Half the difference between what works and what doesn’t in fiction has to do with how the words are phrased. If you want to be a polished writer, remember these rules for smoother and more powerful writing.
- Use appropriate and frequent paragraph breaks.
Readers want breaks. That’s why text is divided into paragraphs to begin with. A skillful writer can always find a spot to put in a hard return. If you can’t, look again; you can so.
- Use only one name for a character.
If the character, Ron Carpenter, is a doorman, call him either Ron or Carpenter, but not both. And be careful about referring to him as ”the doorman.” Although that seems like a good substitute for the name that has been repeated so often, unless his occupation is more than clear, the alternation between name and job title can be confusing.
- Choose entirely distinct character names.
Don’t name your two lead characters Stan and Steve. Sure the names are different, but readers can’t always track that fact—especially when they pick up the book three days later to read again.
- Don’t use slang unless you clarify it.
I’m pretty well-read but when I came across the phrase “seven deadlies” with the assertion that they built to felonies, I thought this was a special law-enforcement phrase and not a way of referring to the Seven Deadly Sins.
- Limit your use of possibly offensive language.
Reasons exist for characters to swear. But remember that, nowadays, most books are bought by women and many women don’t like swearing for swearing’s sake (even in gritty or naturalistic novels).
G. Miki Hayden