Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Five Ways to Avoid Boring Writing

 by Vivian Zabel 

          At times, readers feel as if writers are using a completely different language, or at least a completely boring one. I tried to read three different books last week, two of which were mysteries or sub-mystery genre. I couldn't force myself to plow through the words between the covers.

          I'm a avid reader. When I can't find anything else, I may read the back of cereal boxes. But these books defied my attempts to force myself to read them. So, I decided to analyze the problem or problems as to why the reading was labored and uninteresting.

          Using three books (but not identifying them to protect the poor authors) as examples, I can give several reasons that books can be unreadable, things that an author needs to avoid. However, this time I'll discuss five.

1.Too many subplots can become confusing. Confusing, and thus losing, readers isn't a good thing. That doesn't mean that having subplots is a bad thing, just that too many spoil the book. Too many subplots makes the overall plot too complex.

2. Making "make-believe" world unbelievable. Readers can suspend belief IF authors develop a world in writing that a reader can accept, can suspend belief enough to accept. However, a reader must be able to say, "Oh, yes, I can see how that might happen if such a world or circumstances did exist." Therefore, as Laura Whitcomb states (Writer's Digest, March/April 2009), "Readers need to buy into the reality put forward by what they're reading." An author cannot go too far with a plot point or not far enough as the reading audience is being prepared. The plot cannot become too far fetched, or readers will not be able to suspend belief enough to accept it.

3. Dialogue can't be just talking heads. Action needs to be involved as well as conversation, and conversation with action should move the plot along and reveal character.

4. An unsatisfactory conclusion should be avoided. A twist or surprising ending that has a good foundation laid in the story can be creative. An ending that does not "fit" is bad.

5. Forced emotion can destroy believability. Most people do not sit mulling over their inner most thoughts and emotions in the midst of action. Yet, I'm discovering many novels that have a character do just that. Not only does such needless and in depth thinking tell and not show, but it becomes monotonous.

          There, five ways that cause books to become targets for the waste basket, when avoided, can improve a story. Of course more ways exist, but those can be covered another time.

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  1. Good advice. Authors should take note. With the explosion of the Internet age, the opportunity to become a writer has been opened to many who otherwise wouldn't have their foot in the door. We must remember that being able to type doesn't make one a writer; good writing makes a writer.

  2. So true. Also, self-publishing has flooded the book world with books that should never have seen the light of day. Yes, some self-published books are good, but they are lost in the piles of those not. Don't get me started on the "publishers" that print anything they get money to do.

  3. Great information, Vivian. And, I agree that those who self-pub below standard books keep the stigma going and make it more difficult for good SP books to be found.

  4. Really does only take one bad apple to ruin a full barrel. However, there are more than one bad self-published book out there. *sigh*