One of my biggest pet peeves is what I call convenient storytelling, which is tricky to explain but easy to see. Let me see if I can do the former.
A character is flipping through a stack of unmarked files, and just happens to pick the one with the information they didn’t know they needed. A protagonist is running through the city, and they just happen to bump into their love interest, even though neither of them has ever given indication of frequenting the area before. As soon as a character is done speaking, the next plot event immediately happens. The character has exactly the right gadget for the job, despite never carrying it before and having no good reason for doing so now. All the characters are secretly related somehow, despite never having had anything to do with one another before the story began.
I recently spoke out against realism, but in truth it’s not all bad. I can accept that sometimes, things truly do just happen, and I’m fine with certain concessions to the pacing or flow. It’s on the small details that it aggravates me, on the file folders and the gadgets and on a million other tiny trivialities.
Convenient storytelling smacks of a writer who knows the entire world is under their control, so they just make certain things happen to smooth the process along. No. No. That’s lazy writing. Its the characters’ story, not the storyteller’s; we just write it down.
While I can’t promise I’ll never fall into this trap – it’s an insidious one, so probably I already have, though I haven’t realized it yet – I do promise to do my best to avoid it. Sometimes you have the right tool, you pick up the right folder, or run into someone where you’ve never met them before. Not usually though.
A good story should be remarkable for greater reasons. Making the little details mundane makes it easier to swallow.