Musings, Observation

The Unsatisfying Story


I admit without shame that I am an avid reader.

However, I am running out of good stories to read.

Although I am not particularly picky when it comes to genres – romance, suspense, mystery, etc., it pains me to say the absence of certain attributes will get me to lose interest in stories I used to read from cover to cover.

The absence of depth

Nothing bothers me more than characters who only executes actions instead of experiencing them. I expect them to react, to have feelings, impulses, and knee jerk reactions to their struggles. Senses are what make us feel alive; can this spill over to the narrative of stories? Can I feel with the characters?

Absolutely! Reading is a way to flex that empathy muscle we all have.

The characters’ lives and struggles written on the first degree are insipid. There is always more something that occurs than what we see. That woman who cries in public is not necessarily depressed; she might have just received a disheartening news. That man staring at the river from the bridge doesn’t necessarily want to jump. He might just like to look at water because it gives him some measure of peace while he tries to make important decisions. There is always more than the action… there are motives, feelings, goals, and circumstances. Authors, share some of those with your readers.

The Cookie Cutter Story

It is often said that boredom kills… and this is exactly what happens with cookie cutter stories. It kills the joy you experience when reading. This is the “you-read-one-you-read-them-all” stories. No matter who the author is, you read their stories and feel like they shared the same template and religiously built their story to fit into the template. Variations in the stories are minimal, the pace is similar, the main points are found in relatively the same spots. From one story to the next one and the other dozen ones, the stories are similar and only the names and locations differ… same type of conflicts, same sequence of actions, same solutions to similar obstacles… in a few words… “same stuff, different pile”.

Too much predictability is a kill-joy, your readers need to be caught off guard, to be surprised.

Good Riddance

Authors, get rid of the following:

  • the fist in the mouth: overly dramatic and fake. Nobody does this in real life!
  • the helpless heroines and the overly macho Neanderthals: helplessness is not cute and stupid men too close to reality. Bring complexity to your characters. If I wanted to read a simple story, I would head to the kids’ section at the library.
  • the princess and her prince template: life is not all fluff, it tests our mettle. Characters should reflect life; it makes them real, relatable, and sympathetic even.

Be creative, surprise us, help us grow, write about relatable characters. Reading should leave us a little taller, a bit wiser, a bit more peaceful.

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