What are your “red flags” in books?


Infodumps—prologues, first chapters, or just plopped in the middle of the action. I’d rather figure out why a character is behaving a certain way than being told they suffered … Twenty years ago.

Grammar and punctuation

The Great Wall of Text (lack of paragraphing)

Chapters that are summaries of the actual story and not anything written in real time.

Present tense (third tense is like “said” for a dialogue tag—it flies under the radar and doesn’t get in the way of the story)

Wake up starts

Stories that start with anything other than dialogue or action

Bad pacing

Obvious ripped off plots from famous shows or books

Artistic Fanfiction that changes the personalities of the characters, or uses the exact dialogue and describes the action in a film with very little changes… Except maybe my all-time turn-off: fanfic author insert who now does everything canon characters used to do (eg., Blow up the Death Star)

@nick :goat::goat::goat::goat::goat: some goats for the Goat Lord.


What am I here for? Red flags?


Yes. I’m sure you can give us your advice. I hear you’ve read it all. :grinning:


Is this an elaborate plot to get me to reveal things we look for when evaluating paid content?


Absolutely not. I only write fanfic and nonfic.

Just looking for the Goat Lord. Surprised you’re on this late, actually.


Red flags I look for?

Prologues that are really chapter one, which isn’t how prologues work.
Alarm clocks, describing the outfit being worn, checking themselves in the mirror to start, etc
A person running through a forest being chased by a thing that they keep looking back at, etc
A fantasy villager/farmer/peasant who is minding their business when they get a knock on the door/note delivered when the knights show up, etc

Anyone who submits a serious application to us but the opening of the story downsells their ability “ty for reading, i’m super bad at writing XD but yea” People shouldn’t downplay their abilities, they should have pride in their work, writing is really hard. And if you’re going to submit it for serious consideration, make sure you take it seriously. It’s very much like a job application or interview. You would not get hired if you opened with “I’m pretty bad at microsoft office XD”


Generally if you try to sell me on the world or lore or anything in the story before you sell me on why I should care about the character, then I’m out. You can have the most intriguing, elaborate world built up with some incredible lore. But the question for me will always be “but why do I care?” You’re asking me to learn history, culture, magic systems, school schedules, relationships, CIA codenames, apocalyptic worlds, new planets, werewolf castes before telling me why I should be invested. Those things are interesting but not in a vacuum. They have to be attached to something.

Also, anything that cares more about the quality of its prose than the intrigue of its plot. People have written very technically impressive paragraphs. From an academic language standpoint, they’re impressive. But that doesn’t make good storytelling. I’ve said that before, people get over invested in writing properly or cleanly or the best and neglect the storytelling component


Agree, agree, agree. You just spoke what I couldn’t get out of my poor head.

Thank you for visiting, Mighty Goat Lord.


If your tense is inconsistent at all you might as well kiss any possibility of me reading your book goodbye. Period.




ohmigosh I think I love you


When the blurb is “Read inside” or something along those lines.
I don’t have problem if the blurb is not that good because it is not easy to write, but if you can’t even try or put some work then I am leaving.

Prologue which is the same as first chapter. Even something that is going to happen later on is OK, though that is not how prologue works. (I admit I have done that mistake before.)

Bad grammar. Mostly tenses.

Switching pov. No. Not the person who is speaking. But like this I liked out of the window and saw the hot guy standing there and she thought how awesome it would be if she could get him as her bf This change in pov. Jumping from first to third.

Info dumps Start a story with how the world is and give flowery descriptions or too much description of the mc 's looks, again I stop reading. I look in the mirror every morning bit never have I stopped to admire my Straight, black, long hair that flows up-to my waist or Deep brown eyes…
Tbh, I am not sure what is my exact eye colour.

Yeah these are my red flags.


Wait? Alarm clocks?

