, ,

By Jeanne Marie Leach 

It is important to remember your readers have brains and can figure things out for themselves. I’m talking about over-explaining things because you want to make sure the reader clearly knows what’s going on in your story.

  •  Example 1: “I don’t understand why you said that to me,” Margie said, confused.

In this example, the reader discovers through what she says that Margie doesn’t understand why someone said something to her, yet the author decides to make sure they understand that she is confused. That’s not necessary, as her confusion is already demonstrated in her dialogue. Leave out “confused.” The reader is smart enough to get the confusion without the author having to tell her of it.

  • Example 2: Margie stared in disbelief at the gold watch laying on the counter in Brad’s kitchen. The second hand ticked across the scratched, white face. “Oh my! It’s the same watch Emily wore to church on Sunday!” Margie became upset because this meant Emily must have been in Brad’s kitchen sometime since Sunday evening.

The last sentence insults the reader’s intelligence because this is something they will have already figured out by themselves based on the clues already given them. The author is basically hitting the reader over the head, saying, “Don’t you get it? Emily’s watch is in Brad’s kitchen, and it wasn’t there Sunday afternoon. That means Emily has been there. This is important and you need to get this.”

In example 2, you would delete the last sentence.

Another thing to remember is not to use too much step-by-step description. I’ve seen where authors feel the need to explain each muscle twitch to their readers. This gives them something like this:

  • Example 3: Anita walked over to the kitchen cupboard, opened the door, removed a cup, shut the door, and then took the cup over to the stove where she poured some water from the tea kettle into it.

Give the reader credit for knowing what it takes to get a cup out of a cabinet. This scene could be greatly reduced by eliminating over half of it.

  • Example 4: Anita went to the cupboard, took out a cup, and poured some hot water into it from the teapot.

When you read this, you still know exactly what went on, so give the reader the benefit of the doubt that they will too. It will tighten up your writing and keep your story flowing better. Your readers will thank you for it by buying other books you write too. 🙂