Three common mistakes

Three common mistakes

A Lesson by Melancholydreams

Three rules often ignored by young writers, I am no exception.


1. Show, Not Tell

Say, your writing an interesting scene- don't explain it! The reason people tend to pick up books are based on how interest, and part of that interest happens to be what kind of 'mystique' it holds. If I were to tell you exactly what happens in the first chapter with just words alone, chances are you'll put down the book. There are only a select few who can rope readers in with just summaries, which are pretty much what the teen population of readers seem to think, that sells. You tell me what sounds more interesting:

"You are such a jerk," he said angrily

First off, you should never modify "said" with an adverb. Second, keep adverb use to a minimum. They're not evil little words that have to be avoided at all costs, but they should be kept to a minimum. It's far better to SHOW he was angry:


"You are such a jerk." Dan slammed the phone book shut and threw it at the couch. The pages ruffled open, the names inside seeming exposed and vulnerable against the stark black leather. Dan got to his feet, moving so fast his chair skidded against the floor and dented the new drywall.

What I'm trying to point out is that do you see the details in the second example? Nowhere did I use the word "angrily" or even "angry." I didn't have to say he was mad. It's pretty clear. In fact, I didn't even have to say he said the words. By showing with his actions right after his dialogue, you know it's him talking.

2. Keep it active!

Would rather something 'happening' while you read, or already 'happened'? The gifts of being a reader is that we feel like we are apart of the setting and that we are the character. A common mistake made when using these tenses are that they get confused in a sentence.

I stared at him as he walks through the room.


"It had been belonged to me since I was a baby."

Yes, I've read sentences like these before!

So my rule is, which goes without saying- stick to one tense when writing- passive or active

(As a side note, active tends to be popular and flows better!)

3. If you don't need it, drop it!

Some people are easily swayed by pretty or 'big' words outside their vocabulary. However, if you were to go back to that passage of writing, you would notice a tonne of errors-

His skin, white despite the faint flush from yesterday's hunting trip, literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface. He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare. His glistening, pale lavender lids were shut, though of course he didn't sleep. A perfect statue, carved in some unknown stone, smooth like marble, glittering like crystal. (HELPFUL HINT: focus more on showing, not telling. Too many adjectives can be confusing and irritating to read)


Charlie had really been fairly nice about the whole thing.
(HELPFUL HINT: drop the really)

You get my drift here, and I'm not just using Twilight examples to bag on Meyer.

Short Bibliography: examples taken from Stephenie Meyer's 'Twilight', and Shirley Jump's 'Show not tell: What the heck is that anyway?'


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Posted 1 Year Ago

Very good points you made. I'll definitely try to aim to write with description.

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Posted 8 Years Ago

Really interesting. Twilight really annoyed me and I'm really glad you used that example. I mean seriously, you can only use the words godlike and beautiful so many times.
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Added on December 29, 2010
Last Updated on December 29, 2010
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