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Mistakes in Narration: Pitfalls for Newcomers

As a professional copywriting journalist, I understand the significance of a well-crafted narrative. It can captivate readers, evoke emotions, and even persuade them. However, storytelling is an art that demands skill, practice, and most importantly, an understanding of the common mistakes that beginners tend to make.

This article aims to highlight some of the most common mistakes in narration and how to avoid them. Whether you are a budding writer or an experienced one, mastering these mistakes can help you craft compelling stories that resonate with your readers.

Mistakes in Narration

For newcomers, these pitfalls can be a significant hindrance to their growth and development. Still, once they identify these errors and learn to avoid them, they can take their writing to a whole new level, capturing the readers’ attention and imagination.

The Importance of Narrative Flow

When it comes to storytelling, narrative flow is crucial. It refers to the way a story moves smoothly from one event to another, maintaining the readers’ interest and carrying them along in the story. A seamless flow ties each element of a story together, creating a cohesive experience for the reader.

However, it’s easy to make mistakes that can disrupt the narrative flow. Abrupt transitions, inconsistent pacing, and poorly executed flashbacks are some examples. These mistakes can result in a jarring experience for the reader, breaking the spell of engagement and negatively impacting the overall reading experience.

As a storyteller, it’s essential to keep the narrative flow in mind and ensure a smooth progression of events. To avoid disruptions, plan the story carefully, use transition phrases, and make sure the pacing matches the tone and style of the narrative. A well-executed narrative flow enhances the reader’s experience, drawing them deeper into the story.

Character Development and Inconsistencies

One of the most critical aspects of narration is creating well-rounded, believable characters. Readers should be able to relate to the characters, and their actions should align with their personalities and motivations. Consistency in character development is key to achieving this goal.

However, inconsistencies in characterization can pull readers out of the story and create confusion. For example, suddenly changing a character’s behavior without explanation can leave readers wondering if they missed something.

As a writer, it’s essential to stay true to the character you have established and ensure that their development remains consistent throughout the story. Take the time to create detailed character profiles and motivations before writing, and reference them often to avoid inconsistencies.

The Temptation of Info Dumps

While it may be tempting to include every ounce of information related to your story, doing so can overload narration with information or info dumps. This can negatively impact the pacing and overall readability of your story, leading to disinterest and confusion among readers.

Instead of overwhelming readers with unnecessary details, consider incorporating information gradually, weaving it into the story’s narrative. You can also spread it across different characters and scenes to avoid overloading a particular section.

Another useful tip to avoid info dumps is to prioritize information that is vital to the story, while cutting out anything that is irrelevant or slows down the pacing. Remember, the key to effective storytelling is not to throw everything at the reader, but to provide a steady flow of information that keeps the story moving fluidly.

Dialogue Done Right

Dialogue is a crucial element of storytelling, providing insight into characters’ personalities, relationships, and motivations. However, writing effective dialogue requires care, as several pitfalls may arise even for the most experienced writers.

One common mistake is writing unrealistic dialogue that sounds wooden or scripted. To avoid this, make sure the dialogue sounds natural and matches the characters’ personalities and situations. Additionally, using dialects and colloquialisms can add authenticity to the dialogue, making it more engaging for readers.

Another challenge is incorporating variation in speech patterns. Many writers may find it comfortable to write dialogue in a consistent tone, which can slow down the narrative flow. To prevent this, try using different sentence lengths, tones, and rhythms to create a more dynamic portrayal of the characters.

Lastly, another frequent mistake is overusing dialogue tags, which can be distracting and detract from the flow of the conversation. Instead of constantly using “he said” or “she replied”, try using action and body language to convey the speaker’s emotions or reactions.

By avoiding these narration mistakes in dialogue and applying the above techniques, writers can create lively, realistic conversations that will keep readers engaged. Remember, dialogue should always serve the story, revealing characters, advancing the plot, and adding depth to the narrative.

