I am really enjoying reading all the books I bought from my followers! I am seeing some fantastic writing, and some really wonderful stories. There have, however, been some problems therein. I won’t blab who they are or tear them down in public. I wouldn’t want anyone to do that to me. The thing is that usually we can’t see a problem with our writing until someone points it out. So I will! This may or may not be your problem, but regardless, you can learn from it.
- Explaining too much: This is the main reason I want to stop reading a book. When you explain everything in detail, you have to be careful not to tell us too much. Telling too much can lead to boring the reader who just wants the action to move forward, leaving no mystery for the reader to discover later on, or getting lost in scenery and description that doesn’t actually tell a story. I have read some published works by successful authors that begin with a protracted description of someone I don’t know who isn’t real and I don’t really care, so I move to the next book.
- Not explaining enough: There is a fine line between not enough and too much. You have to be really careful about that. A few things I read recently left me wondering what was going on and if I was accidentally starting with #2 in a series by accident. I really love the technique of experiencing the confusion of the protagonist as you move through your story, but don’t keep us confused. Make it long enough in finding things out to be pleasurable and short enough to be gratifying. Also, adding in a character with lots of back story as if we already knew them is a mistake. You should introduce characters like you introduce people. We don’t need tantalizing details about a character if you don’t intend to develop them. That makes it seem like an excerpt and not a full story. Also, we don’t want to hear their embarrassing private details just after we meet them. Later on, maybe we do, but we’re not loose, so don’t get fresh going to far too fast. I’m not that kind of girl.
- Unlovable characters: There are personality flaws that are endearing and personality flaws that are off-putting. You need character flaws or your characters don’t seem human. (Sometimes they aren’t human.) To connect the reader to our characters, we have to carefully choose their flaws. If you give your character too many bad flaws, then you won’t have a lovable character. Flaws that are endearing are things like clumsiness, awkwardness, chronic misfortune, and self-consciousness. They are lovable because we all have some or all of them and in a book they either harm no one or provide comic relief when they do. Flaws that nobody loves are self-pity (because if you pity yourself, we feel like your pity portion is covered), spoiled-brattiness, self-delusion, sullenness, inability to act when necessary, selfishness, and smugness. These flaws should be used on a “bad guy” or on a main character who gets spanked and changes for the better. I read one character who essentially dared the world to disapprove of her. Bad idea. Even if we don’t disapprove, we might be convinced to disapprove on principle.
- Scattered story momentum: In one story I read, the writer was trying to pepper her story with scenes where the main character and the love interest were confronted with their attraction for one another. The trouble was that these were done randomly and often in inappropriate context. The scenes didn’t build in intensity toward a climax, rather the characters were flooded with a random level of attraction unconnected with the previous or following levels, and then suddenly remembering their reasons to hold back, seemed to completely forget their attraction. It was confusing and made the two characters appear mentally unhinged. Remember the flow of your story and chop out anything that gets in its way. It’s the boss, and gets to go first.
- Names that all sound the same confuse me!: I have a character flaw myself, and that is if you name your characters Mike, Matt, and Mitch, I will confuse them and forget who I am reading about. My own technique I use in my own writing is to always name my characters with a different first letter than all the other characters. I strayed from that pattern and confused myself in The Disenchanted Pet by naming the male brother characters James and Justus. My editor and my friends found repeated instances where I was writing about one and named the other. I had to read the whole piece through a few times to correct mistakes based on their names.
- The flow of the story gets lost in dialogue: Dialogue is vital and enhances a story, but when the characters just move from place to place and talk, it can bore you to tears. If you are reading a book that is supposed to be about people talking to one another in different places, that is one thing. If you are reading a book that claims to be a thrilling adventure, this doesn’t work. Move them around and do stuff to them, and let them talk about it a little.
- Too many feelings: I am a girl and I love hearing about people’s feelings. But even I can’t handle the level of feeling-sharing sometimes. Do share the feelings that are relevant to the action of the story as they happen. Do not share all the feelings of all the characters about everything. Some characters should be an enigma and not knowing what goes on in their head will be fascinating. Why did they do that? I don’t know! Maybe if I read more I can find out. It’s why Edward in Twilight liked Bella. It wasn’t wrong.
Don’t feel bad if this punches your story in the eye. I’ve made some of the same mistakes and a little beating does your writing technique good. If you are out to tell your story and get everyone to praise you without working at it, you had better just give your stories to your close friends who don’t criticize you. If it is your art, and you strive to make it better and more beautiful, then you’ll love and hate all the criticism, but you’ll grow from it.