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Avoidable Mistakes in Writing Fiction

I enjoy writing about personal experiences with my family. I am interested in traveling, any culture, ancestry relationships and animals.



Too Many Characters

When a novice is writing a short story or a book of fiction for the first time, they often try to put too many characters in the first few pages. Each character needs to be developed, and reading a book where the first couple of pages has four or five characters introduced is ineffective. There is obviously too much detail for the reader to assimilate in such a short space. Aim for a solid opening scene, and it is relatively simple to focus on just one or possibly two characters in the first few pages.

As you describe the scene, you can also focus on an action, which is one way to introduce your characters more slowly. This gives the reader time to picture the scene, begin to know the character or characters and have an idea as to the theme of the story.

It might help you to write short vignettes of a conversation or an action scene. Evaluate what you have written and if you are satisfied move on to the next scene.

Avoid Using too Many Points

Sometimes stories can confuse the reader due to too many plot points in just a few pages. Be careful to use each plot point to build a specific scene. Action, pace and interest are the characteristics to strive for in each scene. Be specific with the information you write to give the reader a full picture.

It is important to only include information that furthers the plot, and leave out irrelevant details. For instance, if you are mentioning a postman whose only function is to deliver a letter, do not include his name or let us know he has a bad back.

Be imaginative with your writing. The wind blows, roars, rips, whips and so forth. The way you describe words will add a more interesting element to your writing.

Be aware of using too much irrelevant detail. Since the goal is to further the plot, enhance the characterization, while providing a sense of time and place. Save the details for your important characters.

Writing a Book


Do you Lack Imagery?

Quite often new writers lack vibrant images, which makes their fiction flat. Avoid using old clichés and wisecracks. Wisecracks can be fine, but make them unique and fitting to the circumstances.

Use imagery that matches the character in your story. For instance if the character is always busy running around, use imagery that relates to speed. Place the character in a scene or place that relates to speed, such as a speeding car or a fast moving train.

How to Teach Yourself Creative Writing

Create a Sense of Place

It is important to show your readers where your characters work and where they live. If you don’t engage all the senses with your descriptions the characters will be floating around in a vacuum. If the story takes place in the seedy area of a big city, describe the look of the buildings, the smells and the type of people that live in the area. The same would hold true if the story takes place in a suburban suburb. How does it look? How does the light shine on the homes?

Typically, authors describe how things look, but think about how does fear taste or how does anger smell. Be adventurous with your words to create the background of the story.

Always Read Numerous Books


Dialogue Skills

The dialogue needs to sound real to keep the interest of the reader. The dialog should raise the conflict level to advance the story. While it is important to change the pace or intensity throughout the story, the intensity should gradually increase to produce greater anticipation in the reader. If it is bland, too complete or agreeable the level of conflict is not increased.

Avoid characters that make long confessional speeches or ones that engage in long cozy chit chat discussions. Use the dialogue to provide essential information, and most importantly dialogue needs to show the character.


Mistakes in grammar stick out like a sore thumb. It is essential to read and re-read your story to look for grammar mistakes and to make sure you don’t repeat the same words over and over again. Ideally when you complete your story set aside for a minimum of one week, then read your entire story out loud. Most of the time you will find errors that will leap out at you that you missed the first time around. Put a question mark by the problem areas as you read.

If you feel vaguely uncomfortable with a scene or passage to ask yourself if this scene belongs in this story. You may want to cut the scene or re-write it, depending on its importance.

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Improve your Writing: Show not Tell

Finishing Up

Finally, after you make those last corrections, your story is complete. The extra time you spent re-reading and re-writing some sections of your book will pay off. It may make the difference in a publisher wanting to print your book.

Common Mistakes Review

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 01, 2020:

Hi Peggy,

I have only written a few fictional stories. I did attemt to write a book a few years back but I didn't think it was any good. You ought to give it a try, Peggy. Thanks for your comments.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 31, 2020:

I have not tried my hand at writing fiction, but you have made some excellent points here. There is a vast difference between a book that holds one's interest from the first page to the last, and a book that can be easily set aside and forgotten.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 22, 2014:

Rev. Akins, I am glad this hub is helpful. I wish you great success. Sometimes it just takes time for people to find you, but making comments on other people's hubs helps.

Rev. Akins from Tucson, AZ on February 22, 2014:

Thanks for the Hub, I am trying to convince myself that I can be a writer, but I keep thinking no one wants to hear what I have to say. I basically need to get over myself. Thanks, I am sure I will be coming back to this hub many times as needed. Great resource!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 24, 2014:

Christine, I appreciate your suggestions and your comments. I am glad you enjoyed the hub.

pochinuk on January 24, 2014:


"....It might help you to write short vignettes of a conversation..."

I have been perusing hubs for advice and suggestions on fiction writing.

Your statment is insightful and helpful at this time.

Thank you.

It is encouraging to see (on Hupages)how others can in less than 1000 words produce small pieces of fiction that are time worthy; each representing their particular interests and plotscopes.

Glad you took the time to share your thoughts and give helps,


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 11, 2013:

batt115, I am glad you found the hub helpful. Thanks for your comments.

