Monday, May 11, 2009

Explain or not to Explain?

To kick of The Monday Writer’s addition of my blog I am going to talk about something I have a problem with. Explain, Explain, Explain! I either go in detail too much or I don’t explain enough. As a writer you will have your strengths and your weaknesses. I hope over the next few weeks I can address some of my weaknesses, I think this will help me become a better writer. And it may help one of you reading this blog entry with your writing as well. There is a common rule with writing a scene: Show don’t tell. Me, I want to tell and explain to the reader what is going on. Example: Explaining too much: Ashley slammed her coffee mug on the table. She was horrified at what Jake had just said. How dare he? Showing: Ashley slammed her coffee mug on the table. “How dare you imply that I don’t care about my son?” She shook with disbelief. OR Kate watched as the man placed the head of the gun against Drew’s temple. This hostage situation had gone too far. “Please, just let us go and we’ll never speak of this again.” “Shut up lady or I pull the trigger!” The man shouted. Kate quickly shut her mouth to keep Drew alive. This line can be shortened to: Kate quickly shut her mouth. We know why she isn’t speaking now. We don’t need to explain. These are a couple of examples I have from my own writings that critique partners have pointed out for me. I’ve found that when I explain a lot in a manuscript I don’t feel comfortable enough with my writing. I don’t feel like I got my point across, so therefore I must explain it to the reader. After a couple of critique partners pointed this out for me, I can quickly spot it now on my own. And once I go back and re-read the scene without the extra explanation I realize the reader is going to know what is going on. And if the reader will have no clue then I know I need to re-write that particular scene. Also another problem with explaining that I’ve had is using adverbs, mainly the –ly adverbs. These words are words that explain, they tell you something they don’t show you something. With that being said I have been trying to broaden my vocabulary so that I’m not drawn to using as many adverbs. And lastly, another problem I have with explaining comes to my characters. When a character makes a movement: Kate swung her arms. I also wanted to elaborate on that. Kate swung her arms in disbelief. If the reader has read the story up until that point than they are going to know why Kate swung her arms. They aren’t going to need me to explain that. Besides if you have to explain why your character does something than I haven’t done a great job with creating my characters. My readers and I should know my characters well enough to know why or why not they act a certain way. Since a critique partner of mine has made me aware of this weakness I find that I am a much better writer. Now I am catching myself explaining during a scene, so I can quickly stop myself from over writing. Which will save me time with editing and save my critique partners a headache or twoJ What are your thoughts on explaining? Do you feel you explain too much? Or do you have another weakness with writing that you just can’t seem to grasp? Tonya XOXO

1 comment:

  1. Great post Tonia. I believe this over telling is a problem with lots of new writers. When I first started writing fiction I tended to do the opposite-- I might leave out more than I should and then I'd have to go back and fill in some details. (That journalism thing I guess.) There is a balance we need to find. As for ly words, I've always hated them and don't usually have a problem in that area.