Story Flaw Fixes, Part Two

Wednesday, May 01, 2013
Earlier this year, I blogged about common flaws that may prevent a story from being marketable.

Perhaps a piece lacks action or reaction. Maybe it's a victim of information overload. Or, it's possible peat and repeat, repeat, repeat make the natural rhythm of the story drag.

I'd like you to grab that manuscript one more time and look for more reasons why this piece you've labored over for days, months - ok, let's face it - years, isn't attracting attention.

Is your story guilty of:

  • P.O.V. Confusion. Let's get to the basic question: who is telling the story? Sometimes, the point of view isn't clear. It's a muddled mess of information that makes it read as though multiple personalities are sharing the story. Yikes! I'm not saying using multiple P.O.V.s won't work (because it can). But, there needs to be consistency and balance. For example, I wrote a short story with three characters each giving their version. It was a jumbled mess. Once I reworked the story so readers got a snippet of each character's P.O.V. that led up to a major event (and then had an onlooker tell the rest of the story), it became a smooth, coherent story. And it sold. Cha-ching!
  • Thesaurus Inundation. Guilty (as proven by using "inundation")! Sure, you want to strengthen your story, make it stand out from others. But once you peruse every entry in a thesaurus and then find the biggest word to plug into a sentence, readers will be on to you. How? It's not natural! The word doesn't fit. A wise English instructor once told me each word in a sentence needs to stand on its own, make a bold statement in a simple manner. I try to follow that advice when I write fiction.
  • Deluge of Dialogue. Did you realize that most readers skim dialogue? It's true! Again, I wonder WHY? It's a natural response; people fail to listen and that translates to a disconnect from dialogue. Think about stories you like that incorporate good dialogue. What sets that banter apart? More than likely, it's to the point, is character and action driven, and possesses its own natural flow.
Highlight examples of these trouble spots in your manuscript and then formulate a plan to eradicate these types of flaws.

Your story will thank you. :)

by LuAnn Schindler


Sioux Roslawski said...

LuAnn--In just a few clear points, you've given us several ways to rescue a drowning manuscript. Thanks.

S Chippendale said...

Thank you for some great advice. I'm editing at the moment and feel overwhelmed. I'm worried about over editing if that is such a thing??

Angela Mackintosh said...

@ S Chippendale: This has been a topic of discussion lately! Kathy Higgs-Coulthard wrote an article on the topic of over editing that you may want to check out: Help! I've Frankenmonstered My Manuscript! What to Do When Your Revision Techniques Need Revising. I don't know if your manuscript has turned into a Frankenmonster yet (over-edited schizophrenic manuscript).

And another writer e-mailed us with a question, "How do you know when you're beating a dead horse? When is it time to drop your manuscript and move on?" We shared several answers here in this post:

Editing can be very overwhelming. It's best to take it bird by bird and focus on one thing at a time. And if it's getting to be too much (where you can't see the problems clearly) then you may want to put it aside for a while.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Thanks for mentioning the Thesaurus Inundation, Annie! That is a pet peeve of mine. When I'm reading and I can tell a writer just substituted a more elaborate word from her thesaurus for another one, it's so obvious and jarring!

LuAnn Schindler said...

@Ang :) Sometimes I like to look up words in the thesaurus to get a feel for other words that may fit or create a new, powerful phrase, but I'm with you....if you substitute the right word with an elaborate word, it's pretty jarring! It's all about the tiny degrees of difference in meaning.

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