Tim from Los Angeles, CA on December 10, 2013:

Nice hub. I am currently writing a novel and will have to go back and put your tips to use!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 02, 2013:

drbj, I appreciate your comments as always. I hope this holiday season is special for your also.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on December 02, 2013:

Excellent suggestions, Pamela, and the video is most worthwhile, too. Hope you are enjoying this holiday season.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 01, 2013:

Jo, I'm glad you found the hub helpful and I appreciate your comments.

Mary, You're right. Keeping the writer's attention is the main priority. Thanks so much for your comments.

Mary Craig from New York on December 01, 2013:

You've made some interesting points and reminded writers what to look for to keep a reader's attention. After all, if the reader isn't interested it's all over.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on December 01, 2013:

Pamela, excellent work and very use information. There are many aspiring writers on this site and we can all use a little reminder. thank you for sharing this, I'll be bookmarking for reference.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 30, 2013:

Alicia, I am glad you found the article useful, and thank you so much for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 30, 2013:

Linda, And to think I read it outloud before publishing! Thanks for your input and glad you liked the article. Thank you so much for your comments. I hope your holiday was wonderful also. Hugs to you too.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 30, 2013:

Faith, I am glad you found the article beneficial. I very much appreciate your comments and the share. God bless.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 30, 2013:

Randy, I think that (less is more) is one of the harder concepts for new authors. Thanks so much for your comments.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 30, 2013:

Thank you for sharing all the useful tips, Pamela. They will be very helpful for fiction writers!

Linda Rogers from Minnesota on November 30, 2013:

Hi Pamela-Your information is really helpful; whether your a novice or not. Great tips that I plan to use. By the way, I noticed you have two i's in the word 'Did' in your poll. Love knowing even someone as experienced as you can make a spelling error now and then. LOL I hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving with your family. Hub Hugs :-)

Faith Reaper from southern USA on November 30, 2013:

Great article, Pamela! Thank you for providing useful information for writing fiction that we can all put into practice.

Up and more and sharing.

Blessings, Faith Reaper

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on November 30, 2013:

Very useful article on avoiding mistakes many writer's make when first starting out. So many times less is more. Finding the right place between too much info and not enough is the trick I truly believe.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 30, 2013:

Shauna, I am so sorry I mixed up the names and glad you let me know. Thanks for the comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 30, 2013:

DDE, You are right. Thank you for your comments.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on November 30, 2013:

Pamela, I assume you're replying to me when you address a comment to Barbara. Barbara is my mom. I'm Shauna. Nevertheless, this is a great hub.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on November 30, 2013:

Avoidable Mistakes in Fiction Writing such mistakes can be easily made and you pointed them out clearly and to the point.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 30, 2013:

Dianna, I also have read a lot of articles to help improve my writing skills. I am glad you found the article helpfu. Thanks for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 30, 2013:

Jackie, I am glad you found the hub useful. I appreciate your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 30, 2013:

Ruby, I use that method also and am often shocked at some of the things I missed. I appreciate your comments.

Dianna Mendez on November 29, 2013:

Thank you for the excellent tips, Pamela. I look for these types of articles to help me write with skill and interest. Blessings.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on November 29, 2013:

You make some great points. I will stop reading when my head is spinning by the end of the 1st chapter. lol

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on November 29, 2013:

Great points to ponder Pam. I am working on improving my writing skills. Reading aloud your story before publishing is vital. I find many mistakes that needs correction. Thank you for a well researched article....

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 29, 2013:

Barbara, I have noticed some stories like that also and thought this hub might be helpful as we all want to write well. I did some research as to the most common problems, then wrote the hub. Thanks for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 29, 2013:

Rebecca, I appreciate your comments, and I am glad you found the tips useful.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on November 29, 2013:

Thanks, good general tips for writing,

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on November 29, 2013:

Pamela, I agree with you on all these points. I will never say I'm a great fiction writer, although I'm working on being a good one. To get there, I look at what draws my attention and what turns me off.

I have run across a few short story series here on HP that I just can't read. There are too many characters introduced at the outset, plot is confusing (because there are too many mini-plots encapsulated in the story) and I just can't keep track. Especially when the chapters show up weeks from each other (as do mine) I find myself completely lost. Without some kind of a brief recap letting us know where we left off, I find it very difficult to keep up and know what's going on in the story. My solution has been to just not read them.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 29, 2013:

Martie, I fully agree. I appreciate your comments and the linking of the hub. I am going to look for your hub now.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 29, 2013:

Jodah, I am glad this hub was helpful to you. Good luck and I appreciate your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 29, 2013:

Billy, I knew you were writing a novel and also that you knew about these tips. So many people are talking about writing their first novels that I thought this information might be helpful for them. Thanks for your comments and I look forward to the publishing of your nove.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on November 29, 2013:

Excellent tips, Pamela. Should be taken to heart by all writers of fiction until it become instinctive skills. Linking this to my hub, "The structure of a short story."

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on November 29, 2013:

Hi Pamela, great hub, helpful and informative for a writer like me, new to fiction writing. I've mainly written poetry, but just started to try my hand at short stories. hanks, voted up.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 29, 2013:

All great tips, Pamela. I am aware of them and am currently writing a novel....these thoughts are always with me as I write one word after another. Thank you and enjoy your weekend.

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