Writing Advice: Avoiding the Beginner’s Mistakes Vol. 1

I write this post fully aware of thе fact that I am, myself, little more than a beginner in the writer’s craft. My position as what equates to hobbyist writer does have the benefit to allow me a fresher perspective; I still struggle with these mistakes, and believe me, having them pointed out, actively searching for them helps.

  • Point-of-view problems are the worst.
    You know this one guy at the street corner? Beer in hand, long beard, constantly changes the pitch of his voice, the style of his speech, the whole bloody persona? You don’t want your writing to be like that guy. Point of view demands tight control. There shouldn’t be any ‘head hopping’ – the practice of switching point-of-view characters within a single scene.
    Allow me to reiterate on this before you claw my eyes out and feed on my brain! There shouldn’t be any ‘head hopping’ that’s done badly. If you’re about to change your PoV character, make sure that the readers know it, and are prepared. Give them a warning, a break in the scene; anything’s better than pulling your reader sout of one character’s head and unceremoniously tossing them into the character against him.
    I like to use double-line space breaks when I switch PoV. The chapter break is probably the best-known way to switch Point-of-view and it has been used in such epics as Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, and many, many others.
    I’ve gone as far as to change PoVs in the middle of a scene and it worked quite well! It’s all about making the switch feel natural and not forced.
  • Filtering is the anti-Christ.
    I hate filtering. I hate it, and I loathe it, and it boggled nearly all my writing in English when I first began. For those of you who don’t know what they are, filters are unnecessary words that separate the reader from the story’s action. They come between the reader’s experience and the character’s point of view.
    These include but are not limited to: ‘to see,’ ‘to hear,’ ‘to think,’ ‘to wonder,’ to realize, ‘ to feel’ ‘to decide’… you’ve picked up on the logic behind filters by now. Now, for an example:
    With Filter: “He thought that her movements were akin to a panther’s, fluid and graceful, and unmistakably predatory.”
    Without Filter: “Her movements were fluid and graceful, and unmistakably predatory.”
  • Predictability is an awful, terrible, no-good thing.
    What is that they say about your enemies? Always keep them guessing!
    What’s that? They don’t say that about your mortal enemies where you’re from?
    Moving on… Predictable stories are boring, even if they’re written supremely well. Surprises breathe life into a story the way nothing else does. Always aim to leave your readers speechless, and your characters — out of balance. Sure, things may be going well for a while, even amazingly so; but if everything goes as you’d expect all the time, the story becomes stale. Change is the drive of good storytelling.
  • Go with the (scene) flow.
    Awkward scene-to-scene transitions are a blight upon the land! Or, at the very least, upon the story you’re trying to tell. This ties into the Point-of-view debate, and steals a few of its points: ineptly transitioning from one scene to another might break the immersion of your readers and leave them no more than an angry mob, intent on ripping you head to toes.
    Okay, that last thing might not happen but the risk of losing a reader is very real.
    I struggle with the problem, myself. The key to solving it is practice, practice, practice!

Here’s where I draw the line for today; but not to worry, if you enjoyed this piece of writing advice, there’s more to come over the coming weeks! Meanwhile, Happy Fourth of July!




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