Friday, October 28, 2005

Explaining Too Much When Writing?

I had this in my fortune cookie:
Sometimes a little inaccuracy can save a lot of explaining.

Don't you just love it?
So true.

But does it apply to writing?
I think not.

Categories: , ,

26 comments:

Gina said...

No, No, I disagree. I think that alot of writers take "creative liberty" with facts so they don't have to explain alot. Sci Fi writhing is a good example...I think explaining alot of science in detail can take away from the story.

Patry Francis said...

When you're inaccurate, I'm afraid you end up bogged down in explanations later. Readers are very alert to errors.

redchurch said...

I'm seeing two things here: Explaining too much about concepts or backstory, and explaining too much of the plot.

I think the former is worse than the latter.

I've been reading a lot of noir detective fiction--Chandler, Hammett, and I notice that the detectives often form deductive reasoning or conclusion without any explanation to the reader. Suddenly they just have it "all figured out" and start acting as if they know the answers even when the answers haven't been revealed to the reader. In this case, I feel the plot could be explained a little more, or the reader could have been allowed into the deductive reasoning more so as to understand what's going on.

I dislike over-explanation when it pertains to concepts or backstory though. It seems every novel starts with 50 pages of build up explanation of the world and the characters, and why they are where they are.

*SNORE*

I really don't care. Show me along the way, or if the details aren't important don't explain at all!

A lot of it is just exposition and presentation though...

rdl said...

I think I like Redchurch's summation. Plus I believe in poetic license and whatever works.

ObilonKenobi said...

I think that even in writing a little ambiguity or inaccuracy can save a lot of explaining later. All plotlines or descriptions don't need to be 100% refined. Somethings can be left a little ambiguous purposely to leave the reader wondering or to avoid having a 10,000-page book.

Melly said...

Gosh, you all made excellent points that I agree with.

Gina, it's so true what you said: "explaining alot of science in detail can take away from the story"

I also fully agree with everything you said, Patry, especially "Readers are very alert to errors."

redchurch, your two opposite examples are both valid:"In this case, I feel the plot could be explained a little more," BUt "I dislike over-explanation when it pertains to concepts or backstory though."
Indeed, different situations call for different measures.

rdl, indeed, I too "believe in poetic license"

ObilonKenobi, exactly my thoughts "Somethings can be left a little ambiguous purposely to leave the reader wondering"

Seems this is issue is far from being black and white, which would make sense as few issues truly are.

her-oine said...

I don't even understand how it can be true to real life?

Hi, I have a new writing blog, it's great to find other writing blogs out there, too!

Terry said...

Hi Melly, as usual I'm just here snuffling up pearls. As a reader (I'm far to junior to call myself a real writer) my favorite writers leave enough omissions to keep me guessing, but enough clues that I can either figure it out, or slap my head afterwards for NOT figuring it out.

Lee Carlon said...

I think it's true, if I find inaccuracies in a book it tells me I don't have to bother reading the entire book.

melly said...

Hi Her-oine and welcome to the blogsphere :)
Sometimes it just is. Sometimes, instead of explaining exactly where you went, you can simply say you drove north of the city. It seems to satisfy most people and sure saves you a lot of explaining on where exactly...
(Just a small example)

Terry, yes indeed, good writers seem to know the balance between what to tell and what to keep.

Lee, I remember your stance on the accuracy thing, so I can definitely understand where you're coming from. But surely you must admit that info dumps annoy you as much as they do others, don't they?

Carter said...

I definitely think accuracy is important, but I also think we can leave a lot up to the reader's imagination. Do they really need to know what the narrator looks like? Is that really important to the story? Sometimes a hint is plenty good enough to hook the reader into helping create the imaginary world.

That's a short story writer's perspective, anyway.

melly said...

Carter, I totally agree, but let me just add that I think sometimes we confuse accuracy with consistency. That's probably more important, or one is just a manifestation of the other... I'm confusing myself

Lee Carlon said...

But surely you must admit that info dumps annoy you as much as they do others, don't they?

Absolutely. I wasn't talking about info dumps, but rather inaccuracies in the writing. I think a lot of info can be left out, but wouldn't call that an inaccuracy.

ME Strauss said...

I take it to mean the same as

" . . . and the names were changed to protect the innocent." :)

Mark Daniels said...

I think that someone was just indicted in Washington, D.C., for taking that attitude.

Melly said...

Lee, I with info-dumps I meant the explaining part, not the inaccuracy part. I guess I was talking about info dumps as explaining "accurately" while sometimes, a little 'wash' can be enough.
It all depends on how it's all done I guess. As long as the reader doesn't feel the inaccuracy or the wash... But who am I kidding. readers are extremely perceptive.

Lis, yes ofcourse, and there's that aspect as well. Thanks for bringing it up.

LOL Mark. Indeed you're right.
Luckily we're talking about little things like being inaccurate to your mother-in-law so that she would leave you alone. Not inaccurate in the amount of income declared... :)

Eric Mutta said...

In real life I equate it with telling a "white" lie (e.g the typical answer to "honey, does this dress make my...").

In writing I equate it either laziness or covert marketing. With fictional works, a little innacuracy at one point, can be transformed into a twist at another point, that then sparks rumours on internet messageboards, which then creates demand for an explanation, which naturally mandates a second book, which ultimately leads to a good wad of cash.

Jennifer said...

Oh I like that. I love fortune cookies. I had one last ngiht Dreams are extremely important. You can't do it unless you imagine it. I thought that was a great one. One of the betters I've read in a while.

Ahhh in writing we're allowed to explain till the cows come home :) So long as it remains interesting. Though I agree in writing 'inaccuracy' isn't neccessarily a good thing.

Gone Away said...

Explain? Who explains? Just write the story and let the reader fill in the gaps. But if "inaccuracy" is to do with facts, then I think we have to get them right. There's always some smart alec in the crowd who'll crow for ever afterwards otherwise...

pia said...

Think that there is a big difference between creative writing and every other kind.

I can have every fact linked, in political writing, but if I don't spell it out some troll will come after me.

As I consider myself to be a writer first and foremost I would love to give up political blogging, but it's too exciting right now

In my other writing I love to have multi layers, and different meanings in different sentences.

But on my blog some troll might come along and quiz me on my own writing to see if I knew what I was doing. Won't answer those comments anymore

Really glad that you commented on my blog!

melly said...

Eric, as always, you're killing me :)
Yes, it must be covert marketing, that's what it is. LMAO...

Jennifer, don't we all just know it only too good - "So long as it remains interesting" - finding that elusive delicate balance between information and interest...

Gone, I'm so glad we're in agreement here. Seems actually that everybody is more or less on the same page...

Pia, I'm glad I did too :)
Yes, indeed, in poli writing one should be extra careful when presenting facts. It's one of the things "adversaries" love to pounce on.

garnet david said...

I just came from Jennier's site and loved her little axiom on writing: show, don't tell. Maybe that's also saying, too much explanation will get in the way.

It certainly applies to real life. A little gem of unexpected wisdom.

melly said...

Hi there Garnet.
Indeed, too much explanation can get in the way in both life and writing.
I love these little wisdom things too...

Anna Piutti said...

I agree with what Melly said - writing does sometimes require a bit of mystery. Of course, it also depends on what kind of writing we're talking about...explaining and/or analyzing poetry too much often strips it of what makes it fascinating.

Melly said...

Anna, I coudn't agree with you more!
Thanks :)

Anna Piutti said...

You're welcome :)