I'm a journalism freshman at MSU, and I hope to eventually publish my own novel one day.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

What Every Writer Should Know

I'm not exactly a professor writer--yet--but I am an avid reader. It's true that different readers have different opinions, so maybe the following list won't apply to everyone. However, I have read a lot of books: some that were excellent, some that were just good, some that didn't suck but I don't re-read that much, and some that were just plain bad. I have a pretty good idea what kind of things will hook a reader and what will bore them before the book is even halfway over. Having said that, here are ten tips that I've come up with for for writers in order to write a good story (or at least a halfway decent one):

1) Don't go into too much detail. The whole index crap Tolkien put at the beginning of the Lord of the Rings book is what pretty much turned me off from the series. Fortunately, the movies renewed my interest. Details are important, but an in-depth analysis of every action in the book is a guaranteed way to lose your readers.

2) Be consistent, especially with descriptions! For example, I read a book in which a certain character's eye color changed about three times. This is also a good reason to edit the manuscript before getting it published.

3) Nobody likes a Mary Sue (namely, a perfect, beautiful female character everyone falls in love with). This applies to male characters as well. Readers like characters that they can relate to and easily sympathisize with. The more flaws a character has, the better!

4) Beware of plot holes! (See also tip #2)

5) Although there's nothing wrong with action, not every chapter has to end in suspense. Try to even it out so that there's a place your readers can leave off on for a while. Cliffhangers can wear old very fast when used too much.

6) On the other hand, cliffhangers and plot twists are a guarantee that your reader will keep coming back for more, especially if you are writing a series. How do you think J.K. Rowling and Lemony Snicket are so successful? Still, try not to rip off the now infamous, "I am your father" plot twist.

7) Try to make your opening chapter interesting. It's best to get your readers hooked from the beginning.

8) Corny lines are a big turn-off. See the Star Wars prequels for specific examples of dialogue you shouldn't use.

9) If there's romance, don't make it too sappy. The Sleep of Stone by Louise Cooper was so sappy that I felt like I needed an insulin shot just after reading it.

10) Not all stories have happy endings, even if we may want them to. Bittersweet/slightly optimistic endings are often more realistic. However, the sad endings has been done so many times that you may want to avoid that. If not, try not to do it in a sappy way.

I hope this guide will help future authors to be if they have problems with plot.


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