Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Whatever Trap

Have you ever read a book and became so frustrated that you thought "whatever," closed the book, and vowed to never read that author again? This is a fear for many writers.

How can a writer avoid the "whatever" trap?

There are many things that can be done. I'm going to share three tips that have helped me. I call them the three amigos: the "so what" syndrome, the "not buying it" pitfall, and the "huh" disconnect.

So What . . .
As a writer you need to make sure the stakes are high, no matter what you're writing. That doesn't mean the world goes to war if your hero doesn't save the day, though if that's the kind of book you're writing that will work. But for most novels it means that your hero's life may take a bad turn if he makes the wrong choice. What he does matters big time. There is a lot at stake in your hero's world. He may not meet the girl of his dreams. He may get kick out of school or shunned in good society if he doesn't clean up his life. Your reader needs to become invested in his decision and the outcome so that when the story is over the reader is satisfied and not left saying, "So what?"

Not Buying It . . .
This has to do with your reader believing what you've written is  plausible. I'm sure you've seen movies or TV shows where you know in real life people would never act that way. In books, however, you need to build a firm foundation for what you want to have happen. For instance, in real life an officer would never break the law to find evidence, but in your story if you've showed that the officer's only child, whom he loves dearly, has been kidnapped your reader would find it very believable that the officer would break the law to find his kid. You can have your characters do things they wouldn't usually do IF you build the case. If you do it right your reader will "buy" your story. If not . . . well they won't.

Huh? . . .
This has to do with things making sense in your story. For instance, if you have characters in a scene laughing, make sure your reader is in on the joke. Or if a character is angry with someone, make sure that at some point the reader understands why. Don't ever leave your reader out in the cold. Make sure they understand what's going on. 

The three amigos have helped me many times avoid the "whatever" trap. How do you avoid it? If you have suggestions, please share them. We're all in this together.

Because it's Thanksgiving time, I'm taking the rest of the week off. But I'll be back next Tuesday with a new post.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!



  1. Oh this is a timely post for me! I'm just writing the last couple of thousand words of my NaNo project and this morning I said, 'whatever' to myself about my own project!!
    I'm glad I stopped by, your post reminded me of some important stuff to keep in mind! :)

  2. Coleen,
    I'm so glad it helped! Congrats on getting so far on your NaNo project. I'm sure you'll finish.



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