Monday, September 26, 2011

Top Ten Peeves We Would Rather Not See, Part Two

Hello and Welcome Back!

Here is the second part of our combined post, Top Ten Peeves We Would Rather Not See, by Sweetheart Rose Editor Vicky Reed and Crimson Rose Editor Laura Kelly.  
6.    Writers who think every line of dialogue must be answered, and every inner thought conveyed to the reader, in case they ‘don’t understand’ what you are trying to say.
If a reader doesn’t understand why your character says or does something, it’s because you haven’t fleshed out that character well enough.  Telling the reader why Indiana Jones hates snakes isn’t enough.  You need to show it.  Through dialogue and action. 

Dialogue is action, by the way, and only dialogue that moves the story forward needs to be included.  Excessive dialogue slows the story down, and only bores the reader. 

What really bogs down a story is when every time the hero or heroine speaks, we get a mental assessment of what they said by the other party, before the other party speaks. 

Don’t have them think their responses and feelings, have them act upon them, preferably with a conflict-enhancing line of dialogue.  (Not bickering, as stated in last week’s post).

7.      Don’t tell us what the characters are about to do, then show them doing it. 

Susie had a plan, first she’d sneak out the back door, then go to the store and buy a wig and some make-up, and then she’d sneak back to Joe’s place and find the missing key, but she’d make sure Dave saw her, so he would follow her, and then Joe would know what Dave was up to and could arrest him.  And on the way, she’d call the SWAT team, just in case there was trouble. 

Just show her sneaking out the back door, shopping at the store, making her phone call to the SWAT team and then showing up at Joe’s apartment.  Make us wonder what’s going to happen, next.

Another thing we see a lot of is writers who think laying out their character’s plan in this way, ahead of time, then having that plan go awry when the character tries to put it into action, equals conflict.  As in “Oh, no, Susie was going to go to the store and buy the wig, but they didn’t have any for sale.  She’d have to go with plan B.” 

If plan A never happens, that’s even more pointless than telling us Plan A, then showing us plan A.  It just frustrates the reader.

8.    Writers who don’t know how to end the scene with a hook. 

A good hook can be a snappy line of dialogue that leaves the reader wondering what will happen next, and pulls them into the next scene, or chapter.  A lot of writers seem to have trouble getting their characters out of the room, or scene. Or ending the day.  Never end the scene with your character going to bed alone. It might give the reader the idea to put the book down and do the same.

9.    Point of view violations. 

When you are in a character’s point of view, you can only see, hear, taste, smell and feel what that character sees, hears, tastes, smells and feels.  And you can only describe what they are experiencing using vocabulary your character would use.  What self-respecting alpha male describes anything as “horrid?”

Beware of using your own extensive writer’s vocabulary instead of limiting dialogue and internal narrative to words your characters would use.  What construction worker hero would describe the heroine’s hair as ‘golden tresses?’ Her golden tresses flowed over his arm as…  This is you, the author speaking, and using omniscient POV, to boot, which only distances your reader from the story.  If your hero wouldn’t notice the color of the wallpaper or delicate brocade of the furniture, then let that be described in the heroine’s POV.   

10.  Overuse of qualifiers. 

Make every word count.  Do a word search and take out every even, just, actually, really, usually, generally, especially, that doesn’t have to be there.  He just wanted to see her one more time.  She didn’t really even know his name.  That wasn’t exactly what she’d meant to say.  She wasn’t generally a fast talker.  He wasn’t especially fond of turtles.

Last, but not least, put your manuscript on a low-that diet, and take out any ‘that’ that does not add to the story.  Otherwise, you’re just padding your word count.

Here’s hoping you’ve found at least one way to improve your manuscript after reading these two posts, or, better yet, found out you’re a better writer than you thought!

Wishing you all the best in your writing endeavors,

Vicky Reed
Laura Kelly


Ea Bloom said...

I got a few chuckles from this post - point 7 in particular (notice me trying to avoid the use of 'especially'?). I admit I'm a writer who used to think that not every scene/chapter needed to end with a hook.

As a reader, I have an uncanny ability to put down a book (gasp!) - except when I have two or three chapters left, in which case I'm burning that midnight oil.

But I was adviced by an editor to end chapters on a hoo, so I've been doing so (or trying) since then.

Angi said...

In addition to number 10, a pet peeve of mine, how often a writer uses a phrase or versions of the same phrase. For example: sobbing and bursting into tears are essentially the same thing; feeling it all the way to your soul for every kiss, touch, smile; the title of the book.

Overuse of words and phrases make me roll my eyes at best and make me want to throw your book at your head at worst.

Kellie Kamryn said...

Great suggestions! Thanks. I think we've all made those mistakes.

Empi said...

Angi, I DO like the use of the title in story :-); if it is done cleverly.
Goes to show the difference preferences, doesn't it? Anyway, it's good to have all these in mind while writing.

Jill James said...

I was guilty of using a million 'thats'. Now every book I write has some other word just as bad that I use too much. LOL

Tess Thieler said...

More good insights. Thank you! I'm guilty of the omniscient POV, of which I'm still doing the rewrite for resubmitting my latest short story manuscript. This has become a huge brain challenge.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Great two part blog. Every other should read this.