As an author, you want to make your readers happy, right? You want to have outstanding writing that not only makes you feel good, but makes others feel good. You want people to read your work and say, “Hey, this person really knows how to write. I like their stuff.”
You don’t want to make your readers hate you and your work. Well, if you want your readers to like you, here are six things not to do.
1. Kill off a lot of characters.
Having a beloved character die is fine. Having a few beloved characters die is fine, but when you start killing off the whole school, or every single one of your main character’s friends, then you start to turn people off. And never kill your main character unless absolutely necessary.
2. Use clichés.
Don’t say she’s as stubborn as a mule. Instead, show she’s stubborn as a mule by describing what she is doing or saying. Don’t have the mom tell the kids that they’re eating too much junk food by saying, “You are what you eat.” Instead, have her say, “If you eat too many of those lollipops, you’ll turn into a great big one, all fat and round.”
3. Give too much description.
Yawning. That’s what your readers will be doing if you describe every bug on the sidewalk. Of course we need to know what the characters look like, and sure you can describe their bedroom, but do we need to know every inch of the mahogany dresser and the complete back story on how they got it? Of course not. So don’t describe it.
4. Have your characters break character.
If your main character is a cowardly jerk who doesn’t care about anyone but himself, then don’t all of sudden have him jump into battle to save the princess. He needs to stay on the sidelines where he belongs. If you want your cowardly jerk to change into someone who cares about other people’s feelings, then you need to have him change over a few chapters. He can’t just out of the blue say, “Hey, I care about people now!”
5. Have an unhappy ending.
Yes, you might want an ending that’s unexpected and not so happy, but if your ending is so unhappy that readers close the book in disgust and give it a bad review on Amazon, then you could have a problem. How would you have felt if J.K. Rowling let Voldemort kill Harry at the end of Harry Potter? I certainly wouldn’t have liked it.
You don’t need a completely happy ending—with daisies and Care Bears and cloud castles—just not a totally unhappy one.
6. Have superfluous romance.
This drives me crazy. If I’m reading a fantasy adventure story, I don’t expect to find romance. The whole point of the story is to have battles and action and magic, not mushy, unnecessary romance. If you’re writing a romance story, have romance. If your story needs the romance to make the plot work, have romance. If your story doesn’t need it? Don’t add it.
Does It Matter If Readers Hate You?
If your main goal is to make everyone like you and your writing, you might be disappointed. You can’t please everyone, and attempting to do so is exhausting. The best authors have never been afraid to offend a few readers for the sake of their art. They serve the story, not just the reader, and the story makes its own demands on them.
The most important thing you need to do is write a book that you enjoy reading (and writing). Write what makes you happy. Write the book that you would pick up in a library and devour. Write the story you’ve wanted to write for years.
And always, always, always have fun.
What about you? What makes you hate a book (and the author with it)?
Write for fifteen minutes about a character on an expedition.
Keep this post handy. When you’ve finished, look over it and ask yourself, “Are my readers going to hate me if I publish this?” If the answer is yes, redo it (unless, of course, you want them to hate you). If the answer is no, post it in the comments section.
And if you post, don’t forget to comment on a few others’ practices.