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January 11, 2023

            I’ve alluded to this issue many times here at Fred Central. What’s the difference between a bad/mediocre book or a great one? A very good indication is how long it takes to read it.

            I’m not talking about slow readers, but fast readers who get bogged down in endless narrative, super long chapters, awkward phrasing, tedious plots.


            Not just looking at my own reading, my wife is a good indicator. She reads fantasy almost exclusively. Along with her are several friends who are readers and not writers. This is what I get.

            “I didn’t think I’d ever get to the end of that chapter.”

            “I didn’t think I’d ever get to the end.”

            “He/she keeps repeating the same plot thing over and over again.”

            “The ending sucked.”

            “The author writes these weird and awkward sentences.”

            “There’s almost no punctuation.”

            “The names are indecipherable.”

            Folks, I hear this stuff all the time. Many of the books are popular but I guess it takes a certain crowd to get through them intact.

            Then on the opposite side, I’ve seen plenty of reviews from people like this:

            “The thinly veiled characters…”

            “The author never fleshed out the characters.”

            “The basic plot didn’t warrant the story.”

            “I never knew the characters.”


            Back to my mantra of not punishing your reader, how can you come to a happy medium.

            Plots, for instance, are all the same. There’s a book or saying somewhere that there are only seven plots. No matter how you twist it, it comes down to one of those seven.

            I wonder why the critics are always griping about the simplistic plots???

            Fleshing out the characters can be done quick and dirty, or drawn out. You don’t really learn anything new, it just takes a lot longer to get there. Is that what they mean by fleshing out the character? More words?

            Super long or even no chapters or scenes makes for a real slog of a read. Over and over again I’ve said not to punish the reader. That means shorter and more succinct chapters and scenes. You can say the same thing in a more palatable form.

            Back to characters again, getting to know the character doesn’t take endless paragraphs of narrative and exposition, where a few simple words or phrases can do the same thing.

            Some people are never satisfied with the characterization, no matter how simple or elaborate you are. If they don’t like the characters in the first place…there you go.


            The average reader only has so much time to sit down and read as it is. Wouldn’t it be nice to get to the point and not waste their time?

            Okay, some readers have a literary bent when they invest in words as much as what you’re trying to say. For these few, investment in word count is important. Sure, you have to actually say something, but for a literary reader, it needs to be drawn out.

            In most cases, the reader doesn’t have time to stop and smell every rose, get excruciating details about the environment, the character’s endless internal thoughts.

            In most cases, the average reader wants you to get to the point so they can enjoy the overall story. This is becoming even more critical nowadays with TV and phones, video games and ADHD.

            It behooves you to get to the point.


            It all gets back to that phrase, “It took me forever to finish that book.”

            That should tell you something. For whatever reason, the reader didn’t like something about the book and it was a real slog.

            Don’t let your story turn into a slog for the reader.

            Happy writing!

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