How many ways are there to confuse a reader? I don’t know because the reader will throw the book down when the writing bores or frustrates them to death.
A couple of days ago I posted how writers confuse their readers. Here are five more, three from Dennis Mathis-Editor and two from my writing instructor Shelly Lowenkopf.
6. Negative Description- “He was not an aggressive driver. He didn’t speed or switch lanes or use his horn. She showed no hint of anxiety.” We don’t want to know what’s not there, we want to know what is there.
7. Commas- “I assumed his death would be reported by the press and the police checkpoint came as no surprise.” Self-explanatory.
8. Map-Making- “He climbed ten steps, walked twenty feet down the hall, turned left, walked east halfway down the corridor and knocked on the third door on the right.” It’s supposed to be a story, not a Thomas Guide.
9. Talking Heads-A long string of dialogue with no action, conflict, description, or dialogue tags (‘he said’). “A lamentable condition arising when two or more characters in a scene exchange dialogue with only minimal accompanying gestures. Individuals converse in real life. (They) use dialogue and agenda as though each were a volleyball being batted back and forth over a net.” From Lowenkopf’s “The Fiction Lover’s Companion (TFLC).”
10. TFS- Writers who are overly given to descriptions and explanations. The reader wonders where he/she is going. The story should begin in the opening chapter, even the first page, not buried in chapter three. Tell the Freaking Story. (Also in TFLC).
Avoid these 10 pitfalls and you’ll be on your way to taking a reader along with you on your storytelling journey. Commit these errors and very possibly lose current and future readers.