I really want to be a blog that helps writers. I want to be encouraging and inspiring. I don’t want to hate on people or make others feel bad.
That being said.
There are some stupid things writers do that make me want to put out cigarettes in my eyeballs. And I can easily point them out because I have committed every one of these felonies in my own writing. So just know that I’m talking to myself here, too!
1. Every character has the same voice.
People—especially people from different geographical areas—talk differently. They have their own jargon, key phrases, or go-to words. And, for the most part, men and women have different speech patterns. When girls sound like guys, and guys sound like girls, you have a major problem in your writing.
To combat this pitfall, I try and give my characters at least 3-5 phrases or words that only they use.
2. Characters act in contradiction to their nature.
Now this is a biggie. If your heroine named Kate is quiet and shy, she is not going sass mouth some stranger who backed his car into hers on a whim. No. Quiet and shy people are almost always … YOU GOT IT! … quiet and shy.
One way to make sure your characters act consistently is to develop their personalities prior to developing the plot. What was their childhood like? How has that affected their past and present relationships? What kind of music do they like? What are their vices? Their deal breakers? Their weaknesses? Don’t let your plot manipulate your characters, let your characters to manipulate your plot.
3. Characters don’t grow.
Gosh, this really revs up my engine, you know? I get really twitchy when characters keep making the same mistakes over and over and over. Or when they keep fighting with their significant other about the same thing over and over and over. I get it—people have hang-ups. They have things about themselves that will never change. But if there isn’t SOME type of character arc, what’s the point of the book?
Before you write, decide one thing that needs to change about each main character. What do they lack personality-wise or experience-wise? How can your plot lend itself to teaching them or giving them what they need to reach another level?
4. Too much detail.
I don’t need to know the color of every shirt, rug, wall, flower, car, coffee mug, lipstick, bug, street corner, sign … (I think you get the idea).
In each scene, I try to keep it to 2-3 descriptors–max. I give myself bonus points if I can fit at least 2 of them into one sentence.
5. Not enough detail.
I read a book the other day where the heroine’s hair color was never specified. What in the world? How’s a girl supposed to finish a book when I can’t get a solid mental image? If I can’t picture anything, I’m going to struggle to keep reading.
Kind of seems like a darned if you do, darned if you don’t situation, doesn’t it? Well, it’s really just a balance. Use descriptors like salt and pepper. They’re not sides, they’re certainly not the main course. They’re a seasoning that makes everything better!
What are your writing pet peeves? Which ones are you guilty of? For me, I’ve done ALL of these!
Holly Lauren is the author of TEMPUS, a Young Adult Science-Fiction Romance out now at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.