October 7, 2013

Readers are more intelligent than we think

Dear M,

As writers, often we fail to see from the reader's angle. We forget that they are intelligent folk too, who know a lot about the world, and that they can piece clues or hints together and arrive at the same conclusion as we had intended. We don't have to explain everything to them.

Again, we do not notice how much we over-explain in our own writing. As readers, we may notice it in others' writing, but it takes time to see the tiresome repetition in our own - the obvious plot points explained unnecessarily, over and over again, as though the reader is a child. If you are writing a children's book, or even a young adult, a little amount of explanation could be justified.

That's what editors do, most of the time: they remove the bulk of things the writer has unnecessarily elaborated.

For example:
She opened the bottle of poison and took a swig. An hour later, she was dead. She had committed suicide. The poison had killed her.
See what I mean?

Readers are very sharp people. Every line they read, they try to figure out what's going to happen next, they try to predict the ending, they try to find the murderer before the protagonist does. The author knows what's going to happen, so the reader's vision is denied him/her. In most cases, the reader's suspicion would be on the real murderer even hours before the protagonist begins to even seriously suspect him. The least we could do is to make the story travel up interesting and unexpected alleys before bringing the culprit to his knees.

This applies to normal stories too - I used the whodunnit model to explain things better. Wait - am I not over-explaining it a bit?


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