Show, Don’t Tell

When it comes to narration, the phrase ‘show, don’t tell’ is a crucial concept to remember. Rather than explicitly stating character thoughts, emotions, or actions, it is essential to show them through sensory details and vivid descriptions. By doing so, the readers become more engaged in the story and have a more immersive experience.

Alternatively, relying too heavily on telling the readers can make the story feel flat and lifeless, disconnecting them from the protagonist’s journey. To prevent such drawbacks, it is crucial to master the art of descriptive writing. For instance, rather than stating “Sara was angry,” one could write “Sara’s face flushed, her fists clenched, and her voice rose in frustration.” This approach provides a clear image of Sara’s state of mind, drawing readers into the story.

To achieve a well-balanced narration, it is essential to understand when to show and when to tell. Certain aspects, such as the backstory or the setting details, may benefit from telling. Simultaneously, emotions, character interactions, and crucial events are best shown through descriptions that evoke the readers’ senses. By mastering the balance between showing and telling, writers can take their storytelling skills to the next level.

Vivid Storytelling Techniques

To improve vivid storytelling, it helps to engage all five senses. Describe how things sound, smell, taste, look, and feel to transport readers to the story’s world. Additionally, try to use active voice and sensory verbs that create an immersive experience and draw readers in. Avoid using adverbs or adjectives as crutches; instead, aim for strong, precise verbs and nouns that paint a clear picture. Finally, ensure that the descriptions are congruent with the characters’ perspectives, personality, and emotional state, providing a deeper understanding of the story’s events.


In conclusion, mastering the art of narration is crucial for effective storytelling. As newcomers, it’s essential to be aware of the common mistakes that can undermine the effectiveness of your narrative. By avoiding pitfalls like inconsistent characterization, overloading narration with information, and unrealistic dialogue, you can enhance the quality of your storytelling.

Remember that maintaining a smooth narrative flow and engaging readers through vivid descriptions and sensory details are key to creating a compelling story. By focusing on these elements and avoiding narration mistakes, you can take your storytelling to the next level.

Take the time to study the craft of storytelling and practice your skills regularly. With patience and persistence, you can overcome the challenges of narration and create stories that captivate and inspire your audience.


What are some common mistakes in narration that newcomers often make?

Some common mistakes in narration that newcomers often make include abrupt transitions, inconsistent pacing, inconsistent characterization, excessive exposition (info dumps), unrealistic dialogue, and excessive telling instead of showing.

Why is maintaining a smooth narrative flow important?

Maintaining a smooth narrative flow is important because it helps to engage readers and keep them immersed in the story. Abrupt transitions and inconsistencies in pacing can disrupt the flow and make the storytelling less enjoyable.

What is the role of consistent character development in storytelling?

Consistent character development is crucial in storytelling as it helps to create believable and relatable characters. Inconsistencies in characterization or sudden changes in character behavior can confuse readers and make the story less convincing.

How can I avoid overloading my narration with excessive information?

To avoid info dumps and overloading your narration with unnecessary information, focus on incorporating only essential details that move the story forward. Strike a balance between providing enough information for readers to understand the context and leaving room for their imagination.

What are some tips for writing effective dialogue?

When writing dialogue, aim for realistic conversations that reflect the distinct speech patterns and personalities of your characters. Avoid excessive use of dialogue tags and make sure to vary sentence structures and lengths to keep the dialogue engaging.

Why is it important to “show” rather than “tell” in storytelling?

“Showing” in storytelling involves using vivid descriptions and sensory details to immerse readers in the story and allow them to experience it firsthand. Excessive telling can create distance between readers and the story, making it less engaging and impactful.

What is the takeaway from this article?

The key takeaway from this article is the importance of avoiding common mistakes in narration, such as abrupt transitions, inconsistent character development, info dumps, unrealistic dialogue, and excessive telling. By learning from these mistakes, newcomers can enhance their storytelling skills and create more compelling narratives.

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