Don't Write A Novel

Oh yes, I did say that. Perhaps I should clarify. Don’t write a stultifying, stiff novel filled with paragraph of paragraph of stuffy, boring description. Show the story. Make the reader believe the tale. Give them the benefit of the doubt—readers are smart, they can figure out where we’re going. Even if we get lost along the way.

We are authors. Our first commandment is “Show, Don’t Tell.” We cannot break this rule. Our readers are smart. They’re savvy. If we show our story instead of telling it, they will have a wonderful image in their heads while going through our books. They’ll hear the voices of our characters. Readers will laugh, cry, shout for joy, or screech with rage.

Our biggest job is to entertain, to have our readers demanding more.

However, far too many authors now think their tale is too complicated for readers. They add in unnecessary information, telling the reader how to feel, what they must see, and generally act as if no one can possibly understand this story unless they have that information.

Most importantly, we as authors must give our characters emotions. They must cry, experience pain, loss. Moments of joy and happiness have to be greeted with exultation. Humans are emotional creatures. We want to cry when a beloved character suffers a loss. A happy dance follows a moment of winning.

Think of it this way…

You lose a close family member to a horrible disease. Do you accept that death and move on, without once shedding a tear? Or do you weep, wail, release a river of tears?

Your local high school’s football team wins the championship for the first time in thirty years, with a team everyone swore wouldn’t win a single game. You’re in the stands. Do you clap and say “Well done.” Or is your reaction more like you’re on your feet, screaming, hugging those around you, and celebrating a season you never expected?

This is how you need your characters to react. They have to be real, with emotions mirroring all of us. Don’t cheat your readers.

In other words, paint them a story they’ll return to forever. Don’t tell them the tale.


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