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Don't Insult Your Readers

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger on Sep 6, 2012 6:02:23 AM

As a reader, I hate being spoon-fed story elements and character development. I like discovering those things on my own. When an author slaps me in the face by taking shortcuts and announcing outright what is happening with obvious details in a particular scene, I feel insulted. If a writer sets up the scene correctly, the details will find fertile ground in the reader's imagination on their own.


When I examine the great authors I enjoy reading - Steinbeck, Hemingway, McCarthy, Portis, Lee, to name a few - I am informed as much by what they don't include in their stories as what they do include.. They trust the reader. It's possible they don't even consider the reader when they write; they consider the story. A story weighted down with too many unnecessary details will surely sink. Great writers strip their stories of over-elucidation and simply open doorways to familiar emotions and experiences.


Those doorways are opened with details that are seemingly obscure, but in reality shed enough light on a situation to lead readers to draw their own conclusions about a scene. For example, if a husband becomes a widower after 50 years of marriage, don't tell me he's sad. Take me through his morning. Let me see him confronting the empty side of his bed when he first wakes up. Drinking his morning coffee in silence. Walking through his empty house. Noting the tick-tock of the grandfather clock. If you reveal these things to me, I'll not only come to the conclusion that he is sad and lonely, but I'll feel sad and lonely with him.


As a writer, you owe it to your readers to trust them. You do that by not informing them, but letting them inform themselves. Give those details that will lead them to discover what you didn't say.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Oct 21, 2014 12:46 AM mbrabbitt    says:

You should most definitely stay away from James Fenimore Cooper, then!