April 8, 2015 | Posted in: Writing & Grammar Tips
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Common Fiction Writing Mistakes
- Using clichés and common phrases. Using these can make your story sound like every other story and seem boring. You want to make your story sound new and exciting. Substitute your own words or remove clichés and common phrases. Eliminate common three-and four-word phrases that don’t add to the emotion, tone, and action of the moment.
- Repeating words. Writers often have a “favorite” word that shows up frequently, sometimes a couple of times on every page. Search your manuscript and reduce the number of times a “favorite” word is used.
- Writing news reports instead of scenes. This falls into the category of telling vs. showing. Writers sometimes tend to write about the event through their characters thoughts rather than having the scene and action play out in real time. Writing in report form doesn’t engage readers. Show cause and effect. Use interaction and a real-time unfolding of events.
- Writing boring dialogue. Dialogue should advance the story and raise the conflict level. Dialogue should seem real and not contrived. Use incomplete sentences. Have character s that don’t answer questions or interrupt one another. Use improper grammar – everyone does not speak with perfect grammar, and perfect grammar in dialogue can make your characters seem stilted and fake.
- Overplaying accents and dialect. Using too many unusual words or spelling too many words how they are spoken can make your story hard to read. It’s okay to use an occasional odd word or spelling for this, but try to use other means to show how a character speaks. Another character can observe in thought or dialogue how unusual an accent is or how it sounds.
- Switching character viewpoints within scenes. Commonly referred to as “head hopping,” a viewpoint that switches from character to character within a scene can be confusing for readers; readers shouldn’t have to figure out whose thoughts they’re hearing or which character is noticing an event. A single viewpoint in a scene will help with tone, emotion, and consistency. One character’s viewpoint should be maintained until the scene changes.
- Filtering everything through the character’s head. Emphasis has not been placed on the actions and events, and instead, readers are told what the character is experiencing rather than experiencing it themselves. Example: He heard the broken door bang rather than The broken door banged against the wall.
- Failure to include chapter-ending hooks. If a reader doesn’t have a reason to turn the page, he/she might not do it. If a reader puts a book down, there is a chance it may not be picked up again. Chapter endings should not only satisfy some of the story threads, but should entice the reader to keep reading. Build anticipation in a reader by leaving a question that must be answered.