How to Bore Your Readers

by Marg McAlister


If you're searching for sure-fire ways to bore your readers here are six guaranteed methods. Use any three and wherever you are in the world, you're sure to be able to hear the "thump" as your book is thrown at the wall. (No, wait... come to think of it, you won't hear that - because your writing will never see it to publication stage. Instead you may just catch the sound of your manuscript sliding back into the reply-paid envelope, ready to head on back to you.)

1. Use long, wordy sentences.

Readers love 'em. There's nothing they like better than to backtrack and re-read a sentence three times to try to work out what the author really meant. It's like a logic puzzle, and we all know how people get addicted to puzzles. You'll be doing insomniacs a real favour, too. Half a dozen convoluted sentences and they'll be blissfully asleep.

2. Use repetition whenever possible.

There are several great ways to bore readers with this technique.

(a) Start by beginning three or four sentences in one paragraph with the same word.
"She hurried down the street, thinking furiously. She didn't want Mark to know what she was up to. Why should she give in now? She had worked too hard for this. Turning into the building that housed the law offices, she straightened her shoulders. She was ready to fight!"
There, that'll do it. Use the same technique in several paragraphs on a page and a nice, lulling rhythm will set in.
(b) Repeat favourite sentence patterns for dialogue.
"Give it to me," she ordered, her eyes sparking dangerously. / "No sugar for me," she said, her empty stomach rumbling. / "What do you mean, he said no?" she asked, her brow furrowed in concern.
(If you're on a good thing, why change it?)
(c) Repeat the same thing in different ways to make sure readers get the message.
A good way to do this is to "show" AND "tell".
For example: "I hate you!" she yelled. Marcia really despised Jim.
"Her shirt sticking to her back, Marcia wiped the sweat from her forehead and tried to estimate how long it would take her to reach the coolness of the trees. It was so hot."

3. Use correct grammar for all dialogue no matter who is speaking.

Under no circumstances reflect actual real life speech. Do not use colloquialisms or sentence fragments, and do not allow interruptions from other characters. Make sure that everyone speaks in complete, grammatically correct sentences. You will have true peace of mind, knowing that none of your characters ever split an infinitive or ended a sentence with a preposition. (Your high school English teacher might read this, you know.)

Of course, it's much harder to make all your characters sound like individuals using this approach, but... c'est la vie.

4. Spell out the message for your readers.

We all know you can't trust readers to get the message, so make sure you leave them in no doubt. Even if your character's thoughts and actions show repentance or a lesson learned, add a paragraph or two to ensure that readers really GET it.

You know the sort of thing: "Marcia realized that she had been selfish and irresponsible. From that moment on she would be a different person." Or: "It was a hard lesson that Jim learned that day. Friends were more important than possessions."

Sure, a few readers who DID get it through the action of the story might grit their teeth or mutter "Aarrghhh! I hate moralising!" but so what? Your job is to make the world a better place. If that means being a teeny bit obvious, well, surely readers will forgive you. They know your heart is in the right place.

5. Wax lyrical about the setting.

Describe the character's environment as fully as possible. (It's all in the details.) You can't possibly do justice to a sunset or beautiful antique furniture in just a few words. Impress the reader with your talent as you describe the vibrant hues of the reddening sky, the gentle whisper of the breeze, the darkening silhouettes of trees and boats. (It's always a good idea to throw in a few words the reader won't know to challenge them a bit, too. Readers need to learn to keep a dictionary at hand to improve themselves.)

You may find that after a page and a half of description the pace of your story has slowed a tad, but don't worry. Uneducated readers who don't appreciate your work can always skip the "boring bits".

6. Be predictable.

Make it easy for readers to guess what's coming next. They love to feel smarter than the author, so pander to them. No surprise endings. No cunning little twists. Oh, and it's best to use a plot or storyline that's been used again and again so readers are securely in their comfort zone.

Fill your stories with stereotypes - the reader will have read about these many times over the years, so they'll recognise them without even having to think. You know the type: the kindly apple-cheeked grandmother; the ruggedly good-looking hero; the corrupt politician; the attractive female DA; the crusty judge; the bumbling but brilliant detective; the long-suffering wife.

These are but a few of some tried-and-true ways to bore your reader stupid. With creativity you can probably come up with plenty more... have your character agonise at length about obvious decisions; over-explain your character's actions... it's a wide-open field.

If you really apply yourself you should never, ever have to face the stress of actually having a book published.

© Marg McAlister


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