The primary issues: Repetition, Wordiness, Reader Commands
I've listed below an actual paragraph from a novel one of my clients is writing. I've changed the names of the characters to protect further the confidence of my client and his/her piece. I've placed the problem text in bold red font.
Jomo rubbed his thumb over his pointer finger. The High Wizard had given him explicit instructions not to discuss the prophecy’s elements with Ambolok before their arrival at Tower Bluff, but if the man gave up before their arrival, they’d have no options at all. Ambolok craved purpose and understanding. Every man, woman, and child strove towards something to make their lives better, be it through a force of ethics or that of corruption. When a man lost purpose he lost will to survive. Infuse him with purpose, give him a target to seek and conquer, and he became a driven animal.
Jomo rubbed his thumb over his index finger. The High Wizard had given him explicit instructions not to discuss the prophecy’s elements with Ambolok until they reached Tower Bluff, but if the man gave up before their arrival, they’d have no options at all. Ambolok craved purpose and understanding. Every man, woman and child strove towards something to make their lives better, whether driven by ethics or corruption. When a man lost purpose, he lost will to survive. Infused with purpose, given a target to seek and conquer, he became a driven animal.
ISSUE #1: WORD CHOICE
It's a simple thing, and it would be acceptable for the author to leave the description of "pointer finger." However, many readers will find that awkward, and would be more comfortable with the more common "index finger." As writers, we often try to mix up our prose to keep it fresh and unique, but we occasionally outsmart ourselves in the process. Sometimes, simple is best. Remember who your customer is—the reader—and don't overdo it.
ISSUE #2: REPETITION
The phrase "before their arrival" appears twice within a 15-word segment. Repetition this close will jump out at the reader, so the author must rephrase to eliminate the rapid repetition.
ISSUE #3: UNNECESSARY PAUSE (COMMA)
Does the author need that comma after "woman?" Read the sentence aloud. Did you naturally pause at that point, or did you want to zip right through it? I'm betting on the latter.
ISSUE #4: WORDINESS
That segment—"be it through a force of ethics or that of corruption"—is a violation of one of the high commandments of effective writing: Make every word count.
ISSUE #5: COMMA REQUIRED
This is the opposite of Issue #3 above. Read it aloud. Do you want to pause after the transitional introduction, "When a man lost purpose?" Yep.
ISSUE #6: COMMANDING THE READER
Beware falling into the trap of speaking directly to the reader—of falling into a second-person narrative in the middle of a first- or third-person story. Rephrase to remain consistent.
'Til next time, and as always, remember:
To write well, you must work hard. To succeed in this tough gig, you mustn't be lazy.