Avoidable Mistakes in Fiction Writing
Writing a Book
Too Many Characters
When a novice is writing a short story or a book of fiction for the first time, they often try to put too many characters in the first few pages. Each character needs to be developed, and reading a book where the first couple of pages has four or five character introduced is ineffective. There is obviously too much detail for the reader to assimilate in such a short space. Aim for a solid opening scene, and it is relatively simple to focus on just one or possible two characters in the first few pages.
As you describe the scene, you can also focus on an action, which is one way to introduce your characters more slowly. This gives the reader time to picture the scene, begin to know the character or characters and have an idea as to the theme of the story.
It might help you to write short vignettes of a conversation, or an action scene. Evaluate what you have written, and if you are satisfied move on to the next scene.
Avoid Using too Many Points
Sometimes stories can confuse the reader due to too many plot points in just a few pages. Be careful to use each plot point to build a specific scene. Action, pace and interest are the characteristics to strive for in each scene. Be specific with the information you write to give the reader a full picture.
It is important to only include information that furthers the plot, and leave out irrelevant details. For instance, if you are mentioning a postman whose only function is to deliver a letter, do not include his name or let us know he has a bad back.
Be imaginative with your writing. The wind blows, roars, rips, whips and so forth. The way you describe words will add a more interesting element to your writing.
Be aware of using too much irrelevant detail. Since the goal is to further the plot, enhance the characterization, while providing a sense of time and place. Save the details for your important characters.
Do you Lack Imagery?
Quite often new writers lack vibrant images, which makes their fiction flat. Avoid using old clichés and wisecracks. Wisecracks can be fine, but make them unique and fitting to the circumstances. Use imagery that matches the character in your story. For instance if the character is always busy running around, use imagery that relates to speed. Place the character in a scene or place that relates to speed, such as a speeding car or a fast moving train.
Create a Sense of Place
It is important to show your readers where your characters work and where they live. If you don’t engage all the senses with your descriptions the characters will be floating around in a vacuum. If the story takes place in the seedy area of a big city, describe the look of the buildings, the smells and the type of people that live in the area. The same would hold true if the story takes place in suburban suburb. How does it look? How does the light shine on the homes?
Typically, authors describe how things look, but think about how does fear taste or how does anger smell. Be adventurous with your words to create the background of the story.
The dialogue needs to sound real to keep the interest of the reader. The dialog should raise the conflict level to advance the story. While it is important to change the pace or intensity throughout the story, the intensity should gradually increase to produce greater anticipation in the reader. If it is bland, too complete or agreeable the level of conflict is not increased. Avoid characters that make long confessional speeches or ones that engage in long cozy chit chat discussions. Use the dialogue to provide essential information, and most importantly dialogue needs to show the character.
Always Read Numerous Books
Gotham Writers' Workshop has mastered the art of teaching the craft of writing in a way that is practical, accessible, and entertaining. Now the techniques of this renowned school are available in this book. Here you'll find:
- The fundamental elements of fiction craft-character, plot, point of view, etc.-explained clearly and completely
- Key concepts illustrated with passages from great works of fiction
Mistakes in grammar stick out like a sore thumb. It is essential to read and re-read your story to look for grammar mistakes and to make sure you don’t repeat the same words over and over again. Ideally when you complete your story set aside for a minimum of one week, then read your entire story out loud. Most of the time you will find errors that will leap out at you that you missed the first time around. Put a question mark by the problem areas as you read.
If you feel vaguely uncomfortable with a scene or passage ask yourself if this scene belongs in this story. You may want to cut the scene or re-write it, depending on its importance.
How to Write Better- Writing Tips on Voice, Tense, Perspective, Cliché
Finally, after you make those last corrections, your story is complete. The extra time you spent re-reading and re-writing some sections of your book will pay off. It may make the difference in a publisher wanting to print your book.
Common Mistakes Review
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© 2013 Pamela Oglesby
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