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?