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A Surefire Sign You're Over-Explaining

A Surefire Sign You're Over-Explaining

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Published by K.M. Weiland
Over-explaining can manifest in several ways, but the core of the problem is always repetition—and it’s usually symptomatic of authorial insecurity.
Over-explaining can manifest in several ways, but the core of the problem is always repetition—and it’s usually symptomatic of authorial insecurity.

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Published by: K.M. Weiland on Jun 02, 2013
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08/25/2013

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Authors are in a tough spot. Readers expect us to supply them with enough infoto help them imagine our story worlds and our characters’ emotions in vividdetails. But readers also expect us to never provide
too many 
details. They wantus to explain; but they never want us to over-explain.Over-explaining can manifest in several ways, but the core of the problem isalways repetition—and it’s usually symptomatic of authorial insecurity. Wedistrust our ability to explain things well enough the first time around, so westick in a second, or even third, explanation, just to make sure readers get thepoint.But not only are these inner girders unnecessary more often than not, they alsotend to have exactly the opposite of the desired effect: instead of strengtheningour prose, they weaken it. We end up with flabby sentences, confusedmetaphors, and condescending descriptions.
Explanation Overkill
Tears welled in Keira’s eyes. She was so sad she could just cry. Herheart felt like it was about to bleed itself dry, like it was about tocrumble into a million infinitesimal pieces, like it was breaking. “Howcan you treat me like this?” she sniffed dismally.Poor Keira. She’s getting smacked around from all over the place. Not only is shesad and apparently mistreated, she’s also getting absolutely no benefit of thedoubt from her author. This example features just about every kind of over-explanation you can imagine:• Telling that’s repetitious in light of a strong example of showing.• Three metaphoric descriptive phrases where one would do.• An unnecessary dialogue tag.• A gratuitous adverb modifying that tag.
A Surefire Sign You’re Over-Explaining
http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.comhttp://www/kmweiland.com
 
Explanation Excellence
Instead of milking this dramatic moment for all its worth, we’d be better off trusting the drama itself to carry the day. We could easily cut almost all of ouroriginal explanation without weakening the effect:Tears welled in Keira’s eyes. “How can you treat me like this?” Particularly if your subtext is strong enough to indicate
why 
Keira is so upset,readers will understand she’s sad enough to cry ergo her heart is breaking ergoshe’s dismal. You don’t need to tell readers what they can glean for themselves.True enough that you can also go overboard in
avoiding
explanation. You alwayswant to give readers enough external detail to help them visualize charactersand settings and enough internal detail to help them vicariously share yourcharacter’s emotions. This is an equation to which only you can determine theright answer. But, when in doubt, err on the side of less explanation rather thantoo much. Readers are smart, and they love it when we acknowledge theirintelligence.

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