10. Your story is layered with cliches and tropes. Yes, we’re starting off with the big ones. <insert cringe here> There are no twists or turning the cliches on their proverbial heads; instead, every move your protagonist makes is predictable. Soon your reader is wondering, “Haven’t I read this story a hundred times?”
9. Too many viewpoints. The story jumps from the protagonist to the random guy-on-street (never to be seen again) to the Uber driver who happens to show up on the scene. If they aren’t important to the story, don’t use their viewpoint. Please.
8. You set up a scene with a promise of thrilling payoff. Except…the payoff never happens. The story train just keep rumbling along. <cue confused reader scratching their head>
7. You never made them like the protagonist. Even if your protagonist isn’t a hero (or even essentially good), there should be some reason we like them, want to follow them. Otherwise, why read the story? There has to be a connection between the reader and the characters.
6. Weak characters (perhaps tied in with the above). Instead of being proactive, they stand around and observe. It’s easy to fall into the role of bystander (which is what authors are, right?), but your characters should be in the middle of the conflict, not looking on while adventure rides by. <bored character waves at adventure>
5. Your back cover blurb promises action/romance/fill-in-the-blank, but the first four chapters are mind-numbingly boring. (“Setting up the scenes,” you call it.) Sure, the rest of the book may fulfill that promise, but you’ve already lost your readers.
4. They were swallowed by the infamous info dump. Instead of enticing your readers with secrets and revealing information in spurts, you buried them in a mass of facts. <reader flails under the unending mudslide>
3. Inconsistencies. We’re talking about plot, characterization, grammar — anything that throws the reader out of the story.
2. A plot that doesn’t make sense. For last ten chapters, Johnny the amazing protagonist has been traveling in search of the lost princess, but out of nowhere he decides, “Hey, I should go explore this nearby country and have some adventures there so the readers can see the rest of this exciting world!” <frustrated reader skips ahead 100 pages, then becomes exceedingly confused>
1. TOO MANY WORDS. Let’s be honest with ourselves: we’re writers and we love words. All the words. We smother pages and, in doing so, lose some of our effectiveness. The reader shouldn’t notice how we write the book; strong, simple language and powerful action are our best tools for reeling readers in. Less is best.
What throws you out of a story? Awkward syntax? Cardboard characters? Share in the comments!