People who try writing fiction for the first time always do this but they’re not aware they are doing it. One mistake beginning fiction writers make: unclear writing!
I have a writing friend who asks me occasionally to read and critique his short fiction. He writes mostly mysterious and suspenseful short stories. In one particular story he wrote an open ending.
I asked him, “What happened to the protagonist in the end? Did he succeed or did he die? Why did you write the ending that way?”
He replied, “I intended it to be vague because it’s a mystery story.”
Beginning fiction writers believe that they have to write as if their style is supposed to help tell the story. For example, they use vague writing to illustrate suspense. They use a lot of adverbs and exclamation marks when trying to hype a horror story.
One Mistake Beginning Fiction Writers Make
Here’s why it doesn’t work:
Readers don’t have a lot of time and attention.
If people read your vaguely written story they will not say, “Aha! This is written very mysteriously. Consider me intrigued.”
Instead, they will be perplexed. They will not understand the story, much less what you were trying to do with your writing style.
They will get bored and pass your story off not as a genius work of form, but sloppy writing.
Let your story tell itself.
Beginning writers always write as if they have to prove themselves by having a powerful voice and style from the beginning.
When you get too caught up with how to tell the story instead of what makes the story worth telling in the first place, you lose the ability to capture your readers’ attention.
Begin by writing in a clear and straightforward voice. Trust that the story will tell itself through you.
Trust your readers to understand.
Writing vaguely is telling your readers how to read your story. “Oh, I wrote it very mysteriously and you might not get it the first time.” That is just obnoxious, and ungrateful for the time your readers will spend reading your work.
Don’t insult people’s ability to decide for themselves what makes a good story. Trust that if you wrote a story worth telling, in a clear and unpretentious way, they might be interested in it.
Write clearly, let the story tell itself, and trust your readers.
Does this help you write better? Please consider sharing with your budding writer friends!
Author: Pia Besmonte
Pia Besmonte is a poet, literature teacher, and author based in the Philippines. She wrote “Manic Pixie Depressive Gremlin”, a collection of poems on mental health awareness and empowerment for millennial Filipinas. She loves to paint, sing, watch films, and take care of her family, Team BLG.