Friday, May 27, 2011

Fiction Writing Mistakes and Solutions

A few of the mistakes we fiction writers sometimes make are listed below. It's always helpful for us to have a refresher in things we need to watch for as we continue to produce new work or revise old projects. I hope you find these things of use to you.

And, to my U.S. friends, have a happy Memorial Day.

Fiction writing mistakes and solutions:

1. Over-describing anything. Use of fewer, more powerfully descriptive words is better. A paragraph of descriptive prose can get boring.

2. Using real people. Instead of using actual people in stories, create vivid, compelling "bigger than life" but believable characters.

3. "Head hopping" or using multiple POVs in a scene. Generally it's best to choose one point of view per scene and stick with it throughout the scene. If a change of POV during a scene is necessary, make the transition smooth and obvious so the reader feels neither confused nor jolted by the change.

4. Choosing the wrong POV. The point of view in a scene belongs to the character whose goals are most at risk.

5. Undefined goals. All major characters need goals. These goals should be clearly defined. Without goals, characters are merely wandering through the pages with no purpose. Readers need to be connected to characters and their goals.

6. Poorly defined reasons for actions. A character's plan of action for reaching a goal should be clearly defined--not that all the details need to be obvious. Keeping a little mystery in the reasons for a character's actions can enrich the plot, but if readers don't understand what the character intends to do and why, they may become frustrated.

7. Long, boring transitions. Transitions between scenes should be crisp. Fill in as needed and move to next scene.

8. Giving TMI. Research your subject thoroughly, but don't attempt to convey EVERYTHING you learned to readers. Too much information can bog down the pace of the story or, worse yet, bore readers.

9. Lecturing readers. Don't lecture, no matter how passionate you are about a subject. Characters shouldn't lecture either, no matter how passionate they are about a subject.

10. Sensory deprivation. Blandness is a no-no. Enrich scenes by letting readers see, feel, taste, smell and touch their literary environment through the senses of the characters.

11. Digressing. Stick to what is important to the storyline/character definition. Don't wander off on tangents. Such a practice weakens the story and makes it unappealing.

12. Inactive scenes. Scenes should move. Dialogue, action/reaction, tension, conflict, complications, cliffhangers should all work to keep a scene moving ahead.

Have a great rest of May, and I'll see you again in June!


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

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