What you shouldn’t tell me

There are things that authors shouldn’t tell me, the reader, in their books. It’s not that I’m not trustworthy. It’s just that sometimes less is more. Some things you write about damage your story.

  1. Character description: Don’t tell me everything about the character down to the last pimple. Physical description is important and the story isn’t complete without it, but don’t tell me everything. Let me imagine some, please.
  1.  Scenery description: I want to imagine your scenery, too. The only necessary scenery is backdrop for the story, where it takes place. Each sentence of extra description is icing on the cake. The thing is, most people don’t like too much icing on their cake. We can’t scoop the excess off with a fork, so keep it reasonable.
  1. Character introductions: Don’t tell me everything at once. Meeting a new character is like meeting a new friend. Acquaintances don’t tell each other every detail of their lives in the first five minutes of meeting. Just like getting to know a real person, let me in on the details of the character’s life and personality gradually, preferably as the story progresses.
  2. Romantic and sexual scenes: Intimate scenes are especially delicate when getting to know a character. I’m not a floozie, so don’t tell me about the character’s naughty thoughts and naughty bits until we get a chance to know one another better. This doesn’t necessarily apply to erotica, but I don’t read erotica anyway.
  1. Dramatic buildup: All readers appreciate the dramatic buildup to a climax. But you shouldn’t build and build, never getting to the point. At some point excitement turns to exasperation and we think you’re a tease.
  1. Technical jargon: Some jargon is good and makes us feel like we’re learning something. If you spend paragraphs educating us on technical specifications in your novel, we feel the need to check the cover to be sure we didn’t accidentally pick up a technical manual.


It’s painful to chop up your hard-wrought words just to please ignorant, unappreciative readers, but books are just paper (or data) unless someone reads them. None of your words have to be wasted. Spread them judiciously, saving the extra bits for more stories. The joy of sharing your work with others who can enjoy it makes up for the pain of editing.

What do you as a reader not want to hear?

What is your TMI (too much information) weakness as a writer?

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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