I’ve been reading a lot lately (fitting, since exams started and reading is obviously more needed than studying at this time), and in my search for more lovely books to add to my list of favourites, I have, unfortunately, come across some not-so-good ones. So hey, I just thought I’d type up a little list of things that would be better to take extreme caution with when writing. Let’s bear in mind that this is mainly feedback from the things I’ve seen in YA books, but I guess it applies to most fiction in general. Here goes!
Things to be extremely careful with when writing:
- Narrating alternate chapters from different characters’ POV. Speaking from experience, reading a book which does this is highly confusing for the reader, to the point where being the said reader just makes you want to slam the book down out of pure frustration. Also, the number of times I have ended up stopping and thinking ‘who’s head am I in right now?’ before being forced to go back and check the start of that chapter is more than I can count. If alternating chapters does help you narrate and move the story forward, then I’d highly suggest at least putting the name of the person you’re narrating from at the top of the page alongside the title of the book/chapter.
- Writing in third person present tense. Whilst this is rather original and something that is not done often, I’d like to think that this is for a reason. This is particularly painful (again, speaking from experience) because it takes the reader about half the book to get used to the unusual narration, and by the time they adjust and even grow to like it, the plot and characters have slipped right over their head. If you are going to write like this, please be cautious and make sure it’s needed.
- Having overwhelming character development with no (obvious) reason. This one is one of the biggest no-no’s in my books. Just as having no character development is frustrating, having too much development without any reason is equally frustrating. If a character changes, good for them, but make sure the reader can see how/why and that the reason is valid.
- Having a character come to a sudden revelation just because (sort of ties on from the previous point). This is used repeatedly in books, and quite honestly, it’s a little pet peeve of mine. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been reading a book where a character is trying to solve something and then they sort of glance upward and just know the answer. This can work very well – as long as it’s not overdone and it actually makes sense.
- Having characters that are all beautiful and strong and kind and every other positive adjective in the dictionary. Only one thing to say to this one – let’s be realistic.
- Making a female character argue for some reason or another with every other female she sees. Can we please just be mindful of the reader and what type of message is being sent out with female characters constantly bitching and fighting with other females (normally over a boy) whilst the males get along beautifully and have a good relationship with the majority of the characters?
- This one is a complete and utter NO. Mocking things like cutting (or any form of self harm) and ED. As shocking as this may seem, I’ve seen many books which utilize things like this for a purpose that simply isn’t visible to the reader, and for many people this can be very triggering and quite offensive. Please proceed cautiously if you’re using themes like this.
That’s it from me (for the time being, anyway)! These are more my thoughts as a reader than a (hopeful) writer, but there you go. I really hope I haven’t offended anyone with this, and if I somehow have, I apologize profusely. If there’s anything you think I should add to this or if there’s something you’d like to discuss, feel free to leave a comment!