Creative writers know that writing is hard. So whether you’re writing the next Great American Novel or a 300-page Sonic fanfic or both, here’s a quick breakdown of writing styles to avoid.
1. Using clichés
Many creative writers unintentionally use clichés while drafting their characters, plots, and settings. Avoid two-dimension characters like the chosen one (usually an orphan), the manic pixie dream girl, the strong female character with no flaws, the brooding bad-boy boyfriend, the cynical alcoholic, the wise elder, the jock, the nerd, the rebel goth girl, the eccentric professor, etc.
Common cliché settings include dystopian futures in which everyone is at the mercy of a corrupt government or a Tolkien-style fantasy set in medieval Europe with dwarves and elves. Overused plot points are things like contrived romances, oversimplified good vs. evil conflicts, and an all-powerful magical object.
As a rule of thumb, if it comes to easy or reminds you of another work, it’s probably a cliché. Take more time to develop your world and it’s characters, and don’t forget to have friends read over your work.
2. An agenda without heart
A story’s sole purpose shouldn’t be voicing the author’s opinions and ideologies, whether or not those ideologies are moral. This makes the story feel weak and unauthentic. Although our beliefs will doubtlessly shine through our stories, they shouldn’t be the main focus.
3. Being inconsistent
Consistency is key. A character can’t have blue eyes one chapter then green eyes the next. And as tempting as it is, you can’t write something unnecessary or inexplicable just because it was fun to write. Write down a one- or two-sentence synopsis of your story and stick to that. Don’t include a dramatic argument that doesn’t add to the plot or is inconsistent with a character’s personality.
4. Boring beginning or uninspired ending
The beginning’s quality determines whether or not the reader will stick with you. Aim for strong beginnings with striking hooks or detailed descriptions of the setting. Don’t rely on the reader to tough it out through a slow introduction.
In terms of endings, if you have only one takeaway from this, let it be that you can never cop-out of a story that you don’t know how to end with “it was all a dream”. Let the ending be happy or unhappy. Let it be unexpected, but maybe not an unnecessary M. Night Shamalan plot twist. Furthermore, you might have been planning a certain ending from the beginning only to find that the characters led you in another direction.
5. Going too fast
Many novice writers struggle with pacing. They’ll speed through the story, saying what happened but not how it happened. Slow down and tell the reader what the characters are thinking, where they are in the room, what their body language is, and what the current setting looks like. This helps the story come to life.
6. Thinking you have to do it certain way
This is an issue that’s especially common with nervous creative writer’s who are just starting out. Don’t worry! There’s no writing police who’ll kick down your door if you don’t follow every arbitrary creative writing rule.
You don’t have to have the plot planned out from start to finish before you start writing. You don’t need to give descriptions of the characters’ appearance. You don’t need to write in chronological order. Every writer is different and so is every story. Listen to advice from more experienced writer’s, but take rigid, nitpicking guidelines with a grain of salt.