5 Guaranteed Ways To Bore Your Reader

There are times when I pick up a book and I think, 'I can't carry on.' Even though I try to finish most of the novels I start, life is just too short to read badly-written, boring books.

Why are these books boring?

Most beginners overwrite - padding their prose with unnecessary descriptions and characters. This is mainly because they do not have a structured story with well-drawn characters and a cohesive, well-paced plot. 

I have put together five sure-fire ways that will help you if you want to bore your reader to tears.

  1. Add heaps of backstory. Every page is important. Readers, publishers and literary agents make decisions about whether to carry on reading a book based on the first few pages. Do not waste anyone’s time with unimportant setting details and character histories. Introduce your main characters. Tell us where we are – briefly. Set up a great conflict with an exciting inciting moment. And write!
  2. Do not structure your novel. Reading a book seems incredibly daunting if you are lost in an inexperienced author’s stream of consciousness. A great story does not meander from one unrelated event to another. It needs to follow a path. Otherwise, readers will lose interest. They will worry about wasting their time as you muddle through the details.
  3. Do not create empathetic characters. It does not matter if you happen to love your unsympathetic psychopathic hero. The truth is that nobody will continue to read a novel without having an emotional connection to the main characters. They can be heroes, anti-heroes or villains, but they all need flaws and redeeming qualities. Readers read stories because they want to relate to someone in the book. We want to know why the characters are acting the way they do. 
  4. Leave unnecessary scenes in the book. I walk out of movie theatres when I watch a film where nothing happens. I stop reading books for the same reason. Authors cannot simply place characters on the page, add some dialogue and description and not move the story forward. Scenes should move your characters and your plot to the resolution of your story. If they don’t, cut them. Removing scenes keeps your story focused, your pace intense, and creates tension so that readers can't stop reading.
  5. Describe everything. You do not have to tell readers everything. They are not stupid. Reveal information through action and dialogue. This does not mean that you leave description out. It means that you do not tell us what every character, town, tree, or house, looks like in mind-numbing detail. Your characters should interact with the setting. A reader should be able to see and hear and smell the novel through the words on the page.

    Please do not make these five mistakes when you write. Remember that you are competing for a place in a crowded market. The Internet, television, movies, and smart phones have taken their toll and today’s reader will not tolerate long flowery sentences, insipid characters and pages of boring backstory. Writing like this is a guaranteed way to lose your reader in the first few pages.

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    If you enjoyed this post, read:

    1. Making a Stand - Three simple ways to get your hero to make a stand
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    3. What Does It Take To Write A Book? - The 5 Qualities Published Authors Share
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    19 responses
    Apparently the Pulitzer committee didn't read this memo, because 'The Goldfinch' by Donna Tart does ALL of these "no-nos" - it was the most dreadfully boring book I've ever read - it could have been cut by about 700 pages...and I pushed through until my Kindle flashed at 90% done and then I just didn't care anymore. I put the book down. I've only done that one other time in my entire life... Thanks for this list - as a new writer, these are great points to keep in mind.
    Thank you, Cresta. Amanda agrees with your assessment of 'The Goldfinch' as well. Here is her review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/763202466...
    So we must write as if the whole world is attention deficient? Seems to me that most writing rules these days are coming from Hollywood executives looking for material that is easy to adapt for screen. The other day I saw a rule that you shouldn't describe what characters look like; I can only imagine that's so casting directors can cast whoever they like without backlash from disgruntled purists and instant negative publicity. Imagine if Daenerys, Lisbeth or even Harry Potter were not described as they are, the precious details we would miss out on! Today's writing "rules" are to be questioned, always.
    No, we must write without ego. We must write to tell the best stories we can, without being self-indulgent.
    Is blowing away eraser dust progress? As always, your writing tips give me encouragement. Thank you for these five helpful ways, to not bore the reader, as I write my first book. Linda
    Hmmm... I kind of disagree- at least as a reader- with the last one. (Now, know that I am terrible about writing too lean, personally.) I love reading richly descriptive novels in which the author describes EVERYTHING. Hyperion is one such book and, though it was a dense read, I loved it. I often read advice for authors to allow the reader to imagine some of the details on their own. While I do enjoy books written in this way, I much prefer getting completely lost in a book that builds, block by block, the setting in which the novel takes place. I think this is much more an issue with the technique than anything. Perhaps, it is also dependent on the genre, too. That's just my two cents, though. :)
    Yes to all your points! I have stopped reading, watching, and listening when all these things have occurred in books, movies, and conversations ;)
    Thank you for your comments and feedback. We appreciate it.
    Depends on the right time, of course. I think the best way of doing the description is during the action, rather than a pointless paragraph on someone's hair. Thus, the description ADDS to the experience rather than subtracting from it.
    Thank you for your encouragement to learn to write right. I don't plan to tackle a novel. Short Stories is my favorite means of communicating by writing for an audience. I have a progressive disease which causes a degenerative neurological disorder involving communication, thinking and understanding how we think. This makes writing more difficult, especially learning and using proper technique. A memory problem causes finding the right words. My goals are more logical toward short stories than a novel. Your writing tips are invaluable, helping me to Write Right.
    All your focus is on plot. But if a story is trimmed down to its core linear string of events, it will read like a history textbook, even if there are empathetic characters. An author's goal should not be to share stories, but rather ideas. Action can be meaningless and inaction, if written carefully and with purpose, can offer keen insights on the human condition. Don't just tell what happened, but why it it happened and what its happening means; that's where the meat of the story is, the plot is just the bones used for structure.
    8 visitors upvoted this post.