7 Things to Avoid When Writing Fiction

Updated on August 2, 2020
Priya Barua profile image

Pursuing a rather tedious subject called law, Priya Barua still tries to find time to follow her passion for blogging.

I seldom read every word in a book. As a fairly voracious reader, I decidedly like books that can skillfully move the plot without unnecessary padding or underwhelming details. Details require a fine balance that few authors have mastered. Considering I stick mostly to the urban fantasy and romance genres, I find it even more difficult to come across books that respect that balance.

So keeping that in mind, I’ve listed seven things that I, as a reader, skip while reading a book, and I think a lot of other readers would agree to it.

Details require a fine balance that few authors have mastered.
Details require a fine balance that few authors have mastered. | Source

1. Characters Narrating Incidents

2. Cold Descriptions

3. Dialogues for Information Dumps

4. Describing Every Person

5. The Lover

6. Using Foreign Language

7. Strategizing (in the brain)

Let's look at the above points in greater detail:

1. Characters Narrating Incidents

To be precise, what drives me mad is when a character narrates to another character something that has already unfurled in the previous pages. Romance novels are notorious in this aspect. Take, for instance, the protagonist meets her friend over dinner and tells her what her boyfriend did and how it’s just soooo romantic and the friend interjects with the Ooohss and Aahhha and some more annoying squeals (I hate that word, squeal).

The author needs to keep in mind that he is writing for a reader. The reader already knows what has happened. The reader is smart enough to remember what has happened. Reading filler dialogues drives me mad. I can guarantee that it also drives other readers mad.

2. Cold Descriptions

…The town of Blfhurwnfunr was situated near Fhfninfrif, another town, which was 10 km away. Blfhurwnfunr has a thick forest on its left, the beautiful blue ocean to its right and a volcano in the middle. It is a quiet town. It rains all the time. The buildings are stone-coloured and drab. People wear dull grey clothes and barely speak to each other. People mostly work in the diners and shops or in own their businesses. The children attend the Blfhurwnfunr High School. There is a sheriff in the town, who drives a grey police car, and nods at people. People nod at him…

I couldn’t come up with more but you get what I’m trying to say. As a reader, I could not care less about what colour the buildings are unless it’s important to the plot. Of course, world-building is a craft in itself. I enjoy good descriptions but an entire page on the town Blfhur-whatever, or worse, two pages on the town of Blhurd-whatever would make me jump quick and high.

Source

3. Dialogues for Information Dumps

I love dialogues. When I read, I nearly always jump to the dialogues. Well-crafted dialogues can evoke emotions, help further the plot and tell a lot about a character than a simple flat description. But authors sometimes use dialogues for dumping all the information the reader needs to know⁠—monotonously, spewing word after word, as if the other person is such a good listener and wouldn’t inject him half-way, like ever.

The (insert item) can be found in the dense forest of Ghffbrg, guarded by dragon and other animals not known to man. The dragons have sharp claws and teeth and they breathe fire. Beware. First locate (insert another item) and then proceed to defeat the dragons. You will find Princess Jfrfrugebog there, up in the tower. Princess was kidnapped at age two yet she will be a beautiful, well-groomed woman who can speak clearly and concisely and will be sassy. So be on your toes, young man.

I’ve read worse information dumps.

4. Describing Every Person

Some books want to describe every major, minor, and inconsequential character.

Lara entered the room. Lara was a gorgeous 5 ft. seven inches tall woman, with a small bust and a cute butt. She has silky honey-blonde hair and green eyes. She was wearing a knee-length green sweater dress with brown suede boots. By her side was her husband; Devon was a fit, muscular 6 ft. tall guy who had jet-black hair and blue eyes. Devon was wearing a pristine white shirt with black trousers and shiny- black Oxfords.

Now I’d even be forgiving if Lara and Devon were relevant characters who are inserted to move the plot. But I’d cry if the author also goes on to describe the barmaid in that very order.

