Why is this story boring?
0xa32e
June 9th, 2022

Some story are interesting, some are not. You tend to read an interesting story slowly, word by word; while skipping and skimming uninterested stories, hopefully getting to some interesting part where we slow down, then start skipping/skimming again after that. But what makes a story boring? Too much details.

Note: these are one’s opinions. Different people have different opinion, attracted to different style, so observe your audience before deciding what style to adapt. Also note that, whatever style you write will have complainers. It’s impossible to make everyone happy, which is why we only make our target audiences happy.

First, too much details. An interesting story have feasible length. Great authors tend to write at a suitable high- or mid-level, deliberately ignoring details when necessary. On the other hand, new writers gets too excited by every single details, every single finger movement, every single specifics of how and why things work, and put them all down. It’s okay to put minute details down if you’re writing a scientific lab book or report; but not for general audiences. Our brain is designed to ignore details that we don’t need to care about, and be aware that different people are attuned to different details that they care about. Writing in minute details, we enforce others to read what we care about, which they probably don’t care about. The clashes of attuned details causes readers to lost interest in your work. Write your first draft with all the details, rewrite it by cancelling out the details, and rewrite again for neatness. If you love details, you’ll probably find that you can delete more than 50% of your writings (in a single blog post/story).

Second, abuse of “because”. Similar to previous paragraph, “because” puts details that most probably aren’t necessary. Not everyone is logical, at least one hate it when people talks like: “____ because ____ because _____ because…” as if they need to explain every single thing, finding that their explanation itself isn’t clear hence put another “because” to explain their explanation and repeat. Even a single “because” every sentence causes irritation. It’s okay to just mention the first sentence blurrer, and only explain when your audience demands explanation. Usually, when we find ourselves using “because”, its most probably we are weak at putting things straight and easy to understand in the first part of the sentence (anything before the first “because”). Even in scientific area, we use “because” because we make our first sentence too generic. Let’s take two examples.

OriginalSimplified
Apple falls from the tree because gravity acts on it.Gravity causes apple to fall from the tree.
Your experiment fails because you forgot to add chemical B.Without chemical B, the experiment fails.

The two examples above suggests we could get straight to the point without adding the annoying “because”. Remove your “because” with clearer sentence.

Third, story too long. And it’s worse when you have multiple long stories! If you play AAA games, you might noticed how storyline goes. They have chapters, and each chapter is one story. It’s annoying when players got stuck in one story without visible progress for too long. For example, maybe a long chapter requires completing 3 storylines (main quest) before moving on. Interesting stories does have long story, but they’re exceptional, rare, and usually only one or two exist (one in the middle, and perhaps the final chapter). It’s the variable in length, a mix of long and short story, and average story of feasible length, that retains its audiences. Similar situation applies for writing. The novel one read tries to emulate games, but with every story length similar to the longest of stories. It’s as if the writer writes for the words rather than interestingness of the story. When the pace of the story proceeds too slowly, it starts getting boring. Moreover, when the story end result is gaining 3-4 level ups plus a bunch of chests and (albeit stronger) game objects, it’s even more boring. Boringness come from familiarity between stories; and if you don’t make surprises within familiarity, it lose its audiences.

Next, multiple quests at once. A great story direct its audience in one direction with one single action. If your game or story includes more than the main quest, once or twice is fine, but each and every single story is unbearable. Author assumes multitasking is interesting, when in fact it isn’t. One, whom used to be a multitasker until one forces oneself to become a single-tasker, appreciate one’s act to eliminate multitasking. Multitasking means our brain switches very quickly between multiple tasks, so quick that we thought we are doing multiple things at once. With constant switching, your brain quickly gets tired, we cannot calm ourselves down to focus on a single object once we’re in that switching state, and we eat Panadol (a painkiller) often. If most of the sub-stories contains “main quest + side quest 1 + side quest 2” and halfway discover “side quest 3 + side quest 4”, it’s doomed. It’s like someone whom take two plates of rice when they can only eat one. A good story don’t diverge itself from the main story most of the times. A story with diversion should be an exception that aims to attract audience interest from the usual story that doesn’t have a diversion (with perhaps other interestingness from other factors); it should not be the norm.

Also, repeating the past. It’s tempting when we talk (even in normal conversation) about something, then suddenly we remember something of the past and we diverge our storyline to the past, perhaps never finishing the main conversation. Even if we did come back after diverging to the past, the past “details” usually can be safely ignored. So, this is still “too much details”.

Circle in red are unnecessary visit to the past, every few sentences from the main storyline (the top line).
Circle in red are unnecessary visit to the past, every few sentences from the main storyline (the top line).
Speaking about the pastFocusing on the Present
Finally, we attain this mythical sword! But then again, we have seen this sword in the shop from 10 chapters ago. Back then we’re interested in this sword and has been working to get this sword for too long. Then about 5 chapters ago, we almost have enough money to get this sword, but a difficult quest comes up and we need to buy the legendary shield so we can get through that level; otherwise we’d get stuck. And about 3 chapters ago we almost can get this sword again, but we got diverged into some stories that if we don’t complete, we cannot level up; and that story requires us buying a few hundreds of health potion or we might die from boss fight. Anyway, now that we have the mythical sword we can fight that superboss.Finally, we attain this mythical sword. Let’s go and fight that superboss!

Can you see the difference in length conveying the same information? Can you imagine that an author whom tap into the past every few sentences from the main storyline, like the diagram we draw above? Once or twice in a single sub-story (if long story) or a single story (if story is short) is fine; but tapping into the past too often wash away the main storyline. Perhaps the audience forget why they read the story in the first place, or what the story wants to convey in the first place. Avoid speaking about the past most of the time.

Conclusion

A story retain its audiences by staying focus on a single subject and avoiding unnecessary details. Too much details overload your readers, confusing them with what’s the end goal in mind. Multiple subjects, you might finished your main quest halfway without closing it yet because the side quests is still ongoing. Boring stories are written for the words, not the audience. Interesting stories states the end goal at the beginning, and closes upon reaching the end goal. Interesting stories also avoid unnecessary details. Even for oneself, sometimes one speaks unnecessary details to great length, and you’re welcome to leave me a useful feedback to cut out the unnecessary details by visiting my read.cash and just post in any article’s comment (even if it’s unrelated to the specific article). Thanks for reading.

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