Maybe this has been going on for a long time, and I just hadn’t noticed. During these last few months several of my favorite authors made some writing decisions that yanked me out of their stories and away from their written magic.
Writing has changed the way I read. Unfortunately, the critique-police in the left-hemisphere of my brain won’t shut up. I’m also chicken, so I’m not naming these much admired authors. However, I do wish they’d go back to their usual good writing:
ONE: Please don’t recap what’s happened in the previous chapters. I’m reading the darn book so I’ve read it already. This insults your reader’s intelligence by thinking they can’t keep up with who the characters are or what’s happening in the plot.
Unlike writing the book, which takes months, the reader will read the story within a few days or a week or two. Unless the reader takes months to read the book, the characters and plot won’t have evaporated in such a short time.
One of my unnamed authors summarized his plot after every nine or ten chapters. Argh! Yet, he didn’t do this at all in his other books. Why start now?
TWO: Please don’t mislead the reader into thinking there’s something important to the story about a scene’s place and time. An overabundance of meaningless detail slows the story down, misleads the reader into looking for substance inherent to the plot, and then ends up feeling like it’s all a waste of time. Maybe it’s used as padding to make the book longer. I’ve read books by two excellent authors this last month who kept ruining their intriguing stories by cluttering them up with unnecessary details.
We all know what a hospital room looks like or can imagine the inside of a home in a lower-income neighborhood. Give us just enough to set the stage, including ambience if needed, preferably with one or two sensory details. Then move on. Lots of detail or description of something unusual enhances the story only if it’s relevant. Your readers have imaginations. Let them use it.
THREE: Please don’t sacrifice your story scene by using the easy way to create clarity. For example: Readers must know who’s speaking during dialogue exchanges. We’ve all heard the word said is invisible. So the simple solution for clarifying who’s speaking is to say, “Let’s go,” she said.
One best-selling author had a half page of short dialogue, each ending with a respective he said or she said. Clarity achieved, but printed and all lined up on the page visually pulls the reader out of the story. Also, there is no invisibility of said when our receptive language hears this word over and over in a short period of time.
I want these fine authors to transport me down the paths into their imaginary worlds. I don’t want to be flung out of the story and back into my living room because of some ineffective whim.
What author styles or mistakes annoy you as a reader?