The best-selling and award-winning fiction writers write as if they are in love and edit like they are in charge.
For a fiction writer, doing the first draft should be an incredible and wild ride, with plenty of discoveries, anticipations, and promises. However, at some point, you will need to settle down and make your book work. With that, you should approach your script with limitless knowledge about the craft and a highly sober objectivity.
Having reviewed and written hundreds of scripts over the last few years, I have identified five serious fiction writing mistakes that turn up regularly. Therefore, if you are a fiction writer, or aspiring to be one, start your perfection by addressing these fiction writing mistakes, and you will change your writing for the better.
1. Happy people in perfect land
One of the common errors, especially in the first chapter your book, is scenes showing characters who have the perfect life, living in a perfect world. Most writers tend to think that by presenting these beautiful people doing good things the readers will care about the pleasant people when a complex equation finally hits the character.
It is worth noting that readers engage with the writer`s plot via threats, challenges or some serious trouble. Therefore, consider beginning your story with a disturbance. I call it an initial disturbance. For example, if you read Jodi Picoult’s Lone Wolf, the first sentence will make you read the rest of the chapter in one day. The story begins:
Seconds before our truck slammed into the tree; I remembered the first time I tried to save a life…
It is common that most happy people appear in the first chapter. That does not mean that you should let your guard down once you begin your book with a bang. As you continue storytelling, look out for a few stops in happy lands, not Badlands.
In fact, your first chapter should hint some conflict, but ensure that you keep the reader in the loop. I know some of you fear conflicts even with imaginary people. However, conflict is one of the major elements of fiction, and your main characters should face a conflict.
2. A fearless world
If you want to write the best fiction that will hook the reader, stay with him all the way to the end and even beyond, make sure that the threat of ‘death’ is hanging over each scene.
Oh! Death? Seriously?
Not even category romance?
I know those are the questions rigging in your mind now. But stay with me.
As a fiction writer, you should understand that death can manifest in your story in three different ways. Of course, physical death is a staple for the thriller. There is also professional death, where the character is engaged in a vocation, and the matter at hand poses a threat to his career.
For example, you may present a cop who has been assigned a case that might end up messing up his position, or a married politician falling in love with a staffer.
If there is a vocational death that is overcharging your novel, your job is to make whatever the problem the protagonist is facing feel so imperative that failure to overcome it poses a permanent setback to his most important role in life.
The third type of death in fiction writing is the psychological death. This simply means dying inside. Psychological death is best emphasized in character-driven fiction especially in the romance genre. Make the reader see that the lovers must end up together or their lives will ever be less than what they have always wanted.
The element of fear in fiction writing can be an outright terror or a simple worry. Whichever form of death you may decide to use, let it be seen in every scene to make the reader feel fear throughout. Coupled with keeping the reader in the loop about the conflict, having the element of fear in your writing will hook the reader until the conflict is revealed, to the end of the story, and beyond.
3. Marshmallow dialogue
We all know that dialogue is the fastest way of enhancing a manuscript. However, you need to understand that it can be the most efficient way of sinking it. When the readers, editors or agents see a crunchy and tension-filled dialogue, they gain confidence in your writing ability. But a marshmallow dialogue – one that is undistinguished and so sodden has the opposite effect.
While a marshmallow dialogue is puffy, sweet, and blends very well and easily, a pro-dialogue is compressed, has a conflict, and sounds different for each character.
Eliminate any marshmallow dialogue in your fiction writing by ensuring that you can ‘hear’ every character in a distinct voice. Also, make sure that your dialogues a compressed as much as possible by eliminating all fluffy and filler words.
Among the most common fiction writing mistakes you may know, predictability is one of the worst. Readers like worrying about characters in chaos and crisis. Worrying about what`s around the corner, whether physical or emotional, will keep them engaged.
If your scenes become too predictable such that the reader can predict exactly what`s coming up, your story loses the fear and worry factor. It no longer conveys the desired fictive dream. Instead, it becomes a dull ride across familiar streets.
So, how do you ensure that your story features the unexpected?
Consider making lists. Ask yourself what may happen next and list down all the possibilities revolving around the three major areas – description, dialogue, and action.
When it comes to description, dump the generic details about whatever you are describing. How might a character seem in a room where someone died? Tell the reader the surprising thing about the bed, wallpaper, the closet, and much more.
If you decide to use dialogue, don’t just major on “on-the-nose” exchanges. Let your character say things that can put other characters, as well as the reader off balance. For example;
“I think you have been destructive. For me, it`s the same thing.”
5. Lost love in writing
At the beginning of this article, I said that best writers write as if they are in love. Making the outline and planning the book are the wooing. While drafting the story, you are making a marriage commitment, and your opening scenes are the honeymoon. However, at some point, you and your book may need some serious marriage counseling to regain lost love. This is because, once you start losing interest in writing your story, it will show.
To regain lost love, consider digging deeper into your major and minor characters.
Focus on their physical development and bring out that unique thing about your character when he turned sixteen and showed how incident shaped him. Tell us in detailed scenes about the character’s tragedies, heartaches, romances, and much more.
Also, focus on what the protagonist wants. Keep in mind that people yearn for something because they feel that they lack, have a hole in their souls that needs to be filled, and have a thirst that needs to be quenched.
Every reader yearns for connection – with tales that hook them from the start and a story in which they can get lost in. Fix the five fiction writing mistakes discussed in this article and you will be able to write such books.