Eric S Raymond nails a list of symptoms to look for as warnings signs that a book may be unreadable…
1. Evinces desire to be considered “serious artist”.
2. Idea content is absent or limited to politicized social criticism.
3. Heroism does not occur except as anti-heroic mockery.
4. All major characters are psychologically damaged.
5. Wordage devoted to any character’s interior monologues exceeds wordage in same character’s dialog.
6. Repeated character torture, especially of the self-destructive variety.
7. Inability to write an unambiguously happy ending. In advanced cases, the ability to write any ending at all may be lost.
There are more at Warning Signs of LSE, very funny, and on point!
Jonathan Lightfoot muses on Human Wave on the small screen over at his blog. ” “Science Fiction is metaphorical, a way to study ourselves.” Which is one good way to see it. The question is what type of metaphors does it choose? Which ones are the popular ones?”
So here’s my take-away from these, quickly…
1. Have fun with it! If you aren’t having fun, your reader likely isn’t either. Although serious moods are important, so also is that inappropriate laugh-out-loud moment when they are reading in public. Don’t be afraid to be labeled a hack, be proud!
2. Have big ideas. Not politics, which are narrow-minded, petty, and fleeting, but “what will become of humanity when we reach the stars?” or “What makes us human?” or “Freedom!” But for heaven’s sake, story first, then slip a little message in there. NO preaching!
3. Have a real hero. Corny, sappy, romantic in the old-fashioned sense… male or female, make this character someone they will want to jump to their feet and cheer for.
4. How about a regular joe plunged into a bad situation? How avant-garde would that be: a character who grew up in a happy, nuturing family and is in a stable relationship? I can hear the gasps now.
5. Um… yeah. see what I said about not having fun. Don’t bore your reader. navel-gazing is NEVER exciting.
6. Look, no one likes a whiner. And no one likes to be made to flinch all the time, either. If your character is too stupid to live, thake them out behind the woodshed and put them out of our misery.
7. Endings are important. This ties into the hope… you might be able to get away with killing a mian character, but there must be a PURPOSE for a death, or a major sacrifice. Don’t leave the reader dangling off the cliff with no hope.