Monday, February 17, 2014

Sixteen Ways to Kill a Story

1. Start the story too early.

2. Take too long to set up the story and introduce the central question.

3. Add too much back story.

4. Have an unclear central question (i.e., the reader isn't sure what the story is about).

5. Tell the story with narrative instead of showing it with action and dialogue.

6. Have no turning points (i.e., the story moves from one scene to another in a straight line).

7. Continue on too long after the climax.

8: Have an undeveloped character with unclear (or no) motivation.

9: Tell character traits, tell character feelings, tell setting (instead of showing). 

10: Make sure the character is not active in moving the story forward, is not instrumental in solving the problem, and does not grow or change in the end.

11: Switch points of view.

12: Add too much interior monologue.

13: Add unnecessary words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes, characters.

14: Repeat yourself.

15: Explain yourself.

16: Use too many dialogue tags, tags that explain (e.g., he apologized), tags that don't denote speech (e.g., she sighed; he smiled), or tags with -ly adverbs (e.g., she said harshly).


Kristin said...

Great list, Barbara. Thanks.

Amy Goldman Koss said...

Sigh. I do all those things.

Augusta Scattergood said...

I'm reading a new book, starred reviews, really good. But the dialog tags are killing me. I'm wondering if this rule has changed recently. Because there are a lot of characters who answer, reply, remark, smile, smile wistfully, their lines.

In this book, historical fiction, it kind of works. But it's still bugging me.

Susan Lynn Meyer said...

Surely it's OK for characters to "answer"and "ask." I just hate it when they "query," "rebuke," "opine," "challenge," etc.!