As a budding author, it can be hard to understand what makes a story good. What will make the reader feel disconnected or confused? What makes your writing look unprofessional? How can you elevate your story? With help from my experience and the experience of professional writers and the founders of the podcast “Writing Excuses,” you will become a better and more-informed fiction writer.
1. Just sit down and write.
I have had writers’ block countless times, and I’m sure you have too. Sometimes you really are out of ideas, but more often than not, you just don’t want to write. One of the best cures is to sit down and commit. Spend 20 to 30 minutes just writing whatever comes to mind; it doesn’t matter if it’s junk, you are just warming up your brain.
2. Don’t break the fourth wall
The fourth wall is the barrier between your fiction world and the real world. One of the most common ways to break the fourth wall to give your characters pop culture or general knowledge that they shouldn’t know. One example is when Winnie Sanderson, a witch from the movie “Hocus Pocus,” pulls her broom up to the main characters’ car and says she’ll give them a speeding ticket. Being dead for over 300 years, she shouldn’t know what a speeding ticket even is. It throws out your readers, or watchers, and can be extremely frustrating to them.
3. Don’t info-dump
I think we all know what info-dumping is, but I’ll explain it anyway. Info-dumping is when you shove a bunch of information about your world, a character, or an object into your story. When you do this, it is unprofessional, annoying, and distracts from your story. The best way to counter this is to spread any necessary information across the story, revealing details at appropriate times. Be careful though; don’t sacrifice clarity when trying to avoid info-dumping.
4. Don’t ignore motive
Motive is so important, and lack of plausible motive leads to weak plots and two-dimensional characters. Whenever your character does something, consider why they are doing it. If they are just doing something to drive the plot and have no other reason to do it, then you need to reconsider the scene. You may need to have another character reform the action or find a completely different way to drive the story.
5. Don’t describe your character with a mirror
This is a common way to introduce your character. I’m guilty of doing it too. In the first chapter, your lovely person catches a glimpse of themselves in a mirror and describes themselves. This is one of the most unprofessional writing techniques you can use. It’s also just uncreative. When describing your character, use small actions or descriptions to get a picture of the character. Use phrases like “her dark, tangled hair fell in her face” or “his pale skin shone in the moonlight.” It will give your writing finesse and beauty, as well as an alternative to the mirror method.
6.Give your character quirks
When you write a character, whether it’s a protagonist, side character, or an antagonist, you want them to be memorable. One of the best ways to do this is to give your character quirks. Whether it’s a repeated action or physical trait, quirks are fun to work with. Action traits are the easiest to work with because they can be repeated over and over without being annoying. An example is the mother from the 2007 version of “Freaky Friday.” Whenever she is stressed, she puts on a dubious amount of hand sanitizer. Be careful though, don’t make side characters more interesting than the protagonist or antagonist.
7. Don’t step out of character
As one of the biggest pitfalls of writing, being out of character is a big problem. I had a problem where a logical character had a lot of metaphors in her section; it just didn’t make sense. We already talked about motive, which is important — to be in character, you must assess the motives of the character. You also need to think about what your character notices in a certain situation. This can influence their actions. I suggest settling into your character. Close your eyes and focus on your character’s quirks, history, motives, and personality until you are the character. Your writing will be smoother and more realistic this way.
I want to make it clear — I’m not a perfect writer, and I’ve got a ways to go myself. A few months ago, I found the podcast “Writing Excuses” and (unhealthily) devoured the first three seasons in a week. I saw an immediate increase in my productivity and the quality of my writing. I thought it would be cool to summarize my favorite points and share the best podcast ever with the world. I hope this has been helpful to any struggling writers, and that you improve because of it.