Friday, April 9, 2010

Plot cliche I never want to read again

We were in a tight spot, that was for sure. Every idea we came up with had some flaw in it, some Achilles' heel. The enemy was just too powerful.

"Hey, wait a minute, guys," said Jake. "I have an idea. I know it sounds crazy, but it ... just ... might ... work."

He told us his idea, and pretty soon everyone in the room was nodding. It was the only hope we had with time running short. We assigned Louise to play decoy, while Fred was a back-up distraction. I would go in the back way and Ted in the front. Meanwhile, we sent Terry out to get the supplies we needed.

We were nervous, but the plan went off just as Jake said it would. Fred's backup distraction wasn't even needed. In just half an hour, we had done the impossible and taken the enemy down.

Spectators gaped at the burning rubble where the enemy fortress had once stood. "But how did you do it?" asked General Fortescue, who had come out of his bunker to see if the rumors were true.

"Ah, it was easy, once we figured it out. All we had to do was use to Device backwards, running the current through the Field while the enemy was distracted," I said.


If the only way you're building suspense is by signaling loud and clear to the reader that you're withholding The Plan for now, you're building fake suspense. The reader thinks, "I wonder what trick the writer is going to end with," not, "I hope these good guys take down the enemy."

I recently read a story of this genre in an anthology by editors whose taste I generally trust. Sure, it was an older story, but this isn't a case of "was fun but it's been overdone." This is a plot that couldn't have been good the first time someone crawled out of the primordial ooze and used it.

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