Don’t Let Your Fiction Suck

Timothy Cooper, an accomplished screenwriter, describes fifteen screenwriting mistakes to avoid. Of course, the same principles apply to fiction writing. I posted this on the Virginia is for Mysteries blog last December, and it’s worth revisiting … Because none of us wants our fiction to suck! See the full article with a sample scene here.

Author’s key points:

1. Characters are described in excruciating detail

2. Characters have androgynous names.

3. Character names begin with the same letter, and/or look similar on the page.

4. The scene begins at the very beginning of the exchange, rather than the middle.

5. Typo.

6. People say exactly what they mean.

7. The actual action of the scene is unclear.

8. We’re introduced to too many characters on the first page.

9. Formatting issues.

10. Much of the information is impossible to actually show on the screen.

11. Long chunks of text.

12. An unimportant character is given too much weight.

13. No major conflict.

14. Unnecessary parentheticals.

15. Clichéd dialogue.

These two are my personal favorites:

4. The scene begins at the very beginning of the exchange, rather than the middle. Yes, many conversations begin like this in real life. But on the page, it’s crushingly dull. Instead, enter the scene mid-conflict by jumping in as late as possible (without being confusing). Then, make sure to exit the scene before it’s all wrapped up neatly. This leaves some tension to push the reader into your next scene.

8. We’re introduced to too many characters on the first page. Introduce us to just a few characters at a time. It’s like going to a party: If the host tells you everyone’s name at once, you won’t remember a single name. But if you start by talking with just two or three people, then move on to the next small group, you’re way more likely to get to know and care about each individual.

Visit the Virginia is for Mysteries site here.

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