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Don’t Exasperate Your Readers

2018 September 27
by Fay Lamb

Overall, readers are a forgiving group of people. They’ll see a mistake here or one there, a misspelling, a minor plot issue, and if the story is well-written, they’ll blame the editor.

There is one mistake for which a reader isn’t apt to forgive the author. I can spot it every time in my edits for another. Recently, though, while preparing my own manuscript, to finally get it into the hands of my editor, I gasped at my greatest faux pas. I couldn’t believe I’d done this dastardly deed.

I hung my head in shame, real shame.

Then I realized, all that is written can be edited, and I set about to remedy the major error.

I don’t want to spoil the story for those who have read the series, but in The Tie that Bind series, I discovered an awesome tie that binds two of the character’s together. I didn’t know it until I started writing the last book, Delilah. The books can be stand alone or read out of order, but my faithful readers who know and love Delilah and the character to which the important tie is revealed, would not forgive me for the error I was about to make.

In the third edits of the novel, I reached the last scene, and I realized that a moment that began in the story of the other character had been developed because of the secret she revealed to both me and to Delilah in the book bearing Delilah’s name. Yet, I didn’t simply gloss over the moment and give it a cursory nod. No, I had not even considered the all-important scene.

A novice author, and as I’ve learned, some not-so-novice authors, may build a plot to a point and then bypass a satisfying resolution.

In case I’m talking in circles, let me give an example: Susie, the heroine, a poverty-stricken woman fighting for every dime, discovers that she is a descendant of the royal line of a foreign country, and all she wants to do is save up the funds to visit that country. She can’t even dream big enough to desire meeting her relatives. While Sue is finishing up a double shift in the diner, a limo carrying an attaché from that country breaks down, and the chauffer and the diplomat enter for coffee while awaiting AAA. (Yes, this would be a fantasy in more ways this one.) The diplomat and Sue fall in love at first sight. Their courtship is burdened by her poverty and the fact that theirs will be a long-distance love affair, but they overcome all conflict, marry, and live happily-ever-after … in America.

What’s the reader missing out on here?

Sue had a dream. She wanted to see the country of her ancestors. She’s been saving up for it. By Providence, she has met a man with access to the royalty of the country, and she doesn’t even visit, let alone marry there, and she never gets to meet her relatives. Whaaatt?

Such moments are those for which a book is made. They offer emotion and that relieved sigh for the reader. All is well. The ending truly is happy.

In Delilah, forgetting the moment would have been unforgiveable for me. Also, since the moment was so intrinsically tied to my real life, I almost missed out on a phenomenal opportunity to envision myself as the character in the series that is most like me and to bring forth the inner pain I felt over a certain situation, using my emotion to give emotion to the reader. What resulted for me, and I do hope for my readers, is that I felt the character’s pain deep into my core. I pulled out emotions and placed them on the pages of this story, and I received healing that I pray my readers will walk away from the conclusion of the story with as well.

To forego giving them that opportunity is truly an unpardonable action.

So, how does a writer avoid doing this to a reader? Write a one-line description of the major plot then underneath the major plot describe any subplots or areas that will need to be developed to a conclusion. While revisions are being made, check off the plots and the resolutions to those plots. If any remain open, find the best place in the novel to tie up that loose end.

A simple fix for a complex and dangerous mistake.

Happy editing.

About the Tactical Editor

Fay Lamb is an author, an editor, and a teacher. She also loves to teach workshops for fiction writers.

Fay has contracted three series with her publisher, Write Integrity Press. Amazing Grace is a four-novel series, which includes  Stalking Willow, Better than Revenge, Everybody’s Broken, and Frozen Notes all set in Western North Carolina.

Her The Ties that Bind romantic series, set in Fay’s own backyard of Central Florida, includes Charisse, Libby, and Hope. And with her upcoming April, 2019, release, Delilah, her fourth heroine, greatly loved by readers, gets her chance to shine.

Fay has an adventurous spirit, which has also taken her into the arena of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook and on Goodreads. She’s also active on Twitter. Then there are her blogs: On the Ledge, Inner Source, and the Tactical Editor.

One Response Post a comment
  1. September 28, 2018

    Fay, I’m glad you caught the error, but I dare say that those of us that love your books, and Delilah, would have overlooked your mistake. We may have shaken our head and wondered what happened, but we would still adore it!

    Blessings to you my dear friend!

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