An expert is someone who demonstrates great skill at something due to experience, right? So, I don’t think I am to far off base (or narcissistic) by declaring myself an expert in the art of book reading. I have been readying books for as long I have been able to read books. I have over 20 years of book reading experience. I have even been tested as an exceptional reader (got the gold star in 2nd grade to prove it). I am confident in my book reading ability.
Now that I have my credentials out of the way, I would like to impart to you, my fellow writers, my knowledge and experience in recognizing frustrated fiction from a readers point of view.
Lately, I have been spreading my literary wings and reading some genres that I haven’t read before. I have found some real great stuff out there.
I have also experiences some frustrating reads. Now, I understand that we are all learning and growing and perfecting our craft. My point isn’t to criticize anyone for doing what some many of us want to do. And, anyone who has had a book published has my utmost respect. Hell, I haven’t done it, . . . yet.
But, let’s face it. There is some bad writing out there.
But, all is not lost. It is my goal here to thank those writers who brave the critical world and put their stuff out there in order to teach us the following lessons:
- Flashbacks and back story are not the same thing. You can achieve great back story for your character without resorting to full on chapter long flash backs to where your character first meet the trauma, issue or conflict. If your character is afraid of roller coaster. No need to tell us about the three other times she threw up from riding a roller coaster. We as reader are smart. We can understand a fear of roller coasters, public speaking and spiders. No further explanation is necessary. Now, if you character is afraid of puppies and it is central to the story, then by all means, take us back, but just once.
- Don’t have stuff just happen to the main character just to happen. If something happens to the main character, it should be relevant to the main plot or story. Otherwise is just appears you are trying to fullfill some word count. Unless you character gets in a car wreck (that changes her life) on the way home from work, no need to tell me about her leaving work, driving on the free way and then arriving home. No need to go into every thing she saw, heard and did. Just get the good stuff.
- Don’t lead us to assume one thing about a character and then later prove our assumptions are completely wrong. This doesn’t create suspense or the unexpected. It just causes confusion in the reader and disturbs the readers flow. You don’t ever want your reader to stop reading and say, “Wait, that can’t happen.” If you start a story about your main character’s bad luck with men and then she meets a guy and it is all wine and romance and then the rest of the book is about her conflict with her mother. Uh, wait. What happen? What about the boyfriend. Stick with one theme and don’t gloss over the conflict. To a reader, that is the good stuff.
- Don’t tout a story as being something that every one can relate to when nothing that happens to the main character would or could happen to a person in real life. If you do this and you are a realistic fiction writer, I think you might want to rethink your genre of choice. That sounds more like fantasy. I can related to issues of loneliness, unfulfilled dreams, falling in love. I can’t relate to being a vampire and trying to find my vampire mate in New York City. Don’t get me wrong, I may still enjoy the story, but don’t advertise it as something it is not just to get me to read it. It is what is and that should be good enough.
- Don’t allow your secondary characters or insignificant characters to have huge issues that need to be resolve in the story. If it doesn’t also related to the main characters, then leave it out. Write another book for them. If you main character is having trouble finding a job, please don’t switch gears and tell me about her best friend from high schools issues with her boyfriend. Unless that boyfriend is going to give your main character a job, leave it out.
- Don’t. Do not under any circumstance, no matter what, ever jump to a secondary characters POV in first person when 95% of the book was written from the main characters POV in first person. If your main character dies, that is it. The book is over. Only if your character turns into a ghost can she observe and report on happenings herself. Someone else cannot step in now and finish off the story for us. That’s just common writing sense. If your story needs further explanation, write it in the epilogue or write it in a new series from that other characters POV.
- Be original. Don’t write a story with a story line similar to someone famous even if that person inspired the story. We are fiction writer. Writing a story about a famous person, isn’t fiction, it is called a biography. Changing the names and occupation doesn’t make it an original story.
Have you ever been frustrated reading a book? What did you learn from it? It’s ok to tell, we are all here to help each other, right?