By Andrea Merrell
This week’s post is how to guarantee your manuscript will be rejected in five easy steps.
Five Fiction Faux Pas
- It’s not necessary to hook your reader. They’ll get into the story—eventually.
- Using strong verbs, descriptive phrases, and lively dialogue is a waste of time. Just tell your story. It’s much easier that way.
- As long as your story is good, don’t worry about developing strong characters. Your readers don’t need to connect with your protagonist.
- Don’t worry about point of view (POV). Head-hopping is permissible and even encouraged. It’s okay to keep your readers guessing whose head they’re in.
- Plot is not important. Your readers are smart—they’ll “get it.”
Now, let’s call in Faux Pas Busters to dispel those five terrible myths.
Writing is a lot like fishing, and you need to choose your bait carefully. Hooking the reader is important whether you’re writing a novel or a simple devotion. Make your reader want to read on. You have a very short window of opportunity to capture someone’s attention, especially when they’re reading online. A hook is a bit of a teaser. If you’re not sure what makes a great hook, go back and reread the first paragraph of your favorite books.
Allow the reader to experience your story. Use all five senses. Help them see your scene as it plays out in their mind. Are there sounds causing them anxiety or fear? What does it smell like? Is the meal described in such a way they can almost taste it? Do objects seem so real they could touch them? Don’t just relate the facts. Help your readers connect with your characters and get lost in your plot. Pull on your readers’ emotions. They may not remember exactly what they read, but they will remember how you made them feel.
Introduce your characters in such a way that the reader will immediately connect with them. Let the reader know something important right away (i.e. name, appearance, age, occupation, goals, desires). Show their strengths and weaknesses. Make them down to earth and relatable. If your readers don’t like your characters, chances are they won’t like your story.
POV (Point of View)
In each scene, make sure you stay in the main character’s POV. If you are in Michelle’s POV, she can’t possibly know what Steven is thinking or what his intentions are. Picture Michelle with a camera on her head. Her only reality is what she can see through the lens of that camera. Be careful not to head-hop, making your readers constantly go back and reread to find out whose head they’re in.
Do you have a plot? What does your protagonist want? How does your protagonist get from point A to point B? Create tension throughout your manuscript, keeping the goal just out of reach. You don’t want the reader to finish your story and say, “Okay, so what was the point?”
Writing is a continuous learning process. There are many other elements to crafting a good story, but these are five of the key elements. If you’re struggling in any of these areas, here are a few suggestions:
- Find a good critique partner who can steer you in the right direction.
- Attend writers’ conferences and take classes that will help you hone your craft.
- Search for online classes.
- Subscribe to blogs that will help you with both writing and self-editing.
- Read, read, read. Writers are readers. Learn all you can from other writers.
- Write, write, write. The best way to learn is by doing.
What other suggestions do you have? We would love to hear from you.