A Reader’s Tips on Writing Fiction

Although there is no shortage of advice for aspiring writers, I couldn’t find one that was written by an avid reader of fiction. So thought to offer some suggestions on what makes a story “good” – at least for me.

1. Don’t sacrifice the story to grammar. Readers may not even notice a lot of grammar and style issues that would cause Strunk to pop a vein. For the most part, you are probably OK if a passage sounds good when read out loud. This is not to say poor grammar won’t be noticed. It is only to suggest that if your are going to obsess over something, obsess over the story.

2. Don’t start at the beginning and end at the end. Use a story flow that engages your readers.

3. Sweat the details. Murderers, spies, cowboys, and temptresses all get hungry, run out of clean socks, or might volunteer at the local pet shelter. Not every detail about a character has to be tied directly to the plot. Well developed characters encourage the reader to want to know more. They can even compensate for some flaws and weaknesses in the plot.

4. Try to imagine your story as a movie. This will let you animate the characters, listen in on their conversations, and watch their actions. Doing so can help discover a lot of plot discontinuity or Point Of View glitches.

5. Don’t use $20 words when $5 ones would do. The story’s vocabulary should support the characters, the flow of the story, and be reasonably accessible to your readers. The latter will likely become increasingly important as the generation that is now growing up with Facebook and Twitter become readers. It is likely that these readers will value word efficiency over other attributes such as precision. So don’t send them to the dictionary too often. LOL!

Of course it goes without saying that all this is one reader’s opinion.