  • “werewolf”
  • “misunderstood”
  • “he/she is totally ordinary but also not like other boys/girls”
  • Token characters. I mean literally having a character in a hijab so that all her problems can be about how people feel about her hijab and her only thoughts and motives as a character are about her hijab and she only exists in the story for the main characters to look good by defending her and then she never speaks again. See also token wheelchair character or token blind / deaf character for the same purposes.
  • Painfully transparent pushy author agendas, especially that are terrible advice or in no way translate to the real world
  • “highschool”
  • Characters who are already in bed, in love, giving each other massages, ravenously flirting or following each other home within a paragraph of meeting.
  • “powers”
  • “chosen one”
  • “but not characternamehere, characternamehere was special”
  • Parents died inexplicably as an excuse for protag to have no societal expectations and can do whatever they want “because how cool is that!?”
  • Bathroom humor
  • Right off the bat characters are named things like Zwayne Black Ribbon-sky and Torangela Night Magic especially when it’s set in modern day in a normal universe and other characters are named Britney.
  • Horrible horrendous and shocking impossible things happen and the protag immediately accepts it and doesn’t care at all about this world scattering revelation like “dragons are real” and “animals can talk.”
  • Protags that throw their entire life out the window because the plot/some character said to, not because they had any actual reason to.
  • (authors talking like this in the middle of the story XDXD LOL ovo anywayyyyy)
  • Characters knowing things only the author or other characters should know, inexplicably.

The list goes on and on.


Yes, that’s the point I was trying to make - punctuation rules are inconsistent, so judging hard on punctuation is a bit harsh imo.


Clichès and tropes. Give me a new twist on something we know. Surprise me. Make me smile, make me think wow.
Don’t make me yawn.

Purple Prose - I’ll spot it from afar and will run the other way. Hone your writing until it dazzles and shines instead of making it flash and go me, me, me.

Too many plot holes, things that don’t match up, dust bunnies under your literary carpets. Yes, we all write first drafts (or second or thirds). Nothing on WP is print- ready.
Doesn’t matter. It just needs to WORK.

Give me characters, not cardboard cutouts. Real people with real motivations (or unreal ones, if you write fantasy). I want to live somebody else#s life.

Storytelling, the point Nick raises above. I read to escape, give me a gate to the nearest black hole, the forests of Nevermore, the haunted beer cellar - whatever. Just get me outta here.

And voice. I want voice. It’s hard to do, probably the hardest of all. Even a story that has been told many times before can become special simply through voice.
(How? A good question. Showing instead of telling and a unique style.

I woke up, looked at the alarm clock and realised with shock that I was late for class again.


Lost in slumberland for what felt like an eternity, I only woke up when a rap session broke out in my bedroom. A blurry look from sleep-glued eyes reassured me. Only the radio alarm.
Oh bugger.
Late again.
My teacher would kill me


You know… when the first paragraph of your book looks like this.

“Annn-ahh!!” my mother called from down the stairs. “You’re going to be late for school!”
I groaned and rolled out of my bed. Ugh. I hate school.

etc etc etc

It’s just horribly clichéd and boring.




See… now :sob:



You need to give reasons for behavior and even more for changes in behavior.

EX: the ‘bad boy’ is morose and sullen (why?) and doesn’t socialize, but he suddenly latches on to the 'nerdy (meaning what?) girl. (Again why?) You’d better give me better reasons than ‘love’. Not that I discount love, but that’s not the initial attraction. Is he sullen and morose because of personal loss or other circumstances? Does she remind him of someone he lost, or someone who was nice to him? Do they possibly share a passion for something (even if his is secret?).

People can do dumb things for dumb reasons, but they have to make some kind of sense or I don’t buy it. People need compelling reasons to grow, and often have to be forced into a corner to change. You have to study human nature to be able to make a character’s reasoning work and you always have to give some kind of reason for what they do, or they come off as robots or flat.


I’m one to talk with a character named Cyane but I don’t mind if they’re names that fit the characters and story. He and his sister Jade are Californian kids and moved to London so everyone around them has very British names and they’re a little out of place. That is an acceptable name deviation. Maybe characters have canonical odd parents who name their kids stuff like morning sunshine rainbow, or maybe they’re in a universe where names like that are the norm.

But what I know is going to be a sign of a bad story is when you can tell someone just thought of dramatic words or Googled “unique cool sounding names” and went with the first three for their main characters. I just know everything else is going to be swell.


Here’s my character named fork in Chinese, a character named Fortitude Magnimus and another named Wellyroseworth Pansybottom Lipstick-rose. Then the mom is named something like Jessica because she’s not “cool” enough for a “cool” name.