Confused yet? Let me explain.
There are times when a necessary aspect of fiction might frustrate or annoy a reader; when authors know that’s the case, a great strategy to approach the troublesome point is to make it obvious that you, the author, feel the same way the reader does.
Remember: this is for necessary aspects of your work that might be annoying or troublesome.
And that is the first point I want to make. Clearly, when some part of your novel or short story is cumbersome, or frustrating, and it is possible to cut it, you cut it. If you can tone it down in any way, throw some of the focus elsewhere, you do that.
Responsible authors do what they can to avoid frustrating their readers. Sometimes, though, it’s required to annoy readers for some reason or another; when that’s the case, you as the author will generally share that same frustration, and a character will normally be to blame.
With some exceptions, the circumstances I am talking about will be the result of who your characters are and the choices they make. And that’s not something you can always change. It’s not something you should necessarily WANT to change.
For instance, let’s take the case of:
My favorite examples of this come from Jane Austen. You will never find characters more annoying than the flattering, fake, and cloying Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice. In contrast, Miss Bates from Emma might be kind and goodhearted, but she is also tedious to deal with.
Let’s face it: some people, well-meaning or not, are frustrating. They are exasperating. They drain energy. And it’s just possible your characters might have to deal with such people, which means your readers will have to read about them.
Readers are understanding and generally awesome people. They get that dealing with annoying and/or clueless people is part of life. When you have a character like this:
- make his or her role as small as you can
- don’t freak out that you know readers won’t like this person
- consider this a chance for you to bond with your readers over a shared annoyance.
Because it is that. It TOTALLY is that. All you have to do is make readers know that you understand how they feel.
You can have other characters demonstrate frustration. That gives readers an outlet. They can vent vicariously through your characters.
You can also, through a narrator, imply that you aren’t unaware that this character is difficult to handle. Sometimes a simple recognition that, “Yeah, I know. I KNOW, believe me,” is enough to help readers plow through.
A character’s choice does not make sense
This example is plot-related. Sometimes characters make choices readers don’t understand yet.
The characters DO have their reasons. And their choices WILL make sense by the end of the novel, when everything falls into place. They just don’t make sense right away.
This is a common state of affairs for us writers. We like convoluted, complex stories. And while there is always a danger readers might assume, “This plot is lousy and full of holes, so I’ll stop reading now,” it doesn’t take much to reassure readers that things will come together.
All you need is a character B to recognize that character A’s decision or action doesn’t feel right.
When a character recognizes this, your reader knows that YOU recognize this. And that is reassuring, because when readers know you understand that a plot hole ostensibly exists, they can safely assume it will clear itself up; they’ll know it’s not truly a plot hole. They just don’t have all the information yet.
Sometimes, writers need to use repetition as a literary device. (Here are 3 ways to use repetition in your writing.)
Repetition is always tricky, and some readers might feel that you’re repeating yourself a bit more than necessary, even if others need a reminder about some backstory and will appreciate that you jogged their memory.
When using repetition, it can be a good idea (depending on your style and on your story) to recognize openly that, “Yes, I know I’m repeating myself and that choice is deliberate.”
When this, happens you accomplish something very important.
Your readers might disagree that repeating yourself is a good idea. They might be somewhat annoyed. They might skip ahead.
But they will NOT judge you sloppy. They will know that you made a deliberate and artistic choice to use repetition, and most readers will respect that.
I, at least, always respect authors who have enough control over their writing to clue me in that they know what they’re doing: whether their choices appeal to me or not. That’s the difference between “a bad book” and “a decent or good book I simply did not enjoy.”
You can always use narration or dialogue to recognize, “This has been said before.” When you do, you can better influence reader interpretation of your skill and your intent.
So, what do you think about this? Please feel free to share your thoughts.