I thought I was done talking about this topic until I looked at the opening paragraphs of a book and found yet another blunder that stopped me reading--contradictory actions (blunder #6). I remember in high school a boy joking, “Some people can’t chew gum and walk at the same time.” Ha ha. Those are possible for most of us. But when actions don’t work at the same time it stops the reader’s suspension of disbelief.
Here are a few examples where one character can’t do both at the same time:
The fixes include:
Blunder #7 – oxymorons
I should probably clarify and say “unintended” oxymorons or contradictions. Oxymorons are used with purpose and many have become accepted phrases in our culture. But those times where the words make a reader stop and think, that’s not possible, those are the ones to avoid.
Some examples – you can find many more online:
Blunder #8 – incorrect chronology
Remember cause and effect. I see writers put the effect before the cause. E.g. He opened his umbrella because it started to rain. The sentence is technically correct, but what happened first? The raindrops. Let the reader see and feel that instead of being told about it. E.g. A cold raindrop hit his nose, so he opened his umbrella.
Here are a few other examples with better chronology following:
What caused the character to react, should usually come first.
Blunder #9 – duplicate actions
This is when the character has already done an action and repeats it, but it’s not logical to repeat it. E.g. Jon scooted out a chair and sat down at the kitchen table. Usually there’s some dialogue and then it appears the writer has forgotten that Jon already sat down. E.g. Jon plopped down in a chair at the kitchen table. Wait, what? He’d have to stand up first before he could sit down again.
Blunder #10 – obtrusive taglines
Instead of using the almost invisible said and asked, if a writer has characters growl, intrude, insert, exclaim, proclaim, cry, etc. it quickly becomes annoying. Sure, an occasional shout or yell or whisper is fine, but for the most part other words show the writer is trying too hard. It’s commonly the mark of a beginner.
It’s often hard to catch our own blunders. That’s why critiques and professional editing are necessary.
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too. She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.