Avoiding the BPP

Did you ever have a less than enjoyable reading experience? One that left you just a bit disgruntled? Yeah. Me too, often as a result of my Biggest Pet Peeve. My BPP, literarily speaking at least, is a novel that reads like a rough draft.

You know the ones.

My BPP, literarily speaking...
My BPP, literarily speaking…

Those books that could have been mind-blowingly fantastic with the help of a few additional drafts and a good editor/critique partner, but instead fall into the dismal realm of the underwhelming? Novels that, well, to be frank, have one or more of the following foibles:

The over-tell. When I read a good novel, I literally see the story in my mind as if it were playing out on a movie screen. When the author peeks around the curtain and tells me what a character is doing/thinking/feeling or worse, why he’s doing/thinking/feeling it, I want to shush him. (The author, not the character.) Show me what is happening and then be quiet and let me watch the movie.

Poor voice. Every character should have a unique voice and manner. The reader should be able to tell the difference between a child and an alien by the way they talk. Nothing takes me out of a story quicker than a four-year-old talking like a physics instructor. Unless the child is an alien, which would explain everything. The same goes for the character’s actions. If a hero who has been stalwart and stoic through the first three chapters breaks out suddenly into an unprovoked temper fit, I’m not just going raise an eyebrow. I’m going to put down the book.

Mono-voice. This is a form of poor voice which occurs when all the characters in a novel sound and act alike. Unless you are writing about the Borg, everyone needs to be an individual, and that difference needs to go beyond their names and hair color.

White-Washout. I need the characters in a book to reflect the diversity I see in the world. Not everyone is a Straight, White Male with huge biceps and a Razor-Sharp Wit. I love seeing strong female leads, POCs, folks with disabilities, LGBTQ characters, and any combination of the above. I enjoy reading these characters because my real world experience is populated by people just like them. I know a few SWMs too, so they can stay, but let’s not be exclusive, ok? Oh, and any character with an RSW is fine by me. RDJ? Step into my parlor.

So much for the negative. What makes reading a novel my favorite form of entertainment? Writing that shows rather than tells, solid settings that ground me in place and time so I can relax and enjoy the story, empathetic characters (I don’t have to like them, but I need to be able to understand them), a plot where something important is at stake, and voices that I recognize as real.

If you want to write more diverse characters and aren't sure where to start...
If you want to write more diverse characters and aren’t sure where to start…

One other thing – If you want to write more diverse characters and aren’t sure where to start, there’s a mini-conference coming up June 22 – 23, 2019 at the Hilton, Orlando/Altamonte Springs. They have four presenters, including an advocate for persons with disabilities, professional authors and a literary agent. You can find more information, including prices and a registration link here.  I’m going and you should join me. It’s hosted by the FWA and is sure to be a dynamite event.


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