Resist the Urge to Explain
There’s one rule in writing known as R.U.E., Resist the Urge to Explain. In other words, writing doesn’t follow Math: One plus One = One half.
When you repeat an ‘effect’, the weaker undermines the stronger and the result is the weakest of all. It happens when we try to stress what we want to say, thinking the reader cannot possibly get it with only the things we said in the first attempt.
Silence and hiding is one of the great arts of writing, and you can aim at getting better if you keep in mind to Resist the Urge to Explain.
Allow the repetition because it is important: the more we force a message, the weaker it becomes!
“The Elements of Style” never stops telling writers to kill all unnecessary words, and that goes with the art to be able to say with five words what others only are able to express with ten.
Details have to be important or evocative. If they’re not, they become a distraction. Of course, there are things that need to be explained (a bit) but others should never. For example, things that are well known to the characters, or well known in the world you are creating, especially in fantasy, or science fiction. It is a fine line, difficult to find for the writer, but flashing like a lighthouse in the middle of Texas: readers expect that what you describe is important; if not immediately in the same scene, later on in the story.
Checkov once said something that is equivalent to the R.U.E. rule: “Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”
Sometimes you say more things with what is hidden than with what is revealed. The R.U.E. rule (that can be broken knowingly, as every other rule, of course) is to keep in mind when we give to the temptation to ‘make the reader see better, understand better’. Readers’ mind and imagination needs to be titillated, not beaten.
During plot evolution, character development, and descriptions, a writer must have a reason for what is put into words. You don’t need to explain to readers, they will discover themselves if there’s one, and this adds to the pleasure of reading your story.
Writing is both masking and unveiling. If lucky, you’ll show what needs to be shown, and hide what needs to grow in readers’ minds.
Don’t be afraid to kill the unnecessary word, phrase, paragraph, and even chapter.
Genre – Science Fiction
Rating – PG-13