I’ve read hundreds of stories and I have to say these are the most usual things people make mistakes about. Let’s see which they are!
Consistency throughout the story
Keep notes on the facts that happen throughout the story. It’s one of the most difficult things to manage but one of the important ones! I do understand that writing every little detail is difficult. Practically, we’re talking about the whole book! But for someone who loves the book is going to matter. And yes, if the book has a lot of fans, they’re gonna ask you about it.
Especially if it’s a story you write over time, a multi-book series or maybe an online story that you write whenever you have free time, it’s really difficult to keep a tab on everything that happens. But your readers will, especially if they read all the books or the chapters at once.
Things that happened in a different way that the way you said they did the first time you mentioned them, different phrases will raise an alarm. I still remember in the sixth book of a series, when the heroine said a quote she mentioned before in a scene in the first book and made it sound like it was from a scene in the third book. Small detail but when it’s your life, you don’t forget important things that happened in your life. Sure, we all forget minor details, but not when something serious happens. So how could the heroine forget?
She didn’t. The author made a mistake. I’m not gonna say that she’s not a good author because of that, but I will say that she should have sat down and read again all the previous books before publishing the next one. Or even better have someone else read all of them at once. When we write something and we re-read it, we tend to read what we wanted to write and not what we actually wrote.
That’s what you should do, too! When you finish your story, have someone else read it. A friend or a family member that you trust to do a good job – preferably someone who likes reading. Choose someone who hasn’t read any part of the story you want to check out. They’ll find inconsistencies that you can’t find because you’re too close to the story.
Speaking of consistency, let’s talk about consistency in characters, as well.
I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time talking with my friends about books we’ve read in which the characters were getting too often out of character! 😆
My opinion is that when you write a story you should decide – and write down so you can’t forget – everything about the characters. Especially the main ones. For example,
- Physical description (eyes, hair, height, weight, etc)
- Background (how did they grow up, where, with whom, etc)
Maybe you’d like to write here some details about their family or friends who could potentially affect the story in some way.
- And the most important of all, where most writers mess up: Character
It’s funny because that’s exactly how they’re called. Characters! And still, a lot of times there is inconsistency in their behaviour.
For better or worse, most people don’t change that much. Especially after a certain age. So, don’t have your characters have inconsistent behaviour. If they said in a previous chapter that they believe something, make sure that the next time they’re gonna be in a debate, they’ll stand behind what they said. And even more importantly make sure that they behave according to what they are. (I’m not saying to behave according to what they say, as they could lie)
Characters You Can Understand
Your readers don’t have to like them, but it’s important to be able to understand your characters, their motives, why they do what they do. Give some background info, talk about how they ended up the way they are. It doesn’t matter if the character is a “hero” or a “villain”.
You see, we’ve all been through rough times in our life. All of us have been the villains in some stories. No one is perfect. Give your readers characters they can understand and, ideally, relate to and they’re gonna love your characters.
Why? Because they could be in their shoes. In most stories we read, we like a character a little more than the rest. Not because the character is perfect or the hero but because we can see a part of us in them. They struggle with something we’ve had to deal with some time in your life and we see ourselves in them.
And when that happens we feel like we’re a part of the story.
That’s when people will really love your story!
Every good story has a start and an ending.
Don’t try to start a lot of sub-stories in your main one. They will develop into little monsters that will consume your time and space from the main story. Plus, after starting too many sub-stories, it’s difficult to finish your story because there are way too many parameters to take into account and too many potential paths. It’s difficult to explore each one. The story will get out of hand and you’ll have a hard time trying to finish it.
The easiest way to avoid this is to do a main outline to help you keep on focus. Decide the way you want your story to end early on. This way you have the general direction you want to go and you can work your way to there.
Such an important part of the book. A good ending – happy or otherwise – can make a huge difference! For me, it’s the main factor if I’ll read a book I liked or I will never think of it again.
If there is not going to be a next book, give some kind of closure to your readers. Most people just don’t like cliffhangers. Some argue that it’s nice because each one can have the ending they prefer, but that is not an ending. It’s what we would like to happen AFTER the ending of a book.
You’ve set some questions or mysteries throughout the book, you have to answer them. When I don’t have most of the questions answered in a book, all I can think it’s because of the author’s lazy writing.
I’m not saying to answer every possible question, though! It’s up to you what ending you’ll choose. But do think of your readers, too!
So these are the main things I think you should take care of when you write a story. Feel free to suggest more in the comments!
Any suggestion is welcome, as always!
Don’t forget to have fun!