The Maze Runner Series: A Lesson In How Not To Write

I read the Maze Runner series probably sometime in September. I can’t remember exactly, since this whole year has kind of gone by in a blur for me and I can’t remember exactly what happened when, but I think it was in that ballpark. Anyway, I read it after watching the first two movies (a terrible mistake for a reader, I know), and after accidentally reading spoilers (just a hint: never look up a book or movie on Pinterest before reading the entire series). Let me just say that after watching the movies I was severely disappointed. I NEVER say that when I read the book after watching the movie. Never. But the book was terrible. Another thing I never say: The movie was better than the book. And now I will stop complaining and actually tell you WHY these books were so terrible. I tried to keep it spoiler free, but it’s really vague that way, so spoilers for those who have already read it will be in parentheses and colored white; select them to read.

1. Dislikeable Characters

Three things you need for a good story: An interesting setting, a good plot, and perhaps most important of all is likeable characters. The Maze Runner had an interesting setting, no plot, and characters I wanted to punch for the majority of the series. I’m not even kidding. The main character and the love interest were quite possibly the most annoying of all.

Lesson number one from The Maze Runner: Make your characters likeable.

In the entire series I liked three characters. Three. And out of those, two died. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Unnecessary Character Deaths

Oh my gosh. You really don’t want to get me started on this one. In the first book alone, four characters died. Three of those four were significant characters. Was there any reason for their deaths aside from dramatic effect? No. Nothing in those deaths moves the story along, except for the first one, which was the one with the insignificant character. But the deaths of significant characters? No use. No reason. Just drama.

Which takes us to book two, the Scorch Trials. Only one character (that I can remember) died in this book, but I’m nearly sure that others did as well, given the fact that it seems James Dashner’s favorite hobby is killing off characters. This one was another major character, and another death that was mostly useless. The death had a lot more purpose in the movie, and I commend the screenwriters for fixing this.

In the third, two characters (again, this is just who I can remember) died, and again they were important characters, and again only one of them has any significance to the story.

Lesson number 2 from TMR: Don’t kill off characters unnecessarily.

It’s actually kind of funny timing, considering that at this time I was considering killing off one of my own characters and had been told it was unnecessary… (P.S. I did not kill the character.)

3. Disproportionate Emotions

All of what is mentioned in this section is in regard to the main character, Thomas, and most pertains to character deaths.

First, there’s the fact that Thomas considers one particular character to be extremely annoying (said character just so happens to be one of the three likeable characters in the entire series) (Said character is Chuck). When said character dies, Thomas beats the guy who killed {character} to death and then is emotional over {character}’s death for the entirety of the next book and into the third. What’s up with that?

Second, in the Scorch Trials Thomas meets a character who he just immediately trusts, right away, no rhyme or reason to it, just trusts him. This can happen sometimes, but it’s not super common and in this instance it’s just completely unbelievable. (This character being Jorge.)

And then there’s that one character, let’s call them character A (Teresa), who Thomas just connects with right away. Their connection is really weird. I can’t really explain it without giving stuff away, but they’re pretty much best buds from the start and then A is a jerk and stuff happens and Thomas still is nearly fine with being best buds with A! All that A did and you’re still only marginally distrustful? What is up with that?

Third, when one of the characters dies in the Death Cure dies, it’s a very emotion-heavy scene. They literally kill him in the most painful way possible for everyone involved. I’m not even exaggerating. How long does Thomas mourn him? Two chapters, maybe five. HELLO! He just died the most painful death possible and you brush it off just like that while you mourned the “annoying” character for a whole book and a half?! Where is your heart, man?

Lesson number 3 from TMR: At least make an attempt at getting emotions right? Please?

4. The Scorch Trials

Yes. The entire book.

Lesson number 4 from TMR: Never write a book in which your reader doesn’t know who to trust and who not to trust from one scene to the next. That’s just not cool.

Yes, I just put the lesson before the explanation. TMR did the above. Don’t ever do that. It makes your reader want to throw the book at the wall and leave it there. Don’t do it. Just don’t.

5. The Conclusion

Or lack thereof. At the end of the trilogy, nothing was explained or resolved. As a friend of mine put it, “It felt like my mom had been hinting at a really, really great Christmas present and I wasn’t sure what it would be but I knew it would be amazing and then it was just some hand-me-down clothes.”

The Two Good Things About The Maze Runner

Remember those three likeable characters I told you about? And remember how I said that the series had some interesting settings? Well the settings were well developed, and two of the three likeable characters were downright loveable (Newt and Chuck). If Dashner had fixed all his other mistakes, it would have been a good book. As it stands now, The Maze Runner is a terribly written series with some good ideas and characters thrown in just to keep you from throwing your book across the room at two o’clock in the morning.

So in conclusion, read the Maze Runner if you wish, but analyze it from a writer’s perspective and take notes.


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