What's wrong with my story?

Jody Lebel
Published on: November 2012
1. Is your plot fresh? It has been said that there are no new sto-ries, that they've all been told. Go through your WIP (work in progress). Are there situations that are familiar? Maybe too familiar? Does the football team have to win the big game? Does your detective/body guard fall in love with the victim? Is your hero on a bus/plane/train that is hijacked? Old story lines must be recycled to somehow give the situation a fresh look. You can turn it upside down, twist it, or put a new coat of paint on it. But whatever you do, make it intriguing. The premise must be compelling.
whats wrong with my story,reader satisfaction
2. Is your story predictable? Are the readers able to figure out what's going to happen? That is the danger of using a tired story line. Say a married man falls into a coma after a serious car accident and after a few months his wife leaves him. When he awakens with no memory he finds he is being cared for by a pretty nurse. You do see where this is going, don't you? So, what can you do? Have the wife come back pregnant. Or let the nurse have a terrible medical disorder that can't be cured and she falls into a coma. Do something different or the only sound you will hear will be books slamming shut.

Another way your story becomes predictable is by giving too much information too quickly. Unwind your story slowly. Entice your readers. Tease them. On the flip side, don't make the story so complex that it can't be followed. Remember the movie The Matrix?

3. Is your pacing off? Don't get caught up in the action. You can't have a plot where your characters are constantly running from one disaster to the next via car chases and bar fights and shootouts. Your reader needs to take a breath and build a bond with your characters.

4. How about the suspension of disbelief? Have you created a story or scene that the reader is just not going to buy? Then you went too far or you went too fast. Farfetched actions leave readers groaning and rolling their eyes. Also, don't let the characters do something stupid. There's a crazed axe murderer in the woods who just escaped from the mental hospital. It's all over the news. But your single mom decides it would be fun to take her kids camping this weekend. Good grief. In the publishing world this woman would be known as TSTL - too stupid to live.

5. The sequence is illogical. When you lay your story out be sure that it makes sense; that it travels from A to B to C. You can have flashbacks but there must be a logical flow. Don't put scenes in before their time. And don't veer too far off the path of the tale. Also be conscious of your subplots. Too many can weigh down the story and water down your main plot.

6. The plot is in need of a trim. Does the wife really have to catch her husband cheating four times? Do you really need three visits to the nursing home to see grandma before she passes and we get to the reading of the will? This is overkill. Unless there are some important details that must be told on each occasion, cut, cut, cut. We don't need to read about every punch or physical movement in a fight scene. We don't need to hear about what the characters are wearing or eating or drinking each day. And please don't go on and on about the weather. Nobody cares.
7. The ending doesn't meet the promise. Did your hero/heroine grow emotionally or learn a lesson? Did you introduce a character in the last chapter and make him the killer? Are there loose ends that need to be tied up? Does the solution need to be clearer? Readers want a satisfactory conclusion for all the plot lines and also for your characters. Do not end your book with a cliff hanger hoping the reader will run out and buy the next book to find out what hap-pened to your hero. Readers will feel cheated and not only will they never buy another book from you they will most likely leave bad reviews to warn future buyers.
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