Mark Twain said, “Write what you know.” But perhaps Stephen King said it better: “Write what you know: It’s bad advice if you take it as an unbreakable rule, but good advice if you use it as a foundation.” While it’s essential to remain true to your own voice when writing, it’s also important to consider what your readers might expect. At Writer’s Relief, we’ve reviewed countless short stories and novels, so we know what resonates with readers, editors, and literary agents. If you want to boost your odds of getting published and want readers to love your writing, be sure to avoid these 7 things that readers hate to see.
Here’s What Readers Hate To See In A Story Or Novel
Worn-out tropes. Tropes aren’t always a bad thing—in fact, in certain genres they are expected and beloved. But pay attention to what’s trending and what isn’t anymore. Many readers are tired of cliché stories where the prince rescues the damsel in distress, or the nerdy girl takes off her glasses and is suddenly a stunning beauty. Instead, put your own unique spin on these well-worn tropes! This will make them seem fresh and keep your readers turning the pages.
Cliché phrases. When writing, there are certain cliché phrases you should avoid like the plague (see what we did there?). Be creative with your parallels and metaphors and paint new pictures for your readers to appreciate.
Obvious plot holes. A pleasant reading experience becomes jarring and confusing when readers hit a big plot hole. Examples of plot holes can be a minor inconsistency or huge gaps in time and space logic that pull the reader out of the flow and plot of the story. If you create limitations for the magic system in your fantasy, your characters can’t suddenly break the rules just because you need to advance the plot. This may mean rewriting sections of your draft and restructuring the plot so you don’t accidentally introduce any gaps in your logic.
Unfinished loose ends. You don’t have to wrap up every loose end in a tidy bow—you can leave some things open or ambiguous. But if you don’t offer any kind of resolution, your readers will be frustrated. For example, if you construct a vivid scene where your character slaps a gun on the table in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner, that gun needs to be relevant to the story. If you introduce an element, only to drop it, you’ll leave your readers hanging. Even if it’s not entirely integral to the plot, you can spin it as a red herring.
Boring characters. Even the best story will fall flat without interesting characters. Whether you’re writing the hero, the villain, a likeable character, or one your readers will hate, make sure they are interesting to follow. Allow your characters to be complex. Have them interact with other characters to expand on their personalities, and give them room to grow and change throughout your narrative. Using direct and indirect characterization will breathe life into your characters and also move your plot forward.
Tiresome tell, tell, tell. Talking at your readers will lead to a flat, dull story. Having to read unending walls of summary is clunky, intimidating, and let’s face it…ho hum. Instead, keep your readers engaged by having more “show” and less “tell,” varying your sentence structure, using dialogue, and breaking up paragraphs into smaller, easy-to-read sections.
Embarrassing proofreading errors. Grammar errors and typos in your writing will drag down the quality of your story or novel and can even lead to bad reviews. Proofreading errors break your readers’ immersion and get them hung up on the mistakes instead of the story. If you don’t feel confident in your proofreading skills, hire an expert (like the proofreading pros at Writer’s Relief)! It could make the difference between being published and gaining readers or being tossed in the reject pile or getting bad online reviews.
Whether you’re writing a thriller, romance, comedy, or mystery, you should write the story in your own way and in your own voice. But taking into account what readers like as well as what they hate to see may improve your writing and can help boost your odds of getting published. Another great way to improve your chances of getting an acceptance from an editor or interest from a literary agent is to target your submissions. The research experts at Writer’s Relief can help! We’ll pinpoint the markets that are most favorable for your work. Learn more about our services and submit your writing to our Review Board today!
Question: What do you hate to see in a story or novel?