Seven MORE ways to make an intern set fire to your first chapter

Last week, I started a list of things NOT TO DO in your Writing Sample. Here’s the rest:

1)      Too Much Exposition.

Don’t bog your story down with detail that you can give later. Readers don’t need the complete history of your character—or her situation, or her world—instantly. Release these tidbits over time. This includes…

2)      Relentless Description.

Don’t list the complete physical appearance of every character the moment they appear. How characters look should be given piecemeal, and naturally—not all at once, and falsely. Speaking of….

3)      Self-Descriptive Present Tense.

Present-tense speakers aren’t going to insert their own physical appearance into every available space. (As in, “I tossed my red-gold hair.”) Find an indirect way to describe them.

4)      Dreams.

You can’t give normal dreams real meaning (if you can even write a normal dream to begin with). As for magical dreams, I don’t see why EVERY MAGIC-RELATED CHARACTER EVER has to have them. Long story short: don’t put dreams in your first chapter. Just don’t.

5)      Running.

Don’t begin your story with a scene where someone is running from something. Everybody does that. Sometimes they do it in dreams. (That counts double.)

6)      Famous Names.

Don’t use recognizable place names, person names, or book titles. I read “Pepper,” I think Pepper Potts. I see the title The Alchemist, I think of—big surprise— Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. Be original. It can’t hurt to do an Amazon or image search for your title or character names.

7)      No Names.

It’s okay to go without names for a while, but when you’re on the second page and still referring to someone as “the red-skinned man with the streak of white hair” then your reader is going to scream.

I’m going to miss you guys! Thank you so much for reading!

-Frustrated Intern

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4 thoughts on “Seven MORE ways to make an intern set fire to your first chapter

  1. Loved this series. Great job– I’m surprised people still do this…. especially #7. I was trying to review a book that didn’t mention the main character’s name until five pages in. Five!

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