How removing one punctuation element improved my writing
I just cut this sentence from a short story I've been working on for a couple of weeks, 'They all had their tics and devices to get through; their amulets and fetishes and good luck charms, rituals and neuroses and superstitious behaviours.'
It's not a bad sentence in itself, but it's an explanatory one. It's telling the reader what they should be understanding at this point in the story and instead I should be trusting them to have understood everything I've written so far, and even more, trusting them to be thinking about it, anticipating, maybe even arguing with my narrative. If they haven't recognised that this is the situation my characters find themselves in, it's for me to make the situation clearer, not to give explanations of what is fuzzy or murky.
One of the weaknesses of a lot of the stories I see is this explanation mania. Telling is not a bad thing, many of the world's great writers 'tell' rather than 'show', but explaining is terrible. Don't say 'Joe's nervousness came from the fact that he'd failed his exams and was unsure how he would be received at his school reunion', that's an explanation. His nervousnes, the exams and the reunion need to be integral to the narrative, not lobbed in like a message wrapped round a brick!
I do it myself, I slide into explaining like an eel in a water barrel, but I've found one simple way to stop myself. In fiction (but not in blogging) I do not allow myself to use brackets (like these) because the temptation to bracket is linked insidiously to the tendency to explain. No brackets - little scope for explanations!
National Novel Writing Month update - words so far, 1842