Fiction writing tip #1: Do not make things too easy for your protagonist

Here’s a writing tip from a reader: do not make things too easy for your protagonist.

I’ve been reading fiction books by new authors. They often make the protagonist struggle throughout the whole book and then suddenly give them super powers. Or sometimes they sporadically give them superpowers throughout the book. Or have magical creatures come to their aid just in the nick of time.

For example, in the book I read yesterday, the main character struggled with demons (the mythical creatures) her entire life. They killed people, they raped her, they chased her, they beat her up. And then suddenly, after several hundred pages of this, she realizes she needs other people and yells “I’m a soul catcher! Demons be gone!” and they all explode. Huh? Why didn’t she just tell them to all be gone 200 pages ago? The author could have saved us all a lot of agony.

Characters are interesting when they suffer. Especially if the problem is their own fault. We like to read about how they struggle, learn, adapt and eventually evolve and handle their problems. But the solution should not be superpowers, especially superpowers that don’t cost the character anything, no matter how much the author would love to say “demon be gone!” The solution has to be something the character has learned to do. Preferably a skill that’s hard to master and hard to apply. Otherwise, why are we reading about it?

What’s your favorite bad author pet peeve?

(Note that the book in question was well written. Dialog was good. Storyline was good. And the character did evolve – she realized she needed other people. But really, “demons be gone!”?)