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(5 More) Common Story Problems with Simple Fixes

I wanted to add to my previous list, so here are a few more common story problems. Here are some ways to fix those problems that plague many writers during the process:

Problem: Too Short

If you’re like me, I usually always come up short with my word count. I target maybe 70,000 words for a YA novel, but sometimes only come up with 55,000-60,000. It’s important that you are able to reach a specific word count if you want to submit to an agent or publisher and the length could have an impact on the pacing of your story.

Solution:

Write your story first and try to not focus entirely on word count. It’s great to have a goal in mind and an outline to go with it, but just try to get your first draft down first. You can read through your first draft, decide what sections/scenes can be enhanced, and you’ll easily drive up your word count while also improving your story. Write first, edit later.

Problem: Flat Antagonists

I think we’ve all read a story with a flat antagonist. They seem more like a cardboard cut-out of a villain than an actual person. They want to be evil for the sake of being evil. Though this has been done successfully before, their evil usually needs to have a purpose or should be explained in some way. Sometimes it’s a great idea to make your villain relatable.

Solution:

Give your antagonists motivation like you would any other character. Flesh it out. Make sure you know them just as must as you know the protagonist. Think of the protagonist and antagonist as opposing forces and go from there. There should be more behind your villain than just “I want to cause pain and destruction”. Help your readers understand their thought process.

Problem: Unmotivated Writers

We’ve talked about unmotivated characters, but what about unmotivated writers? I get endless questions about what to do when you get writer’s block or when you just don’t feel like finishing your novel. How do you fix being unmotivated when it comes to finishing a project?

Solution:

I know a lot of you don’t like to plan, but outlining can sometimes help writers tremendously who have problems finishing their novels. Your outline isn’t set in stone, but it gives you something to work off of when you get stuck. After you’re done writing for the day, take a few minutes to rework your outline—then you’re set for the next day! It helps so much!

Problem: Sagging Middle

Writing the opening can be exciting. Writing the ending can be exciting. But what about the middle of your novel? Why does it seem like writers have a hard time picking up the action in the middle? Some writers can lose sight of the story they’re trying to tell and forget about structure.

Solution:

Try to divide each part of your novel into 3 acts. The middle of your story should have a beginning, middle, and an end. Each part should have a purpose. Focus on building tension and plan out each step before writing. A sagging middle can be extremely boring for both you and your readers. Stay excited about your WIP and don’t be afraid to rework it.

Problem: Not Enough Action

Do you feel like your novel doesn’t have much to say? Maybe you started out with an idea that hadn’t been fleshed out too much or you’re just lost on where your novel is headed. It’s possible to tell a simple, uncluttered story, but there needs to be action. Not explosions and chase scenes, but something exciting for your readers needs to be happening.

Solution:

Add subplots! A story with a singular focus can get dry very fast, so considering adding in a few subplots that connect with your story. I’m not saying add nonsense, but something that helps explain character motivations, the plot, etc. Check out your favorite stories and try to jot down the different plotlines that are happening. Usually there’s more than one. This should also help with your word count if you’re not reaching it.

-Kris Noel

Character Questions #020: Would You Rather #001

Would your character rather:

  1. live under the sea or on the moon?
  2. kiss a frog or turn into frog?
  3. succeed in everything and have everyone hate them or fail at everything but have everyone love them?
  4. be rich through hard work or marry someone rich?
  5. swim with sharks or dance with snakes?
  6. kiss a cactus or a spider?
  7. step on a pin or a Lego?
  8. be a nurse or a fireman?
  9. enter a book or a movie?
  10. travel in time or be able to teleport?
  11. meet a fairy or an alien?
  12. win lottery or a Nobel prize?
  13. grow horns or a tail?
  14. live in a jungle or a desert?
  15. have their car stolen or get in a car crash?

Striding purposefully and with wonderful posture…
If you happen to ever be strolling in Hyde Park in London fairly early in the morning and a familiar face is coming towards you, striding purposefully and with wonderful posture, there is a strong likelihood that you are being approached and then passed by Penelope Wilton. The well-loved actress will be out taking her exercise - and will be wearing her ‘magic’ shoes.

Penelope laughs: “I was recommended to buy a pair of Massai Barefoot Technology trainers by a very close friend of mine, who knew that I get my exercise every day by taking a good long walk. I’d never heard of the things before, and they cost well over £100, but they are just amazing. They are designed around the way that the Massai warriors of central Africa walk and move, using the balls of their feet, which gives them perfect posture - you never see any of them slouching around.”

(When Penelope was on stage at Chichester, she had to walk right through the audience for her exits and entrances. No one can walk with such posture as she has!)