Today’s writing advice is based on the advice given by Shaline Writes. She is a Youtuber I recently discovered, and I love her work.
Have you ever read over your story and it just doesn’t feel right? It doesn’t interest you or others. Why is it like this? Here are six reasons why your writing might be falling flat.
1. Lack of Tension
Not enough is happening in the story, or there are long lulls that put the reader to sleep. Don’t add tension just for the heck of it. It works best when you add tension and scenes that advance the plot or character development.
2. Scenes that Have No Purpose
When you add in a scene that serves no purpose in the story the reader immediately loses interest. If it doesn’t advance the plot or character development then it needs to be cut. Questions to ask yourself include: would the story work without this scene? What can I add in that would make the reader care more about the characters? What can I add in that would advance the plot? Is there anything I can cut.
3. No Voice
The voice is the perspective of the character who is telling the story. When the character has no personality in order to be more relatable to the audience they become a plot device. Things happen to them just to advance the plot. Think about the characters you remember most that you loved. They felt like real people to you…Why? If you really search for this answer they often had an original voice or unique point of view. A character can’t have that without having a distinct personality. The best way to combat this is to really delve deep into your characters. Their past, how that shapes them and their decisions now, and what choices they would make if faced with the situations you put them in. Make them change or learn a lesson. If they don’t learn the lesson or change, show the consequences of this. Make your character act in accordance with their personalities, not just have them act a certain way to advance the plot.
4. The Details Aren’t Specific
Telling specific details can tell a lot about a character. Instead of just saying the character was playing loud music, say they were playing loud metal music, or loud Top 40 music, or loud jazz. Each one of these specific details tells a lot more about a character than just saying they were playing loud music. The TV was humming in the background is another one. What were they watching? Sesame Street? Law and Order? If a character has posters in their room, are they of rock stars? Rock from the seventies or from now? Or are they movie posters? Old or new? Broadway posters? By sharing the specific details you tell a lot more about the characters than the general descriptions do.
5. You Don’t Use Subtext
Your characters say exactly what they mean. Nothing is open to interpretation. The fix? Think about what each character’s goals are in the conversation. What information would they withhold from the other person in order to reach those goals? What would they skirt around topic wise? By keeping these in mind with each character you automatically add in subtext. An example from my own writing: a best friend makes my main character leave with the remark “I hope you know it’s nothing personal.” This turns out to be a reference and foreshadowing to future events where this best friend does something terrible to the main character for reasons that have nothing to do with who the main character is. She was just the wrong person at the wrong time.
6. The Story is Too Familiar or Predictable
If the story is too much like real life (i.e. showing the characters brushing their teeth with nothing exciting happening, or getting dressed, or other such mundane everyday things) then the story drags. Fiction is an idealized version of life. It doesn’t have to show everything the character does. You can have gaps in time. Only show the scenes important to the story. If it’s too predictable then the reader loses interest because they know what is going to happen. You still have to meet reader expectations but throw in a couple plot twists, like betrayal, a red herring, or an unexpected subplot. Go for the endings that aren’t obvious, but in retrospect, the reader thinks “I should have seen that coming!” Take a page out of the mystery writers’ playbook and throw in clues and red herrings. This can be done in edits (especially if you are a pantser or the story has changed dramatically in direction since you began writing) or in outlining (if you are a plotter).
Those are the six reasons your story loses reader interest and the ways and examples of how to fix them. I hope this helps some of you.