What you don’t know as a writer, your reader has no hope of knowing.

I will sometimes see phrases in stories like “her hair was sort of a sandy brown” or “Tommy didn’t know what to think about the strange man” or “At this point even I don’t know where I’m going to go.” This last one is a real line from a story I recently read. It is the last line in the story. Yikes.

Any time a character doesn’t know something it is because the author doesn’t know either. When the author doesn’t know or hasn’t stopped long enough or thought deeply enough to know, he or she will often write these kinds of sentences. I know. I have done it. When we do write these sentences we think we are being subtle or insightful. We aren’t. We are blowing our reader’s focus and enjoyment – if we’ve been graceful enough to earn it to begin with.

Your reader will stumble over these kinds of statements. Your reader will be frustrated. There is a lot your reader doesn’t know. They don’t need to read a book to find that out. Your reader wants definitive, conflict-ridden judgments, observations, and exclamations. Your reader doesn’t want to hear or see a character stumbling around in wonderment. That is what real humans do, not successful characters in stories. Successful characters know what they are thinking and how they feel. And they are written by authors who do too.