February 18, 2017

5 mistakes new authors make

I'm currently doing a lot of critiques on Wattpad which led me to read some things over and over—especially from young authors. Guys, just know, these things won't give you a good story. I'm counting down 5 things I'm absolutely fed up with.

#1 Morning routines and clothing lists
Let me get this straight. There is nothing wrong with having a character wake up if something important is about to happen. Like they are woken by a phone call that tells them their house is under attack. Or sirens. Sirens always make a good excuse to sit upright in the middle of the night. But what is up with all those laundry lists of activites like eating your breakfast and brushing your teeth? I mean I expect my characters to fullfill basic needs but do I really need to know what they had for breakfast and that they probably don't smell like they took a dive in the garbage bin? I suppose not. What I find most annoying is if the waking up part is just an excuse to give me a detailed list of their clothing. Just stop it, okay? Nobody likes laundry lists.

#2 Something happened somehow and was done by someone sometime
Just scrap those words from your texts, will you? If it is important enough to be mentioned in your story, it is important enough to be labeled. A character is reading something? Then tell me what. You don't have to tell me the title of the book but just specify it. Is it a magazine, a textbook or does it look like the trashy mommy-porn you would not like to pick up? Because this tells me something about the character. Same goes for time and places and people. Just stick with this: If your POV character knows your something, the reader should know—otherwise scrap it.

#3 Being bad for the sake of being bad
Some authors don't seem to understand that being a bitchy character doesn't make a sufficient and believeable motive for a character to be bitchy. Those characters are just there to be a nemesis to the main character and hate on them in order to make the reader feel sympathetic. You know why the bitchy behaviour works on Professor Snape? Because there is a whole lot of backstory behind why Harry is such a sore to his eyes. Because he has ulterior motives. And as long as I don't have a faint feeling what those ulterior motives might be your character will be articial drama for me. A personal reason can take your bad character that is usually slut shamed by the narrator in order to make it okay from cookie-cutter piece of shit to a believeable human being that can still be a piece of shit. Don't be afraid of making them human! A real motive provides a stable ground for conflict and any type of real conflict will just make your story better.

#4 Reading minds and having a 360 degree vision
Yeah, I'm talking to you first person narrators out there. As long as you don't specifically tell me that your character can read minds, I won't believe if you are telling me that your oh-so-perfect love interest is jealous. It is what you are hoping he is but I would very much prefer it if you could let me come to that conclusion myself. Just tell me how his nosedrills are flaring, his forehead crinkles and his voice is slightly on the grumbly side. And now, you can't see how the girl in the back of the class is oogling your character because guess what your character doesn't have eyes in the back of the head, does he? Just be aware of what your character sees and feels and about those limitations. Your character can only assume from experience what others are thinking. S/he never knows for certain.

#5 Show, don't tell
There. I said it. The piece of advice that everybody gives but so many don't seem to understand. There is a big difference between a movie and a book but yet so many seem to write stories like they are the camera following a scene—without any close ups. A movie is about what is happening, but a story is about what the characters are thinking and feeling. In a movie there might be a scene where somebody is riding a bicycle on their way to work. In a book that scene would be about that somebody is thinking. In a movie I have colors and quick images to show a setting. In a book I need some sort of detail about that location like backstory or some descriptions of sound, lightning, smell or even temperature—show me what your character feels about that place; what comes to his mind?


I know, I know. Most of these things should be basic knowledge. Yet I see them everywhere. I'm considering making this into a series and/or a tag. If you have something to say to those points consider yourself tagged ;)