10 NO-NO’S FOR A COMPELLING STORY
Today’s fiction readers are more discerning and busier than ever. They want to be swept away by a captivating story with a charismatic main character. They don’t want to be talked at. Don’t wrench them out of the fictive dream by addressing them as the author to explain things or otherwise taking them out of the character’s immediate world.
Avoid these storytelling gaffes in your novel or short story:
1. Too much description
Avoid writing paragraphs of description of the scenery, weather, and other surroundings. Write only the most compelling details, and from the main character’s point of view – how is the weather affecting her? Are details in his physical environment hindering his goals? And don’t get into too much detailed information on exactly what each character looks like and everything they’re wearing, especially for minor characters. Paint in large brushstrokes, mentioning only the most salient details, those that contribute to characterization.
2. An unlikeable protagonist
Make sure your main character is someone readers will want to bond with, root for, and follow for the whole story. Don’t make him or her cold, arrogant, difficult, demanding, unfeeling, insensitive, dismissive, timid, whiny, or wimpy. Go for sympathetic and likeable, but vulnerable, with inner conflict and some baggage.
3. A cardboard lead
Make sure your hero or heroine is multidimensional, with lots of personality and attitude, and plenty of drive and charisma. They need strengths but also inner conflict and secrets. Nobody wants to follow a bland, wishy-washy, overly ordinary lead character.
4. La-la land – Characters getting along too well