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
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.
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