What Not to Say When Writing a Novel

From The Writer’s Nook:

When writing, it’s often just as important knowing what not to say, as it is knowing what to include, and this clearly includes all writing, but from my perspective, it’s easier to perceive when expressed through the eyes of my fictional characters and my very real readers.

As always, you don’t want to waste your readers time. Nor do you want the story’s pacing to lag, or the story to ebb and flow, so you need to be as concise as possible, cutting whatever you say to the bone. Yet still, there’s much more involved than just that.

Traditionally, new authors tend to do ‘data dumps’, where they simply create a rich intricate back story, and then dump the entire thing in the readers lap, creating a virtually unreadable mishmash of undecipherable gibberish. The obvious problem here, isn’t that the back story isn’t vital, but that readers simply can’t process that much information all at once.

Instead, it’s best to parse that information out over time, revealing each separate detail of their past one at a time, when it’ll have the maximum impact and the greatest relevance to the story. In essence, you parse the vital information out a single nugget at a time, getting the reader used to such emotional revelations, so they’re eagerly awaiting the next.

Yet, once more, that’s only a small part in what not to include in a story. Ultimately, if you tell the reader everything they want to know, you’re actively keeping the reader at bay, shoving them out of the story, so you can tell them everything, which is clearly a mistake. To make the story personal for readers, you need to pull them into the story with you and allow them to solve the inherent mysteries and solve the many conflicts, on their own.

Now this is by no means a simple process, but it’s a necessary one. Without this reader participation, the story will be all tell, and no show. All “John did this and Tom did that”, with no self-discovery or the reader actually feeling as if they’re living life through both John’s and Tom’s adventures.

The key to this sort of ‘non-detail’, is to lead the reader to the edge, giving them time and the encouragement, to figure the story details out for themselves. For the reader to feel a part of the story, they have to actively live the story, solving the crises, winning the girls (and boys) and playing a key role in the entire story!

Now, as usual, there are multiple techniques which help with this. Primarily, these consist of foreshadowing (ex: outlining things so that when they occur, the reader will understand why they’re so important to the overall story, rather than surprise ending which jar the reader right out of the story) and red-herrings, which intentionally lead the reader down unproductive dead ends, keeping them unsure of how things will turn out.

Link to the rest at The Writer’s Nook (on Quora)