Five Ways to Get out of the Way

Your job as a writer is to send readers on an emotional journey. How do you do that? By getting out of the way. Here are five tips to help you do that:

  1. Avoid clichés. Readers may not even realize why, but their interest level will plummet when they confront an exhausted cliché. Satisfy your readers with the fresh metaphors and similes they crave. ..
  2. Show; don’t tell. Modern audiences don’t have the patience to sit through narrative summary the way readers used to. When we read narrative summary, we’re reading the story through a filter: the author. Instead of being a filter, you can allow us to enter the story for ourselves. How do you do that? Not by telling us about what happens or how a character feels but by showingus what’s happening and allowing the character to live through dialogue and action in the moment. Do you have a page in which nothing visual happens? Revise. .
  3. Avoid melodrama. Readers want to feel real emotions when we dedicate our time to a book. Is there a scene or a phrase that’s too sticky-sweet, too affected? Are you trying to force feelings on readers, or are you providing a journey that resonates? If you want us to remain immersed in the story, avoid melodrama. .
  4. Use all the senses. Allow readers to enter the story world you created by showing us what the POV character hears, feels, tastes, smells, and sees. (However, you don’t need to use these words to show us. See “Overused Words and Point of View” Practice using your senses by limiting some of them in various environments. Sit outside with a blindfold on, ear plugs in, or both. What does the breeze feel like? What do you smell? Share those fresh perspectives as you write. .
  5. Avoid coincidences. Maybe they do happen in life, but coincidences shouldn’t appear in your story, especially not in the climax. Deus ex machina robs readers of an authentic emotional journey. Coincidences turn characters into paper dolls. We don’t want to watch you playing with paper dolls, dear author. We’re looking for real people to identify with. To fix coincidences, build in reasons for events to occur. Events should be inevitable, even if surprising.

In the spirit of the season, we thank you for your dedication to the craft of writing. And we wish you the very best on your path to creating meaningful journeys for your readers.

—The Editors

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