Poor syntax aside, this is one of the big reasons that one would hope stands out to everyone.
I think I’ve made cooking and ingredients analogies in the past, but writing well is not actually like that. Attempting to apply that kind of philosophy (obviously out of the context I used before) often results in an egregious cacophony of Stupid that I hope no one buys into as being worthwhile. It isn’t.
For example, the average flash game with story elements ranges from nothing special to horrid mishmash. These story elements are basically the same tired taglines over and over, even across what passes for genres. The player character is set apart, chosen, or destined for something, either spent years training for it or had it fall in his (maybe /her, but rarely) lap, and a villain will arrive to menace the hero with no real reason or provocation, setting up a journey about the screen that accomplishes nothing and delivers no narrative whatsoever.
Really, I have a particular game in mind, but I’ll save that for another post.
This sort of amateur storytelling is clumsy and tired. Sometimes I swear I can see that effort went into it, so I cannot brush it off as laziness or unwillingness to try. It’s a very simple lack of talent. Often these crappy overused setups make no logical sense and often contradict either themselves or other established or later revealed elements (or basic logic). It suggests lack of proper thinking ahead, but perhaps that falls under the umbrella of lacking talent.
It is also incredibly common in regular prose. What I assume is that the people who write this way, be it as game narrative or an attempt at novel/short story prose, are strong consumers of stories. The worst, lackwise, telegraph a clear influence from film and television, or video games. Visual media. Personally, I think that visual media is a poor foundation when writing prose, but maybe other people draw wonderful inspiration from it. Picking up a greater skill in dialogue, maybe. But there are also people who borrow heavily from their favourite books.
Borrowing is not writing. It’s worse than tracing. Tracing can teach an artist a lot of things, but for quite a few people, it only creates a handicap or does nothing at all. There is also no equivalent for it in writing fiction. Cries of plagiarism will deafen you.
I think this is why cliché plagues us so. It is easily perpetuated by juvenile ‘writers’ who have a limited amount of influences or too firm a basis in any range.
I wonder if anyone who writes in a mishmash of their favourite things does so deliberately. It’s easy to say this writer did that because of this, but really, most literature analysis is just arrogant dumbness. I say this as someone who has indulged in same and I feel quite confident slapping this label of assessment on my own analyses. Judging a writer’s intent is another topic I didn’t load up my browser to cover.
It’s not so much originality that I’m trying to press. I could draw direct parallels between Twilight and the much earlier (and much better) Vampire Diaries. …actually, I may be sabotaging my point, as I think that Twilight came about because the author liked VD and wanted to write her own version. But the point is that originality is not the point. It’s just talent.
A book may be boring, cumbersome, and full of loathsome characters who are all either abusive or abused in ways that the writer seems disturbingly unaware of, but as long as it’s not a random smash of elements you liked, you’re ahead as a writer.
…Looking back over this, it feels disjointed. Maybe it’ll be clearer if I write out my frustrations with this crappy alpha I just picked up.