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As readers of this blog may have noticed, my grand plans for writing this year fell flat. Taking mid-year stock, I'm working my way back into writing. I'm offering today a flash fiction science...

R. L. Copple's Blog

Top Ten Ways Authors Bore Readers

Some act like writing a novel is easy, based on how many authors are published each year among self-published titles and the quality in many of them. There are so many ways an author can fail the reader and bore them to sleep. Here are my top ten ways us authors can bore our readers.

10. Boring start to the story.

Nothing like a massive info dump or display of the author’s research to get a reader yawning before he reads past page one. . . if he makes it that far.

9. Boring movement through the middle of the story.

Despite a great start, the story bogs down into daily life and seems to be going nowhere. It appears the author is just adding filling to make the story long enough to be labeled a novel. “Whoops! Can’t get to the ending yet. Let’s have them talk about politics. Yeah, that will be interesting.” Right.

8. Boring ending to a story.

An otherwise great story does a free fall at the end either by failing to add unexpected twists to its resolutions and/or not resolving the primary story arcs at all.

7. Boring characters.

Nothing says, “sit back and fall asleep” faster than all characters sounding alike, sounding like the author, stereotyped, and/or annoying. Go ahead. Make my day.

6. Boring dialog.

When your computer could write more compelling dialog, you know you’re in trouble. In real life, small talk is engaging. In a novel, small talk will have most readers wondering when the author is going to return to telling the story.

5. Boring action.

When the reader slodges or skips long sections of action sequences with little character/story building, he will more likely equate your novel with a B-rated Kung-Fu movie than an exciting story. When you hear your son saying what mine said upon hearing a story read to him, “He took a whole paragraph to say they got off their horses,” you know you’re boring your readers.

4. Boring descriptions.

Nothing halts progress like pausing a story for a litany of static scenic descriptions. We might as well watch paint dry. Descriptions should paint an active picture in story, not pull out to fill in every little detail whether important or not for the sake of realism.

3. Boring climax.

Few things are more frustrating to a reader than having a story build to a climax, then having it putter out. Instead of emotional payoff, the reader gets emotional frustration, and a bad case of book-throwing.

2. Boring conflict.

So your protagonist needs to save his bedroom from roaches. Okay, maybe I can identify with that dilemma, but do I care? Not likely. Not unless, perhaps, they are aliens invading our world through a dimensional portal in the walls of your room. Low stakes for the characters means low stakes on keeping a reader interested and entertained.

1. Wasting the reader’s time.

Not to mention any money spent to acquire the book. If your story is boring (You did catch that theme, didn’t you?), that means the reader will regret having spent the money for the book, and the time to read it, however far they may have foraged through it. Creating an entertaining story is the first task of a fiction writer. Fail there, and you won’t gain a solid following.

What other things authors do that bore you to tears?

About R. L. Copple
R. L. Copple enjoys a good cup of coffee and a fun story. These two realities and inspiration from the likes of Lester Del Ray, J. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, among others, caused him to write his own science fiction and fantasy stories to increase the fun in the world and to share his fresh perspective.
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7 Responses to Top Ten Ways Authors Bore Readers

  1. Re boring the Reader

    11, Have Goodie characters (usually Hunky Hero and Feisty But Gorgeous Heroine) preach author’s religious/political/whatever views at each other.
    “But Darling we know that is the truth don’t we!”
    “Yes My Love, and we’ll always be together because we shore our belief in ”

    12, Find a convinient tape recording/ manual/ diary which takes the next chapter to explain the plot whilst leaving enough holes to (a) provide uncertainty to maintain the (alleged) excitement, or (b) cover up shortcomings in the storyline.

    • R. L. Copple says:

      Good additions, Malcolm.

      • The software scrunched up my post slightly.
        The original post read:
        11, Have Goodie characters (usually Hunky Hero and Feisty But Gorgeous Heroine) preach author’s religious/political/whatever views at each other.
        “But Darling we know that {insert religious/political/etc views to choice} is the truth don’t we!”
        “Yes My Love, and we’ll always be together because we share our belief in {again insert religious/political/etc views to choice} ”

        12, Find a convinient tape recording/ manual/ diary which takes the next chapter to explain the plot whilst leaving enough holes to (a) provide uncertainty to maintain the (alleged) excitement, or (b) cover up shortcomings in the storyline.

  2. ST Forstner says:

    The opening and the resolution are key for me. I can deal with an info dump as long as it is an interesting one. Spending a page or two to read about someone putting on their boots and getting dressed to go outside is boring unless there is a reason for it not to be boring. For instance the character is putting on spaceboots and a spacesuit. Or armor. Or scuba gear. For me, mundane info needs to be kept short, but exotic info is acceptable up to a point.

    The other thing I really hate is a story with no resolution. I realize that many story writers and film makers have taken to the idea of stories that leave a “suspense” ending where the reader or viewer can make up an ending of his own. Apparently this is suppoed to be more “artistic,” but actually it short changes the reader. When I read a story I am investing time and usually money in the writer’s product. If I get to the end of the story and find the writer hasn’t given me a conclusive ending it means my investment is wasted. It is like buying a pack of juice boxes and when you reach for the last one in the package you discover it is empty. Most of us would be justifiably angry at that.

    • R. L. Copple says:

      Good comments, Steve. I think most of the resolutionless books are in series, where there is an arbitrary cut off point to go to the next book. On most of those, some plot threads will go on into the next book, but there still needs to be a story arc that is complete to that specific novel so readers feel they have completed a story and received the emotional pay off.

      That’s what my wife didn’t like about the first two LOTR movies (she hadn’t ever read the books), was neither of them really ended the story. She only liked the last one because it had an ending. lol.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Yeah. That’s what soured me on Harry Turtledove. I spent 600+ pages slogging through Worldwar only to find it ended with “To Be Continued”. Since then, I only read known standalones of his.

        Though LOTR is marketed and described as a “trilogy” (and set the ironclad fantasy trope “Thou Shalt Only Write Trilogies”), it is not. It’s what Kipling called a “Three-Decker”, a single novel that takes up three volumes.

        • R. L. Copple says:

          Yeah, Tolkien wrote it as one huge novel. It was the publisher who broke into three sellable parts. Because it wasn’t written intending to be three separate but unrelated stories, it isn’t until the last book most of the threads are tied up. But that didn’t make it any less frustrating to my wife. She kept saying after the first movie, “They can’t end it there!”

          Related, when we watched the latest Hobbit movie, which I hear Jackson is making into a trilogy, when it ended arbitrarily where it did, one teen girl was yelling how horrible an ending to the movie it was, I guess not realizing it was only part one of three of one book. She yelled, “That’s the worst ending, ever!” lol. It was quite funny. Guess she never read the book.

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