It’s happened to all of us. We’ve taken a chance on a new author and now we’re getting into this book. Maybe we love a character, maybe it’s an incredible world, maybe the premise is fascinating. And then, WHAMMO, something in that book jerks the magic carpet right out from under our feet and plops us back on our couch with a bundle of paper, glue, and string in our laps.
Ouch. Nothing derails a story faster than seeing the author’s inky fingerprints all over the place. Those fingerprints can come in many different forms. Some things bother one reader, but not another. Some are generally irksome, while others drive only a select few nuts. Either way, as writers, it’s important for us to know what to watch out for in our own writing so that we don’t commit the very sins we sneer at in another. Below are just a few things that rip me right out of a book.
Explanations You’ve got this really cool mechanic in this really cool world and you’ve just gotta let the reader know how it works and why it’s there, right? Wrong. Wrong, wrong. Stick within your established POV. If it’s something the character is used to, there’s no reason s/he would sit around musing on its presence and purpose. (Even worse is injecting information the POV character wouldn’t know.) Don’t be a lazy writer, or a purple proser. If it doesn’t need to be said, don’t say it. And if it does, make the explanation natural and seamless. No lazies allowed.
Excessive Descriptions This is related to the above, but slightly different. Even if the descriptions are relevant, keep it minimal and to the point. No need to bore your readers into a coma. Also, try to find more interesting ways to describe stuff than a solid block of exposition. If it has to be described, like fight scenes that are a lot of action and little to no dialog, break it up into smaller paragraphs to maintain a quicker pace.
Out of Character Acts Characters are meant to change throughout a story. It gets pretty boring and frustrating if they don’t. But that change is supposed to be gradual, a culmination of the things learned throughout the story. If a character does something completely outside of their established mode of operations, simply because it bullies the story in the direction it’s “supposed to” go, that kills me. Ugh. Don’t.
Typos This is less of a story problem and more of an editing issue. Seriously- please edit the snot out of your manuscript and then get someone else to do the same. One or two typos, I can muscle my way past. But sloppy work just sets me on red alert for other problems. And like a cop hunting for a reason to ticket you, I will find other problems, even if they wouldn’t have bothered me before.
So these are my reading pet peeves, and they’re certainly not the only ones on the market. What about yours? What are some other issues I’ve missed that we still need to watch out for? Let us know in the comments!