How Not to Write Fiction: 3 Big Mistakes To Avoid

by | Jan 9, 2012 | Book Marketing Basics

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Guest post by Deanna Proach:

Books are enjoyable to read. However, they are not enjoyable if they are bogged down in description or when flashbacks prevent the story from moving forward and rob the readers of their ability to emotionally connect with the characters. Sadly, some authors, especially aspiring authors, get into these habits when writing fiction. The three biggest mistakes are author imposition, overuse of flashbacks and over description.

Author Imposition

Japanese Reading.

Author imposition is when the author uses their voice to tell the story. There is a time and place for author imposition, and that is when the novel follows the life of the author, told through the author’s eyes. In stories like that, it is okay when the author imposes him or herself on the story narrative and dialogue. After all, he or she is the main character in the novel. However, when a book is completely fiction, the author needs to butt out and let the story write itself and the characters develop as they would in reality.

“I told you so,” Emily said emphatically. This sentence is a perfect example of author imposition. A reader can easily feel Emily’s emotion when reading her words, “I told you so”, on their own. The word ‘emphatically’ at the end of the sentence is the author’s way of telling how Emily felt after she just expressed herself in the sentence.

The sentence should best be written as, “I told you so,” Emily said. If a reader can’t feel Emily’s emotion based on those four words, then the author needs to go back to the drawing board. Bodily gestures and facial expressions are also excellent ways to convey a character’s emotion.

Overuse of Flashbacks in Fiction

Nederlands: Introvert gedrag.

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While flashbacks can help a story move forward, too many flashbacks can actually hinder the story and character development. Readers do not need to know about every character’s life story. They don’t even want to know about the main character’s entire life story, unless the story revolves around the main character’s life. Novels that begin with a character walking down a busy street, reminiscing about childhood memories does not tell readers anything about that character.

Over Description in Fiction

Description is central to fiction, but too much of it can severely hinder the beat of the story. Try reading this sentence: The tiny, furry, brown, kittens jumped onto the big, green, cashmere sofa. This adjective rich sentence is so easy to trip over. There is no reason for most of these adjectives.

The tiny, brown kittens jumped onto the big sofa. This sentence is concise and it gives the reader a clear image of the kittens jumping onto the sofa.

Over description robs a fiction book of its vivacity and personality, so avoid it.

When writing fiction, all authors should be aware of author imposition, flashbacks and description. They should use flashbacks only if the flashbacks serve to move the story forward and should be judicious in their descriptions of characters, events, building and streets.

Deanna Proach is the author of two books, Day of Revenge (Inkwater Press) and To be Maria (recently complete).  She also writes for, a website that specializes in all kinds of discounts.

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  1. Judith Briles

    Flashbacks often make or break your story. There are instances when flashbacks are effective but there may be moments that flashbacks should not be imposed. I think it is a matter of knowing when to use flashbacks.

  2. Paula

    Thanks for stopping by Judith and sharing your insights!



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