Jul 22 2008
This short article will help beginning novelists avoid another five common mistakes that will usually cause publishers to throw out a manuscript.
36. If you want to add a romance, make sure the love-interest is a character we will actually want to read about. Why does the protagonist love her? If you answered “because she is beautiful” or “because she is the story’s most important female,” the romance is contrived and will probably bore readers. Can you name three of the love interest’s main traits? Did you have to use bland traits like “nice” or “sweet” or refer to her physical attractiveness? If so, then you need to develop her more before we will care about whether the hero is able to win her heart. If you want to write a romantic plot, the love interest has to be more than just a status symbol. For example, the love-interest may show something new about the character– the closest Superman gets to human is when he’s courting Lois Lane.
37. Don’t have your characters repeatedly refer to each other by name. This is amateurish because it feels stilted and goofy. (“I love you, John.” “I love you too, Martha.” “I know, John”). If you aren’t sure that readers will be able to determine who’s saying each line, a conversation tag will probably be more effective. For example: “I love you,” she said.
38. Make sure you know the difference between “affect” and “effect.” Affect is almost always a verb. Effect is almost always a noun. There are a few rare exceptions, but they are generally pretentious. Unless you’re writing for a high-brow publication (like a psychology or philosophy journal), I do not recommend using them. If you’d like to learn more about the difference between “affect” and “effect,” please see this article from wiseGEEK.
39. Don’t let quotation marks ruin your punctuation. Beginning writers have three main problems with quotations.
- When you end a quote without a “he said” tag, place a period before the final quotation mark. For example: “I’m ready to go home.”
- If you include a tag, place a comma before the final quotation mark. For example: “Let’s go,” she said. Notice that “she” is not capitalized here.
- When your sentence ends with a question mark, the conversational tag should be uncapitalized. For example: “Are you leaving?” he asked.
40. Avoid details and comparisons that are inconsistent with your setting. It’s jarring for a Tolkienesque fantasy story to refer to modern technology. For example, if you want to describe what a screaming dragon sounds like, don’t compare it to a smoke detector unless your world has smoke detectors. Likewise, your science fiction story should not compare anything to magic unless your sci-fi world has magic.
This article was the eighth part of a series. If you’d like to read about how to avoid other common writing mistakes, please check out the other articles.