Do you sometimes feel that brilliant story ideas in your head fail to translate that well on paper? Do you think that somewhere along the path of writing a story, you stumble and falter so that the result is far from what you had imagined? Worry not, we’re here to help you. The first step is to understand what you’re doing wrong. Let’s look at some common story writing mistakes:
1. Unexciting openings:
It is best to avoid unoriginal story openers: Once upon a time, One day, There was a boy called, John lived in London, I woke up early morning etc. Readers are familiar with such usual starters. Avoid the obvious. Instead, begin with a catchy dialogue, a scene of surprise, a single sentence that captures the entire mood of the story etc.
2. Dull details:
John ran over the ledge. The ledge was made my Mr Robert last summer. John wanted to catch the bus via the shortcut. “Hurry up, we are leaving!” bellowed the horn.
Do we really need to know about the history of the ledge? No, right? If it is not included, it wouldn’t affect the story. Such superfluous details are best avoided to save time and let your story have only the necessary ingredients. Your readers don’t need to know each detail about the corners of a house or minute aspects of a character’s appearance.
3. Rambling description:
John, who was four years old, ran his fingers in and out of his hair, which had the colour of dark shade of orange, as he woke up puzzled and in a state of confusion.
This is a long and winding version of a character’s description. But it can be made better:
Little John, aged four, brushed his ginger hair confusedly as he woke up.
The ideas remain the same, but the phrases are compressed to describe details without lag. This helps you use good vocabulary and save time (so that you can quickly move on to the main events in your story).
4. It is obvious, duh!
I couldn’t wake up early since I watched a movie deep into the previous night, which forced my body to take more rest, and that is why I am gloomy today.
The sentence above can be made concise: I stayed up late into the night for a movie yesterday.
Certain details are already understood and mentioning them will only drag the story. Your primary concern should be to reach the ‘conflict’ in your story. In other words, you don’t need to mention that trains run on rail tracks, the bird is flying in the sky, we need air to breathe etc.
5. Pointless repetition:
It is true that repetition can be good in some cases; however, the trick is to know where it is good and where it is not.
The forest was full of green, nothing but green.
“Be careful. You fall, we all fall!” Ellie screamed as she paddled the boat.
These instances are effective. On the other hand, look at the sentences given below:
James was ecstatic, elevated and exhilarated to open the present. (When one adjective can do the job, why use three?)
Agatha wanted to bake. Agatha did not have enough ingredients. Agatha started looking for money. (Yes, we know you’re talking about Agatha every time, so just use ‘she’ instead)
Repetition can make or break your story. Done right, it can make ideas or images memorable. Meaningless repetition, however, can be annoying to the point that no one wants to read the story.
6. A crowded plot:
Is there more than one problem or villain in your story? Do you spend an entire page describing the setting or the main character? If you nodded ‘yes’ to any of these, then you might have come across the need to rush the ending as well.
Jason stopped running from the stranger. He turned to an alley and saw the serious swamp monster. The ghosts loomed over the building in search of him. The valley of shadows was haunted by unimaginable horrors. Jason ran like the wind. He got to his home, locked the door, and pulled the blanket over him. He went to sleep.
Notice how the text keeps jumping from one problem to another. None of the problems are solved and there is no connection between the places Jason travels through. The lack of emotive reactions from both Jason and the evil beings is confusing as well. Solution? Follow this method: one story = one theme. This will help you in exams where you have to finish your story within a given time.
7. An over-ambitious plot:
You are planning to forge a super story: more than four characters, a fantasy world full of problems, references that only you know, unsolved motives and unexplained happenings. It is wise to avoid such complications. Most probably, your reader will feel as if they have opened page 40 of an unread book: it will be utterly confusing.
Aang could hardly bend the air when he set on the path to become the Avatar. Who would have thought soul-bending would become his ultimate power? Kushiro was eager to rule the Fire Kingdom after he had beaten his brothers with the help of Korra. The steel-bending powers of Reinhart woke up the same day…
The story above is linked to Avatar: The Last Airbender (the animated series). If you’re confused by the details, the same will go for your readers: the plot elements are hard to understand. Not to mention that the sheer number of characters and events are hardly relatable. Too many events can be difficult to tie up or resolve under a given time limit. Chances for plot holes are substantial. Simple yet creative story ideas work best in exams.
8. Bland ending:
This is the place where you can do your worst or best to the story. Apply solutions creatively: if you solve the conflict of the story logically, it is good; if you solve it with a twist, it is better and if you make your reader awestruck with suspense or comedy, it is the best. Your reader should not feel that you wanted to end the story as soon as possible and just move on.
We hope that you keep an eye out for these errors when you write a story next time. Slowly but surely, the eight mistakes will fade away from your stories if you practise the solutions.