(1) Overusing Adverbs
For Example: “Get out, Michael. I swear to God, get out before I try to kill you. I wasted two years of my life on your pathetic cheating ass. Get out!” Tara yelled angrily.
Adverbs are, more often than not, useless additions to your writing. Looking to the example above, adding “angrily” to the end of the line tells the reader nothing new. The reader knew Tara was angry, because Tara is clearly yelling at Michael. The dialogue alone is enough to portray this, and I’m sure with the full scene, the reader doesn’t need any extra help. Adverbs clutter up your writing and weaken your writing. Trust the reader to catch on without the adverb.
(2) “As if” Phrases
For Example: Mrs. Winters lingered over Bryan, her stern face glaring down at him, as if daring him to speak out again.
You don’t need to explain why characters are doing what they do. “As if” phrases are explanations we don’t need. Your writing needs to be strong enough to portray that Mrs. Winters wants Bryan to shut up.
(3) Exposition in Dialogue
For Example: “Hello, Bridget, my ex-girlfriend who cheated on me with Brad”.
I wrote a whole post on this last week, because exposition in dialogue is absolutely terrible, but I will say it again. Using dialogue to explain things is usually just lazy writing. Dialogue needs to sound the way that people actually talk. Keep in mind that the characters know more than they say, and rarely need to explain it.
(4) Lazy Research
For Example: The curtains opened and Jared lifted the wand. With a wave, he instructed the winds start playing. The hall filled with the melody of flutes, clarinets and trumpets.
To the untrained eye, Jared is a decent conductor, and is doing a fine job leading the orchestra. To a musician, this scene would come off as weird. The stick a conductor uses is a baton, not a wand. Trumpets are not wind instruments. These details aren’t enough to completely ruin a story, but if you have a character interested, you need to do research. Know what you’re talking about. Using the right words, terms that are only used within the community (for this example, words like staccato or laccato tell musicians how to play a note). If you have a character who is a musician, learn about music. If you have a character who does ballet, learn what a pliée is, and what an arabesque is. Don’t assume your readers won’t notice if you mess up on small details. The small details matter.
(5) One Dimensional Characters
No matter how minor a character is, it is your job to make them matter. Every character should have some sort of story. It might go untold, but characters need to be people in the universe you created, not plot devices there to guide your main character to what they need to do. This is especially true when writing women. Many female characters are written with the purpose of being a love interest to your main character, and they deserve more than that.
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