How to Make Readers Cringe

A picture taken by me in Colorado. The thistle is a thorny plant that some people are allergic to. The butterfly is just pretty. But the thistle is cringe-worthy, just like the traits in this book.

I recently purchased a self-published science fiction book from the author. The author was a great conversationalist, the book was affordable, and I liked the cover, so I figured I’d give it a try. When I got home and read the first line–which was close to: “It was a dark and stormy night,”–my internal editor groaned.

You know those books that you read because they’ll help you go to sleep? Here are a few traits that many of them share:

  1. Internal Monologue: This is where the main character, whether in first or third person, thinks nonstop and doesn’t interact with any other characters in action. Some writers can make this work, but even they know to start with action. Throw your characters into a situation right away where they interact with others.
  2. Cliches: “It was a dark and stormy night,” or “The evening air was crisp,” are clichés; they’ve been overused. Don’t use these at all, but especially don’t start with them!
  3. No action: These stories start out so boring you don’t even want to keep reading. Starting in action is even more important with today’s readers because we are enthralled with movies and TV shows. Get us to keep reading from those first few sentences.

What are some of your pet peeves when it comes to reading? What are you sick of seeing over and over again that writers just keep doing?

One thought on “How to Make Readers Cringe

  1. I can’t stand it when the opening of a book is all exposition and nothing happens except the person thinking while the walk or cross a street or something…unless someone tries to murder them while crossing the street. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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