Hello! How are you? I have been watching some of my absolute FAVORITE shows, and the fandom seems to be torn over the show’s writing. In all honesty, the writing tends to be hit or miss – but some people say it’s absolutely horrible. How can one determine when someone’s writing (book, movie, or otherwise) is bad? What defines “bad writing” and how does it differ from “the audience didn’t make this connection”?

Hey Atlas, great to hear from you again!

What makes a story “bad” is a complicated question with an equally complicated answer. I can’t give a comprehensive explanation, but I’ll try to lay out the basics.

First, when critiquing stories, we try to think in terms of “could it be better” rather than “is it bad.” Whether a story is bad or not depends a lot on individual tastes and tolerance levels. I think Enterprise is a really bad show, but others love it, and arguing over whether it fits the nebulous label of “bad” isn’t super productive.

On the other hand, I can easily point out ways in which Enterprise could be improved. Captain Archer, for example, could be less of a bigot, and the show would be much better. Those who already like him wouldn’t like him any less, and those who don’t would probably like him more. This is a productive use of my time, especially when I’m writing about it on Mythcreants. Some folks will fan rage, but for the most part, it illustrates the importance of making your protagonist likable.

As for specific criteria, we have a number of qualities we look for, along with some specific concepts that are important for all storytellers to know. Chris already has blog posts about those:

Finally, it’s important to remember that while bad media critique certainly exists, if a large portion of a show’s fanbase didn’t understand something, that’s probably a flaw in the show itself. It’s a storyteller’s job to make sure people understand what’s happening in their work, and if people don’t, that usually means the storyteller has made a mistake.

Hope that answers your question!

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