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Friday, May 18, 2012

How to Commit Manuscript Manslaughter

Follow these simple steps to Crash & Burn.


Asleep at the Wheel. Start your novel with loads of information, precise and intricate. Spare no words to get your backstory laid out. I’ll turn to the back of my tissue box for something better to read.

Yapping. Dialogue that spins into boredom. I call it, ‘Hi-how-are-you-I’m-fine’, inane conversation between characters that gives no information. Reading ‘where do you want to eat?’ ‘I don’t care. Where do you want to eat?’ makes me want to open a vein.

An abundance of names. Too many titles, characters, unfamiliar or techno names cause me to skip ahead to something ANYTHING interesting. Don’t make me work too hard. Introduce these people and definitions sloooowly. Remember, I don’t know them. You do. Big difference.

Slow build to Action. How is too little conflict in a book like a baseball hit over the fence? Answer: I’m outta here. Those first pages are a fine balance between simple nouns and verbs, sparing use of adjectives and adverbs, and lots of conflict. Whether verbal or physical, there should be conflict on every page.

Abrupt World-Building. To commit Manuscript Mayhem, carry me from Auntie Em’s front yard to Technicolor Oz without transition or bridge. Every fantastical event needs a whiff of the unusual so the brain can adjust. Hence, the tornado and dream sequence. And the witch flying through the air. Always scared hell outta me as a kid.

The Kryptonite Factor. Phenomenal cosmic powers without the itty bitty living space (Genie – Aladdin) kills a MS. One word: Conflict. An all-powerful hero who has no faults or weaknesses equals blah. Epic Fail.

Got a bone to pick? Nails-across-a-blackboard sentence structure that causes wandering eye? 

17 comments:

KarenG said...

Ha! This is awesome! Will Tweet this.

Tara Tyler said...

great advice & as usual, optimal presentation! so funny!

L. Blankenship said...

Write a pretty decent action sequence, but then reveal that it was all a simulation / the MC's friend/relative dying / otherwise irrelevant to the story.

Huntress said...

I have a perfect example from The Secret Circle, a cancelled TV show.

MCs discovered that a union between them would cause destruction of the world,like Biblical. Surprise! It was all a spell cast by her daddy who didn't want his girl getting it on with her boyfriend.

GAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Alicia C. said...

This is great! Very timely!

And that show drove me NUTS! I so wanted to like it but it was So. Very. Dramatic. ALLLLLL The time. It was Exhausting to watch. So I stopped. Plus the writing was just...bad. I'm kinda ruined by Joss and Buffy.

Huntress said...

I tried, I really tried to like it. Gave it a part of my limited TV viewing time. But it made me twitch, huff, and then I started making fun of it.
SPLAT!
I do wish I'd seen the final episode. Just for laughs *evil grin*

Sam F. said...

Very good advice (love the Aladdin reference)! Especially the abundance of names part. Ugh, it drives me insane when authors bog down the story with technical terms...

Also, that show made me cringe when I tried to watch it.

Huntress said...

Hey, I gave it a shot. One character, Faye played by Phoebe Tonkin, stood out. I believe this actress will find other (better) venues for her talent.

she was the only reason I watched the show for so long.

Pearl said...

Huge blocks of description without dialogue drive me nuts. A little explaining goes a long way for me, and if you're going to describe every blade of grass without having it have purpose down the line, I'm going to stop reading and move on.

:-) Great tips, Ms. Unicorn.

Pearl

Huntress said...

aka Huntress :)

Dialogue moves the story. I'm like you. I skip the description of the kitchen walls and move to the conversation at the table.

Sharon Bayliss said...

I second all of these! One of my biggest pet peeves is the inane dialog, or any inane happening. So many authors thinks it's necessary to tell me what their characters put in their coffee and eat for lunch.

Matthew MacNish said...

All great points. Well done, Huntress.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Beautiful! You are exactly right. These are all things that make me clench my teeth!

I'll add this pet peeve of mine: Shoving the love interest into the reader's face on the first page, before the reader has had a chance to really meet (or care about) the main character.

Huntress said...

*ack* *shuffles away*

mshatch said...

I can't add anything, just agree :)

karensandler said...

Don't forget "As you know, Bob" dialogue, when one character tells another about the alien landing they both know all about. There are better ways to let the reader know that extra-terrestials just arrived (like show them landing in the first place).

Then there are flashbacks that comprise half the book (author of COLD MOUNTAIN, are you listening?). IMHO, flashbacks stop the story in its tracks.

Crack You Whip said...

I can't stand it when too much information is given in writing. Short and concise is a homerun every time with me!