Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Too Much or Too Little?

In a couple of posts last week, I talked about Showing, Not Telling. In those, I recommended you not go into lengthy detail about some item, process, procedure, etc., unless it was really necessary to your book. I'd like to continue with that discussion today.

As a book consultant, I've read manuscripts that fell on both sides of this issue. On the too lean side, I edited a manuscript which dealt with a new way of finding fingerprints. The author simply called it by name and went on his merry way. Turns out this new procedure and how it was used was important to the plot and the climax, yet a reader without previous specialized knowledge would have been left scratching his or her head at the ending. The author needed to go back and put in a brief explanation, then a reinforcement of the information through letting the readers see the method in use by a character.

I've also read manuscripts which fell too heavily on the other side. They went way overboard on explanation. Most authors pick a subject or theme for a book. That's fine. I rather expect it as a reader. But don't beat me over the head with it. Years ago, I read a novel by a well-known author, whom I really like, incidentally. There was, of course, murder and mayhem going on in the book, but what I most remember is mushrooms, the growing, the harvesting, the many varieties, the color, the texture, the ... you get the idea. By the time I finished the book, I didn't ever want to even see a mushroom.

Of course, someone else might read that same book and be ever so enthralled by the mushroom aspect.

Tomorrow, I’ll use a published author as an example.


  1. Great discussion, Helen. I look forward to more on the topic! Good things to job our memory when we get "lost" in telling our stories!


  2. Part of why I keep reading blogs or reading/re-reading books on writing.


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