OK, that’s surely the worst blog post title ever. I am ashamed.

Now that that’s behind us, I just came across the wonderful page on SFWA’s site (I don’t know how I’ve missed it! I love SFWA!) called Turkey City Lexicon – A Primer for SF Workshops. It’s great advice for aspiring authors of speculative fiction (applicable to any fiction, really) on what not to do — or at least try not to do. Not all of the items are Do Not Do’s, but are just descriptions of tropes that are so common (or notorious) that they have their own labels and names.

Most of this stuff I’d heard before elsewhere, but even so, I still find myself reading through the list and saying to myself, “Oops, guilty of that one . . . eep! I’ve done that. . . .”

Here’s a few samples of turkeys:

  • Idiot Plot

A plot which functions only because all the characters involved are idiots. They behave in a way that suits the author’s convenience, rather than through any rational motivation of their own. (Attr. James Blish)

  • Kudzu plot

Plot which weaves and curls and writhes in weedy organic profusion, smothering everything in its path.

  • Plot Coupons

The basic building blocks of the quest-type fantasy plot. The “hero” collects sufficient plot coupons (magic sword, magic book, magic cat) to send off to the author for the ending. Note that “the author” can be substituted for “the Gods” in such a work: “The Gods decreed he would pursue this quest.” Right, mate. The author decreed he would pursue this quest until sufficient pages were filled to procure an advance. (Nick Lowe)

  • Second-order Idiot Plot

A plot involving an entire invented SF society which functions only because every single person in it is necessarily an idiot. (Attr. Damon Knight)


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