Peggy Bechko: Writing a Novel? Tips on What Not To Do

by Peggy Bechko

Is this the real Peggy Bechko writing?
Is this the real Peggy Bechko, hard at work writing?

No long intro here, I’m going right for the meat of it. You’re writing a novel, you’re in love with your words. Well, look again and see what you need to change:


Do you have your characters living in a happy fantasy land sort of like the fairy tale creatures out of Disney? Is everybody just getting along hunky-dorey and skipping hand-in-hand down the garden path?

Well, stop it! Come on, you know darn well that even best friends can have disagreements and fights. Family members scrap all the time. If everybody’s happy your readers will be BORED. Look, stressful situations can bring out the worst in even the best of people. Add some tension, pepper it with strife. Don’t let your characters get away with being so freaking happy. Really. Spice it up.


Have you gone a bit too far? Have you created a ‘hero’ or ‘heroine’ that nobody really likes? In fiction, novel or script, the main character has to be someone the reader or watcher can identify with, bond with, hope will succeed and want to follow along with throughout the entire story. Of course your main character can have flaws, baggage, irritating habits, but watch out. If you push it to far you’ll end up with a protagonist who’s demanding, insensitive, timid, wimpy or cold (or a host of other flaws that go above and beyond). Go for sympathetic and likeable – with a few quirks and flaws.


How’s your description going? Yes, description is needed to fill in the background, to give a feel to the story, to weave a great tale, but if you’re writing paragraph after paragraph describing weather and scenery then you’re going too far. Weave background into your story. Tell your readers about the weather when it has an impact on the story or the main character(s). Perhaps the weather is trapping someone somewhere and/or affecting their mood because of it. Details are what make the background the canvas against which your story is told. But be selective. Give the details that add to characterization or which might affect your main character’s ability to achieve his/her goals.



Or is this really our writing Peggy?

How many of you have used the “as you know…..” cheat? Don’t look blank. You know darn well it’s just a way to dump information by using a character’s dialog. It’s when a character tells another character something they both already know just to bring your readers in on it. Don’t do it. It’s annoying and amateurish and it causes your reader to blank out and pass over that passage, so they don’t even get the information you planned to impart in the first place – might even cause that reader to put the book down. Don’t do it.

Think about these. There are lots more, but I’ll leave them to a later post – meanwhile, you can tell me – what are your biggest ‘no-nos’ for writing?