Top 10 pitfalls that writers should avoid while penning fiction. You may not realise it, but some elements in your story might be really off-putting for readers…
How many times has this happened to you- You’re reading a book, enjoying the juicy , fast-paced plot, the tension is just right, the characters are just the way you like ’em, when suddenly- Bam! the author introduces an element that makes you want to bang you head against a wall. I’m sure you’re thinking, ‘Oh, that’s just a part of the plot- the reader is supposed to be infuriated!’ That isn’t true. We writers have to write stuff that keeps people engaged, and that means leaving out the little annoying details that would ruin a perfectly good book.
So, newbie writers- here’s some of my biggest pet peeves in fiction! And do note that this is my list. Likes and dislikes differ from people to people, but these are some of the most common dislikes.
10. The Man Who Knows Everything
In practically every book I’ve read, there’s always this one guy who knows everything- he might be a plumber by profession, but he knows how to fix cars, knows everything about every country in the world, can tell the temperature outside by just breathing…what the hell? I’ve met a lot of people in my life, but I have yet to come across someone who just knows everything about everything! This trend can especially be seen in romances, where the tall hero just knows the taste of every wine, the name of every powerful person in the city and can even understand the feelings of the heroine by just looking at her! Okay, writers, I get that you’re trying to showcase him as a wealthy, dominant, intelligent personality, but this just ain’t believable!
9. You’re British? Well, here’s some tea for you!
Nowadays, writers of other nationalities seem to love writing British characters. But all they know about the UK is that it rains there a lot and that the citizens always drink tea. This may been true a couple centuries ago, but now this detail just irks me. Okay, hand the British guy a teacup or two in the book, but also give him other drinks! You know, rumour has it that Englishmen drink water and even coffee! It’s the same with other British traits, like making the character say ‘mate’ and ‘bloody’ after every two lines, or making them extremely finicky and always dining with antique china. Maybe it’s time you stopped binge watching Downton Abbey, folks.
8. The Silent Doe Syndrome
This is usually the female character that walks hand in hand with #10. She’s extremely polite, shy and doesn’t know squat about this cruel, cruel world. She’s probably orphaned, raised up by her distant relatives and is a really big idiot. She leads a pretty dull life, getting abused on a daily-basis and then then enter our hero! he snatches her out of her misery and changes her whole life. But still, this character remains pretty much dumb throughout the book. When she gets into trouble- she does nothing, but only waits for her knight in shining armour. Writers label her as ‘innocent’. But believe me, there’s a pretty wide trench between innocence and ignorance. So if you drew upon the idea of Jane Eyre for this character, I suggest you read the book again.
7. Destiny, fate, etc. etc.
The unlikely protagonist breaks out from his cocoon to realise he/she’s the Chosen One. And that single piece of knowledge is all he needs to vanquish all his foes. Seriously, guys? I have no problem with the protagonist fulfilling his destiny. But don’t make him out to be invincible just because he has a destiny. Instead, you could try showing him discover his own strength, maturing as he goes further on his destined path. A prophecy, no matter how wonderful, shouldn’t give the character magical abilities. Even in the Lord of the Rings, Aragorn did acquire the legendary sword Flame of the West, but he only won battles with it because he had the skills to go with it. The sword was destined for him, but he had to do work of his own to be able to possess it.
6. The Adonis
If only I had a penny for every time I encountered this character, I’d definitely be a millionaire by now. This character is the most common one in romances- he’s strong, he’s handsome, he works out, he has great muscles, he has an irresistible face…in short, he’s just flawless! I don’t get why the male characters always have to be muscled and chiseled. Attraction can be due to other reasons besides looks. In fact, the more the hero is physically attractive, the more I feel alienated from him. Summing up his qualities like that makes it seem as if the writer is doing nothing more than just objectifying him. Does he have a life? Does he like music, like to read? Depth to a character is more than just physical descriptions.
SUGGESTED FOR YOU: Are You Really a Writer?
5. Her eyes were the colour of a stormy day, the irises flecked with specks of gold and silver.
Describing every single contour of a person’s face is not really necessary. Same goes with clothing. As long as the descriptions do not add to your setting or take your story forward, do not include them.
4. Miss Attractive
The female version of the Adonis- she’s not just beautiful- she has voluptuous lips, sparkly eyes and a seductive accent. This is the character who makes everyone fall in love with her. And by everyone, I mean everyone- the protagonist, the side-characters, everyone is under her spell. This woman just makes me want to punch her. She’s shallow and lives off her fame. These kind of characters never garner a reader’s sympathy.
3. The Strong Heroine
Nowadays, most books feature a strong, self-assured female lead, which is something I really like. But somewhere along the way, one of these two things happens to her- 1) She turns mean and very difficult to like, turning from a confident woman to a heartless and inconsiderate b****.
2) She becomes a pillar of stone- nothing moves her; she’s completely devoid of emotion, hiding herself in her pain.
For me, the best female characters are those who have control over themselves. Maybe they don’t bawl their heart out when they see an abandoned puppy, but they do have emotions. And they do cry- crying really makes a character strong, just like in real life. Also, they overcome mental difficulties- they don’t just waive guns all through the book.
2. The good-for-nothing Side Characters
This is definitely one of my biggest pet peeves- I don’t like inactive characters. My rule with this is- If they don’t have a show, chuck them out. Insignificant characters in a book are like grass on a rosebed. Only bring those people in your story who have a task to do. Otherwise you’ll just end up with extra clutter and make the book boring.
1. The Quest for Love
Why is it that every book today ends with the female lead falling in love with the male lead? I didn’t know love was necessary for survival, did you? Fellow writers, people do have a life. They aren’t always pining for someone to settle down with. There are people whose biggest ambitions pertain to their career, travelling abroad, sometimes even a hunger for knowledge. Books nowadays make girls seem pathetic and needy- but they’re not. I blame Twilight: New Moon for this. Face it- not every book has to end with the leads marrying each other. You can have a happily-ever-after for them- ever heard of that magical word ‘Friendship’? Well, it’s a pretty strong emotion. Maybe it’s time you let your characters explore their individuality a little.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. I hope the above points make you look at the book you’re writing differently and make it even more reader-friendly.
If you have anything to add, do comment below! Also, I love receiving messages, so feel free to tweet, message or email me!
FURTHER READING: 15 Quotes that every Writer should know
YOU WILL ALSO LIKE: Do ghosts and spirits help writers?