5. The Lover

In most books, we have a love interest. They keep things interesting. I wouldn’t read a book without an element of romance, at some level. But the protagonist needn’t keep describing his or her love interest every single time. I understand the author wants to drive in the point that the protagonist’s lover is an attractive person, but somewhere along the way, he has to draw the line. In every other paragraph, we have a He takes my breath away; she’s gorgeous; he makes my heart pound, she’s so beautiful that every guy on the street is looking at her; His smile makes my heart flutter; She has such a hot body and, etc. It gets very annoying later in the book.

I also hate it when the author info dumps us with all the physical features of the love interest at one go: his hair was honey-blonde with brown streaks and his eyes were the colour of bright, green emeralds. His jaw was strong, and his cheekbones high, dimples deeply impressed on both sides. He looks fit underneath the shirt, all muscles and no fat… subtly releasing them throughout the story could be a better alternative.

If I’m reading an English language book, I expect the book to be written in English.
If I’m reading an English language book, I expect the book to be written in English. | Source

6. Using Foreign Language

If I’m reading an English language book, I expect the book to be written in English. If the protagonist speaks in French or Latin or German or whatever and the other character responds in the same non-English language and nobody but Google translates it to me, then I’m already skipping the part. Sometimes, in high fantasy novels, authors create their own languages. It’s important to remember that your protagonist may know the language but your readers don’t. Be sensitive.

7. Strategizing (In the brain)

Notorious among first-person narration, the protagonist would go on listing everything in his or her mind just to ensure that the reader remembers what happened on page 40. Then the protagonist would debate and deliberate and weigh in every course of action. It helps to create authenticity because as people we do weigh in our options but it requires a skillful author to make sure the reader is still reading all the filler paragraphs of ifs and maybes.

BONUS: Prologues

I’ve never read a prologue, like, ever.

Suggested Alternatives

Issue
Solution
Character Narrating Incidents
Skip this part. Move on with the plot.
Cold Descriptions
Release descriptions when the plot calls for it. Try to invoke all the senses.
Dialogues for Information Dumps
Information should not be released/dumped at one go. Sometimes, a simple 'He gave me instructions,' line is enough and the reader can learn about the instructions as the story moves forward.
Describing Every Person
One characterization is enough for minor characters. For that, try to understand major and minor characters.
The Lover
Twice is enough. We get it.
Using Foreign Language
Just translate it for us.
Strategizing (In the brain)
Use it sparsely. It should be used only to address the major conflict in the story arch.
Prologues
Don't even. Please.

Feel free to drop in your insights. Thanks.

Questions & Answers

  • I find that I use twins a lot in my writing. Is that something I should avoid?

    I don't think twins are something that should be avoided. There's all the possibility of having a set of twins in your story. Now coming to your question, I'd like to state two things: if you use multiple twins in the same story, it can get "unrealistic." In real life, how many people do you know who have a twin? Second, if you're writing different stories, then feel free to incorporate one set of twins in each. It could turn out to be something that sets you apart as an author. Hope this solves your question.

© 2019 Priya Barua

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Priya Barua profile imageAUTHOR

      Priya Barua 

      3 months ago

      @Akash, You've articulated exactly what this post is about. Thanks for dropping in.

    • profile image

      Akash Agarwal 

      3 months ago

      Writing novel is not an easy thing. One had faced too many issues since he complete his novel. It is important to know what to write, it is equal important to know what must not be write. You put a light on that part of the writing. Thanks for sharing such a nice article.

    • Priya Barua profile imageAUTHOR

      Priya Barua 

      6 months ago

      @Bushra, thanks!

    • Bushra Iqbal profile image

      Anya Ali 

      6 months ago from Rabwah, Pakistan

      Entertaining read. Thanks!

    • Priya Barua profile imageAUTHOR

      Priya Barua 

      7 months ago

      I suppose it will be difficult writing a book like that!!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      8 months ago from UK

      You have given plenty of food for thought in this article. I am now beginning to wonder how I read books and which bits I might skip. Have you ever tried to write a book avoiding all of the above?

    • Priya Barua profile imageAUTHOR

      Priya Barua 

      8 months ago

      Thanks for the comment @Umesh!

    • bhattuc profile image

      Umesh Chandra Bhatt 

      8 months ago from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India

      I am also a bookworm but had never seen the things with that angle. Nice article. Good reading. Thanks.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hobbylark.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)