~ The protagonists are dull or "standard mold"Think back to the stories you've read in the last few weeks. Did they have a petite blonde with the bluest of all blue eyes? Did he have little to no body hair? Not very tall? Sweet and innocent? Shy maybe? ... Yeah. The first five or six times I liked that. This kind of protagonist is an easy choice and gives readers the security of knowing what to expect. If you're in the right set of mind and WANT "that kind of story", you'll always be on the safe side if this description comes up.
Is the protagonist a buff or very buff guy? Athletic and tall? With an intimidating presence? High-end job with very good salary, but still missing something in his life? Maybe even cold hearted and frosty, until he meets "that guy"? There will probably be an ex-wife with the bitchiest of all bitchy moods in that story somewhere, and mention of that kind of protagonist is the safest sign that there will be drama and misunderstandings and a teary climax before the lovers finally understand each other and find true love.
There are many, many good stories with this set of protagonists, please don't get me wrong on this. Sometimes it just feels like the same story over and over and over. If you plan on taking on these protagonists, please make sure to have a stunning, fantastic, unbelievable idea on how to combine them and bring them together. Don't use the following clichés:
- Don't make the blond guy an IT geek. Really, please don't.
- Don't make the rich guy Bruce-Wayne-style super rich. It gives the image you only need money to get anything of real importance, and that's depressing.
- Don't let a serial killer come after cute blond guy. Give it a twist, let cute blond guy's friends be targets so he can do something besides sitting there and crying. Or maybe even let the killer come after buff rich guy? THAT'd be something new ;)
- Don't always make rich buff guy the ass that learns to love. Rich guys don't have to be asses or cold hearted to be single, although it's probably the easiest choice. But still, try to dazzle people with something new and creative!
- Don't put in a sexy wild cat of Spanish descent with no moral code whatsoever. If cute blond guy is shy and a virgin and not very outgoing, chances of him having an outgoing, crazy, sexy stripper/dancer-best-friend are around null. You need to be outgoing and fun to find friends who are outgoing and fun. People aren't normally "just nice enough" to spend their time with someone who has no common interests whatsoever. PS: Stripper/dancer doesn't equal hussy.
- Also, cute blond guy will have musky body odor just as much as rich buff guy. Please don't make him smell like a lady. Don't unman your men!
~ Don't pick a theme (or character) you can't pull throughThis is something that quite upsets me, because I'm lazy. When I'm in the mood for a kinky BDSM story, I look for kinky BDSM stories. I read the first few pages or the first chapter, and I gobble up every mention of possible kink to be had later on. I live for that kind of stuff!
Now, when I read on and the promised kink isn't delivered, if the protagonists have 99% cuddle sex and 1% of alibi kink sex, I'm unhappy. It doesn't even matter how good the story was otherwise, I just want to get what I expect, I'm intolerant that way.
I don't mean to say a BDSM story mustn't have any kind of cuddle sex, because the other extreme is just as depressing. Nobody has "only one type of sex", and most readers are still suckers for the romance part.
Point is, if you can't imagine the majority of sex between your protagonists as "lovingly kinky", if you have to make them cuddle and softly stroke each other to be able to make it romantic, you maybe shouldn't promise kink in the first place. It will be much more edgy to stumble upon kink in a story that didn't start that way than leave it out in a story that promised kink in the beginning.
Also, if your protagonist is shy and introverted, please, please, PLEASE don't stray from your own character concept right after describing him so. If you want to break him out of his shyness, do so, but build up to it. Describe a struggle, describe failures, let your readers feel what it means to overcome it, give it some kind of worth!
It's the same with fragile, unathletic geeks that run for miles or climb walls or find strength within themselves they didn't have before-- love your protagonists enough to stick to their weaknesses come good or bad situations. If you want to change something fundamental about their existence because your story won't progress without that change, build up to it. Give it more than a sentence. For someone who doesn't do sports starting to go to the gym is actually a really big deal, I checked myself. :)
~ Forgetting surroundings, thoughts or sensesIf you want your readers to be entranced by your story, you need to suck them in. Sucking someone into an idea requires anchors they recognize, like commonly known descriptions of surroundings, providing them with thought processes and opinions of your characters, and giving them some sense impressions to imagine. Smells, sounds, sights, these are things adult readers can easily remember from their every-day-life.
If a story only focusses on the interactions between the protagonists with no description of anything else whatsoever, it's hard to concentrate on it. If I can't build a mental image of what's there, I can't dive into it. Instead I'll have to spend all my energy on filling the blanks while reading and then my mind starts to wander away.
Another thing that makes it hard to focus are brand names. Every time a brand is mentioned I have to stop reading and google it, because mentioning it gives the impression that it's important in some way. If you ever used google to look for pictures you know what happens next, every single time... Two hours later I finally manage to extract myself from looking for different pictures and get back to story, sometimes having forgotten big parts of what I read before.
If you don't want that to happen to your readers, don't be lazy. Mention the brand and then describe the item just detailed enough to give your readers enough of a mental picture to keep them from falling prey to google picture search.