Writing Secrets: Are you bored by your story?

 In Jo-Anne Richard's blog, Tips for Writers

When I taught young journalists, I told them to stop halfway through their story and ask themselves: Am I bored?

Last week I suggested a couple of questions you could use to interrogate a story idea, in order to test it out.

Here’s another which can be useful to you. Are you bored by your story idea? Well, difficult as it might be to consider, perhaps it’s completely predictable. Before halfway, you already know exactly how it will end.

This doesn’t mean you need completely outlandish events for a story to work. But you do need your characters not simply to take the predictable path. We shouldn’t be certain of the ending – and then be proven right.

I am sometimes bored by stories in which the characters are not strongly enough drawn. If we don’t care for the characters, we’re not going to find ourselves riveted by their situations – even if they’re in a high-velocity speedboat chase, or dangling from a cliff.

The other reason you might be bored is that the stakes aren’t high enough. There’s not much for your character to lose. Again, this doesn’t only relate to action stories: the stakes don’t have to be life or death.

If we care greatly for a priest, we will be riveted by his crisis of faith – even though the stakes are spiritual and emotional, rather than physical.

Then look at your writing. Are you writing monotonous sentences, with a repetitive rhythm, with no concern for whether those sentences are creating the effect you require.

Don’t confuse boredom with a momentary loss of confidence – the thought that the very human concerns of your characters won’t interest anyone. We are always interested in human concerns – they assail us every day.

Boredom is a different thing.

Read Richard’s latest blog: ‘Monday Motivation: All good writers were once bad writers

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