PSA: Emergency Lampshading

Do you ever find yourself writing something that just doesn’t feel like it fits?

A sentence, a line, an action that just feels … out of place?

But because you’re writing a first draft, and first drafts are allowed – nay, meant to be awful – you don’t want to go back and change it, because it wouldn’t be ‘honest’?

But now you’re left with the problem of having put something into your narrative that simply doesn’t belong! What to do?

Have no fear; lampshades are here!

If you find your character has become a complete self-insert author avatar and have started copy-pasting your own thoughts, feelings and attitudes into a scene where they make absolutely no sense and realise that you have substituted meaningful character development for indulging in your own uniqueness and it’s breaking the immersion of your story – lampshade it! Make it so that the character knows that what they’re doing is strange, inappropriate, and just all-around weird.

Bonus points if you can explain that they don’t know why they’re doing it, and wish they could just be more normal/remain on-topic!

But what if it’s not just a line of dialogue here and there? What if your self-insert compulsions have defined entire characters, their key interactions, and have tipped your carefully-constructed story upside-down, and the only way to deal with it is to go back and re-write it, which you can’t do, because that wouldn’t be ‘honest’?

Oh, gentle reader. You underestimate the awesome, utilitarian power of LAMPSHADES!

Simply forsake your old plot – you know, the one you thought you were trying to write, you silly goose – and embrace the all-consuming void of pedantic, self-indulgent neurotic word-vomit.

It’s for the win!

Step one: retcon every single non-self-insert motivation and aspiration of your characters so that these are merely ‘flavour text’, something seemingly important but actually completely meaningless, to make that author avatar really POP!

Step two: transform the narrative landscape of your precious work of original fiction into a self-deprecating morass of hitherto unexplored tangential existentialism, and accept that your characters now only exist to help you better understand your own turgid psyche – and since they turned out this way, despite your very best efforts, take comfort in the fact that it was obviously what you had intended all along!

And step three: turn the entire text into a self-referential metacritique on the nature of writing itself, the relationship between an author’s biography and the content of any work they are able to produce! The fact that your story no longer makes sense is now the entire point of the story! Elegance itself. Stick in an intentionally self-parodying Mary-Sue instead of that stupid protagonist you’d had your heart set on ‘fleshing out’ from day one, so that you can get away with making them cruise through the story – because it’s satire, and thus now automatically counts as both clever and artistic! – and your work is done!

So remember, when you think you’re failing to be ‘creative’ or ‘original’ because you’ve ‘lost the plot’ and ‘have no idea what you’re doing anymore’, just remember: the lampshade hangs above us all! Now get to writing, you postmodern dynamo you 🙂


Yeah so this editing thing may be easier than I’ve built it up to be, but the simple fact that I do actually want to write something worth reading and am emotionally invested in that endeavour does kind of balance it out and make it soul-crushingly unbearable all over again.

And yes, first draft, it’s always horrible, I actually am glad that it’s so horrible so that I can see what doesn’t work, but still, it reflects back on me! That matters, doesn’t it?

It doesn’t, does it?

Yeah. It really doesn’t.

What it reflects – seeing as quality control really isn’t what’s important with a first draft – is that I was willing to write. I was so willing to write that I let myself write this hot mess that I’m wading through right now, not sure whether or not I need to hold my breath in the process. I was willing to get it wrong the first time, so that I could get it right the last time. And in the end, that’s what matters.

I’ll just keep telling myself that until I actually believe it. I know it’s true. I just don’t want to.

Writers really are messed up …


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