BrianWFoster’s Third Law of Writing

Third Law: Don’t Distract the Reader.

 If your goal is to engage, you want to avoid doing anything that will take the reader out of the story.  It seems so obvious, but you wouldn’t believe some of the stuff I’ve read:

Overusing weird punctuation – I read one guy’s stuff…  I mean… really… whose text… looked like… really… this.  Can you even… seriously… believe it?  By the time I got through it, I wanted to wad the story up, stick it in my mouth, and use it as the world’s most annoying spitball.

Weird names – This one is much more common.  A lot of novice fantasy writers fall in love with their fantasy worlds.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but, sometimes, they get so caught up in that love affair they don’t think about what their “authenticity” is doing to their story.  I understand that your story is set in ancient Scandinavia, and, yes, it doesn’t make much sense for your characters to be named Jack and Jill.  However, you can’t refer to every one of your creations as blah blah and blabbady blab.  Every time your reader encounters one of these unpronounceable, twenty-character words, they’re going to skip over it in their mind, which takes them right out of the story.

Dialect – Occasionally, I read something done where dialect helps the story.  The Help is one of those cases.  The language puts you inside the heads of the maids and brings you much closer to them than if they would have been speaking proper English.  Your dialect, as a novice writer, probably isn’t nearly as good.  Trying to give your characters an accent isn’t doing a thing besides annoying your reader.  That cute lisp you spell out?  Sorry.  Doesn’t work. 

The list goes on, but you should get the point by now.  Think twice about trying to do something cute.  Is it clever or is it distracting?


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