btw!) about a writing class where they are hoping to avoid the usual cliches. It got me thinking about sci-fi cliches, and what I would tell a writing class if I were in charge.

I would love to teach such a class and someday. And so I would consider the following list canon if anyone were to actually look to me for writing advice.

Hello, students! Due to an overabundance in the marketplace, we will no longer be accepting submissions based on the following topics:

  • Killer robots
  • Misanthropic robots
  • Robots struggling to understand human emotions
  • Evil AIs
  • Evil aliens
  • Evil corporations
  • Benevolent aliens being saved by a human (aka. no Avatar fan-fiction!)
  • Aliens that are the crude analogies of human societies
  • Aliens that look like humans and speak perfect English
  • Time travel as the solution to everything
  • Dark futures that are dark because it’s the future
  • Dystopian worlds where technology is used entirely for evil
  • Dystopian governments that exist only for the sake of advancing the plot
  • Superheroes, mutants, or “gifted” types
  • Teenagers being forced to compete in gladiator-style combat
  • Teenagers being classified and persecuted if they don’t “fit in”
  • Teenagers who are “special”, saving the world
  • Teenage witches
  • Teenage werewolves
  • Teenage vampires
  • Love triangles! (in short, NO TWILIGHT!)
  • Magic academies
  • Teenagers with magic companions

In short, don’t write about anything that has been done to death or just because it’s popular right now! You want to be as creative and original as possible, right?   Consider writing something that has the following:

  • Thoughtful commentaries about modern society
  • Aliens that are more than just a projection of human folly
  • Relationships that are deep and complex
  • Female leads who aren’t “confused” all the time
  • Female leads that aren’t always in need of rescuing
  • Characters that have at least two-dimensions
  • Bad guys that have motivations beyond simply being evil (no “Evil the Cat” stuff)
  • Good guys who aren’t pure in deed and motivation (no crude hero stuff)
  • Dystopian governments that exist for a reason
  • Dystopian worlds that became a reality for a reason
  • Insightful stories that explore the good and bad effects of technology on society
  • Stories where robots and AIs think about more than killing all humans
  • Stories that are about things other than white American dudes!
  • Stories told from point of view of someone other than white American dudes!
  • Stories that make you think and don’t have heavy-handed messages
  • Stories that include a surprise or two!

What do you think? Too harsh?

7 thoughts on “Writing No-Go List

  1. Some of my dumb ideas:
    A future where magic was discovered in the 1980s, codified as a science, and massively accelerated the arts, tech, etc. Then escalating world tensions, a third world war, and eventually, nuclear exchanges, semi-screwed the world.
    However, many places were, surprisingly, untouched. Humanity rebuilds, there’s the standard assortment of mutants, some old machines of war assigned to guard an area…
    It’s just a fun setting really. Does it make sense? kinda. Is it passable? probably. Will I write anything of it… perhabs.

    “tropeproof” characters that act like a normal human being would. Sure, they might not get 11th hour superpowers, but they’ll also shoot the BBEG whle they monologue, and generally follow common sense.

    Post-Scarcity setting where ideas are the new good, and the most creative are functionally the richest.

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