My Mind to Your Mind

Not really a Vulcan mind-meld, but it’s

“Free” week and I will ask a question that I have been pondering:

How much of the “WHY” of what a character does is important to a story?

With all that I have been through in my life, with so many different people doing so many  good and bad things, (seldom either exclusive to one person), I have found myself understanding people’s motives often quite clearly anymore.

I have considered taking courses in psychology.

But back to writing:

How much is too much? How much does one need to tell?  And I guess the biggest question in all of writing:

How much can you show-not-tell, but get the point across?

I suppose it is a matter of knowing your target audience, as well.

Do I have to explain why that, when her husband’s female coworker’s name comes up too frequently, a wife would have to fight down suspicions? Or why, when she catches him speaking on the phone to that coworker,  the wife would take what she overheard and let her imagination run wild?

I don’t think so, but I wonder, do I have to explain what exactly went through the wife’s mind?

That is the type of situation where it gets dicey.

Too much explanation might slow the pace. I have read many, many books where the same fears and explanations are repeated several times and I think, “Oh, BROTHER! We know, we know!” I think, that just maybe, the degree of how bad it might be should be in the mind of the reader, how much each readers finds intolerable.

I hesitate to drive off those of delicate sensitivities, but if it needs to be ‘the worst that could happen’ for the reader to take it to heart, let ‘the worst’ be whatever could be the worst in that person’s mind, be it bad, terrible or horrible.

There is no sense in even mentioning certain problems if it is going to upset the most sensitive/religious, but with what is going on in today’s world, would a dalliance alone be enough for some readers to realize that the wife is physically reeling with her mind spinning?

You don’t have to be married, but you do have to be an adult to get the full impact and know how bad ‘bad’ can be. However, when the Profumo scandal broke out I was just a six-year-old, but I knew even then that a married man should not have a ‘girlfriend’.

 That was scandalous enough for me.

In another couple of stories, I let the reader read a come to a conclusion as to why characters behave as they do, only to reveal the true reason later. I HOPE that I have ‘misdirection’ down, but even with later reveals, how much explanation is too much?

I am inclined to go with ‘less is more’ in these cases.

What do you think?

About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
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11 Responses to My Mind to Your Mind

  1. Jeff Salter says:

    I agree, generally, that “less is more.” Or maybe the way I’d say it, “Less is sufficient.”
    And I also agree that I’ve read books in which the author sees fit to hammer those issues / feelings / doubts again and again… and I’ve wished that writer could’ve arrived at some other means of letting me know that character was suffering.
    In a well-written movie or TV show, the viewer would understand that by the facial expression — or some other physical manifestation of the character in question — so we wouldn’t need any exposition. I think a good writer should strive to convey things similarly. Though, of course, deprived of the VISUAL elements available to the TV / Movie audience.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What I’ve learned through the years is to only add the information that is pertinent to the story and to make your reader feel like they are on the inside, giving them knowledge that the person your character is directing her/his whatever at doesn’t know. That doesn’t mean that I don’t know the entire story. I write does every detail, more than half of which will never be written in the tale.

    If your character has a hidden agenda, somewhere you must tell the reader in some way what has caused it, but you don’t have to give all the nitty-gritty details. Just enough to keep your reader out of the woods wondering what brought all this on.

    In my current WIP, my heroine doesn’t really trust law enforcement. If I never reveal to my reader why she feels that way, they’ll feel cheated. So I drop hints along the way. Bread crumbs, so to speak. At one point later in the story, I let her think about the situation that led her to feel that way, but I don’t go into an entire scene like a flashback. I give just enough so the reader will sit back and say, “Ah ha!”

    It’s all what’s important to the story, and to satisfy your reader.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Patricia Kiyono says:

    I try to depict character’s feelings more through visceral reactions – sweating, blushing, biting the lip, shuddering, etc. Once the problem is stated, it doesn’t need to be repeated too often, although I’ve had editors insist on being specific about the reason for the reactions.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. trishafaye says:

    So much of our writing is a precarious balancing act between too-much and not-enough. And unfortunately, some of these issues we can only determine as we go along, keep writing, and keep learning.
    I like Sharon’s thoughts about the ‘breadcrumbs’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I tried to give misdirection here, and in other works, but I truly have been considering specifically what was going through the wife’s mind at one point. It had actually nothing to do with the plot, save for that very moment. In a few sentences it will be cleared up. Thanks ,Trisha.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Elaine Cantrell says:

    I’m with you. Less is usually more.


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