Paula shares a couple of useful pieces of advice she found in some comments by professional editors.
The first was R.U.E - ‘Resist the Urge to Explain’ and I
must admit it struck a chord with me. It refers (in the main) to those snippets
of information we are tempted to add, either to remind the reader of something
we (or our characters) have already told them, or to explain why they are
angry, upset etc. when the reader can easily assume the reason.
In a sense, the ‘urge to explain’ is author intrusion, and
can be likened to an author beating her readers over the head in an effort to
make sure they understand or have remembered something. These are times when we
need to credit our readers with some basic intelligence, and not spell
everything out for them, or over-explain things.
The second piece of advice (from a different editor) was ‘Don’t micro-manage a scene’.
This referred to a scene where the author had included all the actions of
a character going to the front door of the house when someone knocked. Of course, if
there is some emotion attached to opening the door (e.g. fear, anticipation
etc), you need to include this, but there is no need to describe how he (or
she) stands up, crosses the room, unlocks the door, and/or turns the doorknob.
Just get him or her to the door and let them open it! I’ve also heard this kind
of action sequence described as ‘a running commentary you might give to a blind
person about everything that is happening on the TV screen.’ Again, credit your
readers with enough imagination to assume the character’s journey to the door.
Basically, it means don’t overload your work with every
action your characters perform. I know some writers say they ‘see’ a scene as
if they are watching it in a movie, which is fine – unless they then proceed to
describe it in minute detail!
Sometimes I think we are too strung up over the ‘show, don’t
tell’ advice i.e. don’t tell how a character is feeling, but show it. As a
result, we can end up telling the reader all the actions and movements a
character makes, even the minor and irrelevant ones, which can become tedious to a reader.