The story is not in the plot but in the telling.Ursula K Le Guin
Oh no, you didn’t! Did you just- No, no… Please tell me you didn’t:
Number 1: Kill The Pet
“Fluffykins was innocent, you monster!“
Now, obviously, there’s a time and a place where this works perfectly, and I’m not saying never ever do it, but… Come on, people! Don’t just introduce a warm fluffy/scaly/cute pet just to make me cry when it’s taken away a few chapters later.
A) That’s a cheap trick, and B) I will hate you for it.
If you’re going to kill a pet, you better have a darn good reason for it, and it better be rock solid because it’s not just me who hates this. Simply google killing pets in stories, and you’ll be INUNDATED with examples of people complaining about this. If you have a good reason – i.e. it’s necessary for the plot – then go ahead, but really think about it. There’s a great episode of Writing Excuses that talks about this, and I highly recommend you give it a listen (it’s only 15 minutes long!)
Number 2: Make Me Skip Paragraphs in Self Defence
“Please, Lord, Make it Stop!”
Your character’s beautiful/horrible/has long hair/big boobs/enchanting eyes. WE GET IT. Please, please, please stop telling us about them every time they appear in a scene! We don’t need to be reminded about her DD’s or his 20-inch cock of doom once we’ve been told about it unless it’s pivotal to the scene because we’re not dumb.
We can, in fact, remember a character description. And on the flip side, we don’t need to be told precisely what they’re feeling every single moment. We can figure it out from their dialogue, what they choose to observe and how they react to the people around them/their surroundings.
I’m not saying you’re a bad writer. I’m not. And I have read MANY stories that were literally PAINFUL because I adored the premise behind them, but before you put your work out into the world, please read through it. Pass it through a spell checker and send it to some TRUTHFUL friends.
Hell, one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was to read my work aloud. It did wonders for me, especially for my dialogue. If you’re having trouble parsing what you’ve written, then the chances are that it needs a bit more work. And if you realise that you’ve used the same turn of phrase five times in the same paragraph, you’ve just saved yourself a LOT of painful feedback!
Number 3: Split Up The Couple For Drama
“I know we’ve loved and trusted each other up until now, but I’ve chosen this arbitrary point to doubt you and now our relationship’s in peril.”
OH MY GOD, STOP! Don’t do it! Just NO! I get that a plot needs tension, and I know that people argue…a lot…but if your couple has always gotten through things by talking it out/trusting each other until now, then DO NOT break that pattern! This is the number ONE reason I’ll walk away from your story, especially if it’s a romance.
If a conflict can simply be solved by them talking to each other, then you better have a darn good reason why they can’t. Why can’t they just pick up a phone if they’re a continent apart? If they live in the same house, why aren’t they opening their mouths and asking the question that’s on their mind? If they’ve been tricked into betraying each other, why aren’t they telling the other person that X lied to them? Unless they’re a narcissist, it’s incredibly rare that their ego would stop them from admitting that someone fooled them to the love of their life.
If your plot hinges on a misunderstanding, then set the groundwork first. Have your characters be mistrustful. Have them make mistakes and doubt other characters as well. Don’t simply flip a switch and have them act entirely out of character for the sake of the plot because your readers will walk away. They won’t finish your story, and they will feel betrayed.
Character consistency is the NUMBER ONE priority for an author, so my advice is practice, practice, practice. Hand your work to people and listen to their feedback. If betrayal is what you’re going for, then go all in, but make sure that it’s in character and that they can’t solve the ‘problem’ with a simple conversation.