Outside of Star Trek, I have several other interests, including the NFL, Braves baseball, NASCAR racing, Godzilla and other kaiju, science fiction and movies..."bad" science fiction movies, in particular. I peruse the channel guide on our satellite to find these films. On any given night, there's usually one or more for me to enjoy. It might be the underrated "The Flesh Eaters" or even "Frankenstein VS the Space Monster," but I sit back and enjoy them.
Recently, while scouring the Internet for a particularly bad movie I was looking for, I came across Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension website. On it, was his "Glossary of Specialized Terms" which contained a number of plot devices that bad movies often resort to. Sadly, I noticed that the same glossary could be modified and applied to any number of Star Trek stories I've read and/or edited over the years, and I thought I'd share some of them with you, even though I can't take credit for any of these.
These are things that should be avoided, and potential contributors would do well to look through these to see if they can be applied to their stories:Antimatter Grenade
Error-Prone Writers' Credo
"Come on, these dummies (i.e. your readers) cant remember what they saw/read in that episode/story!" Uh, yes, they can, and your story needs to make sure it doesn't ignore canon or continuity.
EXAMPLE: The writers, producers and staff behind "Spock's Brain" couldn't remember whether they were on Sigma Draconis VI or VII.
The Coincidence Story
In order for the story to take place, there must be an amazing series of coincidences. In other words, if it weren't for an amazing happenstance, none of this would have ever happened. The 2009 Star Trek movie is the biggest offender in this arena.
Deus Ex Machina
The resolving of some improbable glitch in the plot line by some sort of gadget/alien/starship whipped up out of nowhere, one that is not foreshadowed in the story, and just pops up when needed to save the day.
Heros Death Battle
This rule stipulates that a monster/alien/murderer will have to spend at least ten times the amount of time and effort killing a hero/heroine (or his/her significant other) than anyone else in the story.
EXAMPLES: In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the basilisk makes short work of everyone. Not all that unbelievable since if you look in its eyes, you turn to stone. Yet this immense monster (and it was huge) cannot manage to stop a teenaged boy who doesn't even have his magic wand. You can also argue the same is true for Ripley in both Alien and Aliens.
The resolving of an impossible conundrum by some sort of factoid/bit of knowledge that is not foreshadowed in the story, and that only one character possesses who reveals it just in the nick of time.
EXAMPLE: One of the worst examples of this is in Evil Under the Sun wherein Hercules Poirot reveals a previously unknown bit of knowledge in order to prove the villains were in fact murderers.
The Idiot Story
In order for the story to take place, a major character or several major characters must each act like an idiot. In other words, if the hero or heroes have any sense at all, none of this would have ever happened.
EXAMPLE: Several characters are trapped on a planet's surface until daybreak. One character is known or discovered to be a murdering monster. Knowing this, all the characters decide to split up rather than stay together as a group. Voila! An idiot story.
When a character displays a mediocre or even inept level of skill in some discipline (anything from dancing to writing to fighting), yet we are shown other characters lauding their talents. This is to signal the reader that, at least in the universe presented in the story, these people are to be considered as highly proficient at their craft. This is one of the key characteristics of the "Mary Sue."
Monster Death Trap Proviso
This stipulates that any stratagem to destroy a monster, once it has failed, may not be attempted again, even if it only failed because of some bizarre fluke. Nor can the same plan be refined and tried again. Instead, a completely different plan must be formulated. Norman Spinrad managed to avoid this in "The Doomsday Machine" when Kirk models his stratagem based on Commodore Decker's failed attempt.
The inability of the characters in a story to realize that just because they can no longer see the monster or hostile alien that they're still in terrible danger. Usually, "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" leads to either an attempt at a "comedic" scene or a sex scene between characters, one of whom will probably say, "I'm scared."
The ability that allows a monster to materialize anywhere it pleases once the intended victim loses sight of it.
Rule of Plot Holes
This rule stipulates that if a reader is forced to construct (or attempt to construct) an elaborate framework of suppositions in order to cover over some hole in a storys plot, then the writers and editors havent been doing their job.
The Stealth Monster Rule
This provides that any monster, no matter how gigantic, awkward or noisy, will be able to sneak up right behind victims at will.
Vulcans Are Immune
Time and time again, Spock and other Vulcans manage to get a reprieve from certain death because Vulcans are simply superior physically in some way or another to all other Federation races.
EXAMPLES: Too numerous to mention, but the salt & cloud vampires not liking Spock's blood, the nictitating membranes in his eyes, etc.
This is any time a monster or alien or some other hostile lifeform wanders around killing characters. It kills, wanders around, kills someone else, wanders around, kills another person or two (usually while they're having sex), wanders around, kills again, and so on ad nauseum.
EXAMPLE: The salt vampire from "Man Trap" is probably the finest Star Trek example of the wandering monster.
Many of the stories we review for consideration for publication often have these traits. Read through yours and make sure it doesn't use these plot devices. And if you see one missing, be sure and let us know!
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