Things That Drive Me Crazy As a Reader

Disclaimer: These are my opinions. I do not represent every reader out there.

storytelling pet peeves

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1. Too much description.

As a reader, I don’t like to dwell too much on the world that is around the characters. I like to focus in on the characters. I want to know what they’re doing, what they’re saying, and what they’re feeling. I like enough description to get a picture of the setting the characters are in, but I don’t want to be weighed down by so much description that I know every detail on a character’s clothes, exactly how a room looks, or how many blades of grass are in the field. Okay, the thing about the blades of grass are an exaggeration. No author I’ve read has ever said how many blades of grass are in a field, but for all of the heavy description they use to make sure I can see everything in that scene, they might as well have.

I also find it distracting that when characters are having a conversation, the author will insert random thing that doesn’t add to the scene. If characters are discussing a necklace, then yes, describe the necklace. But if the characters are discussing a necklace, why go into the color of the chair across the room or the sound a bird is making from outside? That has no bearing on the conversation, and all it does is pull me out of the story. I know why authors do this. It’s because they’re told to include all “five senses” into every single scene. Even I fell victim to this terrible technique after going to a critique group, so I understand the author’s plight. As a writer, you want to make a book that fully engages the reader.

But from personal experience, it’s much better to keep the reader’s attention on what is  happening to the characters. Fiction is a story seen through the eyes of the character. If a character is having a serious conversation, would they really care about the design on an antique lamp in the corner of the room that has no bearing on the conversation? No. They would be worried about what the other character is telling them. Always keep the focus on the what matters most to the character when you’re writing a scene.

2. Character Info Dumps

There have been books I’ve read where I’m pretty much told everything about a character right away.  I don’t want to know everything about a character as soon as I start the book. I’m not sure why some authors do this. It’s almost like they decided to do a character bio in order to learn who the character is and then forgot to remove it when they published the book. Instead of being told who the character is, I, as a reader, want to learn who the character is as I read the book.

Storytelling is about layers. Those layers are uncovered a little at a time as the story progresses. Information comes about by the character’s actions, thoughts, and feelings. Just as we don’t get to know everything about a person when we meet them in real life, we shouldn’t know everything about a character as soon as meet them, either.

Also, reading is a subjective activity, so it should be up to the reader to decide whether or not they like a character. The author shouldn’t come in and say, “This is the person you’re rooting for, and this is the person you should hate.” Let me, as a reader, decide that for myself. The ability to allow a reader to make their own judgments on a character is one of the most effective storytelling tools in a writer’s arsenal. If a writer can make a reader feel strongly about a character (whether good or bad), then that, in my opinion, is the sign of an excellent storyteller. I’ve read plenty of “meh” books, but those that made me feel strongly for a character are the books that have stuck with me for years.

3. Useless repetition.

Repetition can be a powerful storytelling technique when done right. If it adds to the tension in a story, it’s good, and it should be used. For example, there was a short story I read where the main character killed a person, and during the story, he’s worried he’ll get caught, so he is in a cycle of repeating the same thoughts to himself over and over. He ends up breaking down and screaming that he did the crime when a police officer is ready to leave. He would have gotten away with the crime if he had just kept his mouth shut, but by use of repetition, we see how his conscience ended up getting the best of him.

I am not opposed to repetition. What I’m opposed to is repetition that has no point to the story. Its only purpose seems to be to fill up the pages because the author wanted to increase their word count. Or, perhaps, an author worries that the reader won’t understand what the theme of the book is or that the reader won’t know this is the character’s love interest unless the reader is told this repeatedly.

Every scene in a book has to contribute to the overall story. And breaking this down, I also think every sentence in the book should contribute to the story, too. If there’s a sentence that doesn’t need to be there, throw it out. There’s no point in making the reader groan by adding stuff that doesn’t need to be there. All you’ll end up with is a reader who skims the book. And sadly, I’ve skimmed a lot of books over the years.

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Since I almost hit the 1,000 word mark, I’ll stop here.

What about you? Are there things that drive you crazy when you read books? If so, I’d love to hear them. Please don’t say the author or the name of the book. I want to keep this focus on a storytelling technique gone wrong.

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You Can’t Have It All

The phrase “You can’t have it all” has been going around and around in my head for the past couple of weeks. My mother used to say it when I was a child. I haven’t really thought much about it, but as I realized how much I was juggling, it occurred to me that this phrase sums up why I’ve been feeling overwhelmed for the past month.

I’ve been trying to have it all. I’ve been trying to spend sufficient time with my family and homeschool my youngest because those are priorities. Then I’ve been trying to manage the writing aspect of my life, and that includes the business side of things like record keeping of expenses and social networking. Add on that just the basic running of a home and other things that inevitably pop up in life, and I was hurling toward another round of burnout. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to embrace my limitations.

Over the past week, I’ve been working through a list of what I need to keep and in what order those things fit. Then I started crossing off the stuff that needs to go. So this is the new plan, which I hope will help me find the proper balance.

The first thing I’m doing is cutting back on writing. I’m not going to stress a daily word count anymore. I’m going to give myself a set time to write early in the mornings. When that time is up, I will go to homeschooling. I was trying to sneak in writing between breaks in the homeschool day, but I really need to stop that because it’s left me feeling frazzled.

Non-writing tasks will have to be done on days I don’t schedule to write. I will still be making these blog posts because I love blogging. Facebook, MeWe, and emails, however, will be sporadic. I dropped everything else. I know the changes I’m making will upset some people, but I’ve been stretching myself too thin. If I don’t scale back, I’m going to crash and burn. Then I won’t be writing at all because it’s impossible for me to write during burnout.

I want to keep writing because that has always brought me joy. I’m not sure what my output will look like for next year. I have no idea what books will be out and when. I’m just going to take each book as it comes and do the best I can to tell a good story. I want to have fun with what I’m writing. I’m a firm believer that a story that a writer loves writing is the very best possible story it can be, and I want to honor everyone by giving you my best.

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Forever Yours is Now Available!

This is Dave and Mary’s third and final book!

Adobe Photoshop PDF

I have put it in the Nebraska Series because their other two books are there. Plus, they fit in with the first generation of Larsons, and all of the first generation is within the Nebraska Series.

Here are the books in order:

  • Her Heart’s Desire (Sally Larson’s romance)
  • A Bride for Tom (Tom Larson’s romance)
  • A Husband for Margaret
  • Eye of the Beholder (Dave and Mary’s first book)
  • The Wrong Husband (Jenny Larson’s romance)
  • Shotgun Groom (Joel Larson’s romance)
  • To Have and To Hold (Dave and Mary’s second book)
  • His Redeeming Bride
  • Forever Yours (Dave and Mary’s third book)
  • Isaac’s Decision (Isaac is a second generation Larson but this book wraps up the subplot between Dave Larson and Neil Craftsman I started in Eye of the Beholder)

About this book

With that aside, Forever Yours is a cute romantic comedy. We’ve already established Dave and Mary are in love, and they’ve had some difficult times in the past. I thought for a chance of pace it would be nice to give them a lighthearted story line.

I bring back the first generation Larsons, so you can get an update on them and revisit old friends. 🙂 It was a lot of fun to write this, and I’m glad I did. With this book, the first generation of Larsons’ stories officially come to a close, and I will continue with the second generation of Larsons in the future.

Here’s where you can find Forever Yours:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Apple

Google Play

Payhip (use coupon M0Z0ST6QRN to get 50% off; coupon expires November 7)

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