That’s the advice, repeated so often to aspiring or beginning writers (like me). And I tried to take it. I do take it, actually. Every story I write is just something I’d like to read. But now I’m wondering if that is enough. Or, if that has made me a “bad” writer. Here are my issues:
1. Story length. So, I’ve been trying like heck to write a longer story, make a more complex plot. I think I’ve done it with my NaNo WIP (though there’s no way it’s going to be done by next week). But when I read, I hate overly long books. I like straightforward, clean, fluff-free. Even extraneous plot points bother me. Sometimes I’ll finish reading a story and realize a whole three chapter plot issue was really irrelevant to the overall story, and I’ll feel just a little angry. In my writing, I get to the action and resolve it quickly. Maybe too quickly.
2. Secondary characters. I don’t like them. I read a book a few weeks back, and I liked it. But there was this whole sideline story about the MCs parents and their quirky natures and as cute as it was, it annoyed me. I didn’t care about them. I only cared about the MCs. And I resented all the page time the secondary characters had. Sometimes I realize in my writing I am so hyper-focused on my MCs, I don’t even have any secondary characters at all. Is that weird?
3. Misunderstandings and other fake-drama-makers. Hate them. I can’t write a story where all the tension comes from the MCs not dealing with each other like grown-ups. And so my stories are sometimes boring, or the tension comes from very odd external sources that are difficult to believe.
4. Alpha hero guy. Just no. I mean, I have read many alpha heroes, and I love them sometimes, but that’s not my preferred MC type. I am much more drawn to an average Joe in fiction. Mainly because they are more believable, but I also find them endearing. And more three-dimensional. Also because I’ve never met an alpha guy in real life that wasn’t an average Joe in his heart.
5. Over-the-top dramatic events. This is sort of related to issue #3, but slightly different. Gun fights, secret missions, serial killers, evil geniuses. I can’t. Sometimes I am reading and I have to stop, put the book down and honestly decide if I can even continue. So when I write, it is about real-life nonsense issues. Little things. Okay, sometimes in my paranormal books there is some wacky over-the-top stuff. But everything is fairly believable (I hope) and even if not, one crazy event, maximum. Not the roller-coaster ride of “anything that could possibly happen” that plays out in some stories.
Are these tropes and techniques necessary to a good story? No, of course not. I know that. But they are often used, and there is a reason. Readers like long stories, with a good cast of characters, usually including hot, muscle-heavy dudes, involved in some social drama, and probably defending themselves against an enemy via elaborate plans involving machine guns. My stories, on the other hand, are fairly short tales about average guys who deal with their life’s troubles in predictable ways and have open, honest conversations with their love interests. Yeah, good plan! But at least, I wrote the book I wanted to read. Right?