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"As usual in these situations, I now lost consciousness, being overcome with horror at the thought of all the descriptive detail that would otherwise have been needed."—Graham Chapman, A Liar's Autobiography
A cop out is when a story builds to a certain climax and the writer suddenly wusses out and chooses a different, less ambitious or less satisfying ending, or worse, chooses not to end the story at all. This may come out of Executive Meddling, Creator Breakdown, lack of talent, or simply an incomprehensible creative choice. Often results in a Broken Base.
According to That Other Wiki, "Cop out is an idiom meaning to avoid taking responsibility for an action or to avoid fulfilling a duty."
Compare with Offscreen Moment of Awesome.
Different from an Anticlimax in that a story with a Writer Cop Out can have a climax, just not necessarily the one that would be the most dramatically satisfying. In the right (or wrong) context, a Battle Royale With Cheese could be the easy way out. It may also be seen as a Writer Cop Out if a film adaptation of a work with a Downer Ending goes for something slightly happier (or vice versa). Expect cries of They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot. The flip side of Author's Saving Throw.
This is a bit of an umbrella trope as there are many different ways to cop out. Some of the most infamous are:
- All Just a Dream
- Cliffhanger Copout
- Convenient Miscarriage
- Debate and Switch
- Deus Ex Machina
- Diabolus Ex Machina
- Disney Death
- Gainax Ending
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope
- No Ending
- Not Blood Siblings
- Not Himself
- Reset Button
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog
- Sudden Downer Ending