If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our October Author Interviews--10/4 Wendy Tyson, 10/11 Marilyn Levinson, 10/18 Earl Javorski, 10/25 Linda Lovely. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


October Saturday Guest Bloggers: 10/7 Mark Bacon, 10/14 Elaine Orr, 10/21 WWK's Margaret S. Hamilton, 10/28 Kait Carson, and E. B. Davis 10/31 to fill out our fifth Tuesday.


WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla! Look for Carla's blog this month to find out the winner.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.
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Monday, January 10, 2011

How Much Explanation for the Reader?

I grew up before the years of music videos, and now resent when I see one that distorts my imagery of the music and verse. When James Montgomery Jackson posed the question of how much description a writer should provide readers, I definitively sided with less is more.

Detailed characterization can be left to the reader’s imagination unless some personal facet contributes to the plot, such as the obsessive-compulsive disorder of the character Monk, created by Andy Breckman. In Monk’s case, his disorder is so severe that when writer Lee Goldberg wrote novels using the character, he had no need to explain. Readers garner personal facets through the characters’ behavior, expressions, thoughts and speech, without the writer telling them. But there is another, similar dilemma a writer faces, a sticky wicket in which I stumble and fight over with editors. I’m unsure that there is a definitive answer. How much explanation should a writer provide to ensure that a reader “gets it?”

My solution has been to spell out my point to the reader, either through a character’s thoughts or through description provided by the protagonist. In doing so, I risk insulting the reader’s intelligence. Insulting people is so not my intention. To clarify a scene, I’ll add a line that fortifies a point, especially if a technical detail such as equipment or forensic tests of some kind are utilized in the scene, only to have it redlined by an editor as redundant. The problem is that when I don’t explain a given point or add that fortifying sentence, editors tell me to provide more explanation. The feeling of hitting my head against the wall never felt so real.

For example, in the last paragraph of the Christmas short story, "The Christmas Present," which I posted last month, my editor and I wrangled over the information I presented.


My mission seemed complete. Dimples met all the qualifications I had on my list, but the case and his lack of middle-age spread still made me suspicious. I decided to hang around, at least until Valentine’s Day. If Bernard doesn’t come through with a dozen red roses, I’ll perfect my skill with rubber bands.


My editor correctly stated that since the angel/late husband really didn’t do anything to complete the mission the first sentence was confusing. I left it as written because I wanted the reader to conclude that 1) the angel was deluding himself, or 2) God had a hand in the caper. Either conclusion the reader drew was acceptable to me. When I told the editor what I had decided, I was told that the angel should acknowledge his lack of influence on the romance or mention God’s hand in the romance. (Although the editor liked the ending and knew it somehow worked.)

By taking the editor’s advice, wouldn’t I have insulted the reader’s intelligence or impeded their own interpretation? In a situation where I normally over explain, and in this situation I felt virtuous in not spelling out the solution out to the reader, I was told to provide more explanation.

As a reader, does the writer explaining what meaning should be taken from a particular portion of the script insult you? Or are you reassured by definitiveness? As a writer, do you face the same dilemma and how do you avoid insulting the reader while satisfying editors? Do you feel damned if you do and damned if you don’t?

2 comments:

Warren Bull said...

Been there. Done that. I was in a writing class once when two people argued back and forth over meaning of a passage. Neither interpreted it the way I had intended. The teacher turned to me and asked, "Which way is it?" I answered, "Don't ask me. I just wrote it."

Pauline Alldred said...

If the ending works for the editor, I wouldn't worry about adding an extra sentence. Some people like to have everything nailed down with no possibility of ambiguity. I think life is often ambiguous.