Lipstick & Danger

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Fangs Dripped with Bad Writing

I’m currently reading a vampire romance. At least I think that’s what it is. There are vampires in it along with rock musicians, time travel and very confused characters. As a writer I’m always concerned about the style in which I write. Am I making myself clear? Do my characters have meaning or realistic personalities (even if they are vampires)? I put the book down several times when I first started because I thought it was written for an audience of high school students. By the third time I decided to just finish it because after all I paid for it. After reading the reviews and understanding that it was written in 1997 I can appreciate the fact that the genre has changed a bit (or bite). Even though I’m not a big fan of the story, author and certainly not the characters I have learned from the book.

As a writer I want my readers to identify with my characters, even if it’s a vampire, dwarf, serial killer or futuristic soldier. There’s got to be something that draws us in to the story, makes us care about what happens to them, forcing us to burn dinner or shrink the jeans in the dryer while we finish the chapter. Then hopefully you’ll throw the dinner out, turn off the dryer and go back to reading or writing in this case. In the current book I’m reading I just don’t care about the characters. I could accept flawed personalities, a dark side or even questionable behavior if it were believable. We’ve all known people like that. This book jumps around in the personality department to such a degree I’m convinced it could be a psychologist’s dream come true. Too many things happen that are life changing and the characters don’t seem to suffer for it or change in any way. Suffering changes you, people! Show that!

I’m nearing the end of the book (I hope) so the lessons are piling up. Here is a quick list.
1. Show don’t tell.

2. Make your characters come alive with realistic attitudes, emotions and consequences.

3. Don’t write like you’re in junior high unless you’re writing for junior high. This book appears to be written by a sixteen year old. If it were I’d say “Wow! This kid is going places!” But it is an adult book written by an author who claims to have been writing for two decades.

4. Join a critique group, writing organization, or take a class on better writing. I never stop learning and I hope I’ll never stop improving.

5. Constructive criticism is healthy just like vitamins and broccoli. I don’t think I even need to explain that one.

6. Write the kind of books you love to read.

0 Responses

  1. This is great advice. I just recently stopped reading a book midway through it, because it was so confusing and I couldn't relate to any of the characters. While the idea of the story was intriguing, I just couldn't get passed the plot holes and character flaws.

  2. There is always something to learn, sometimes even more from bad writing than good. Your list of lessons is great advice. Let's hope the author of that particular book learns some of them.

  3. Learning from a read is a wonderful thing. I really like a book to start fast and stay that way, but when I'm finished reading it, I'm sorry it ended. I love when that happens.

  4. I love reading books that make me burn dinner or shrink jeans. Love that! It made me laugh and is a very good point.

    Good advice and nice post.

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