Conversation with Story: Trusting the Reader to Trust You

Story: What are you doing?

Me: Writing.

Story: No, what are you doing?

Me: I thought I was writing.

Story: You don’t see what you did back there, did you?

Me: Back where?

Story: Five pages back. I’ll wait.

Me: Oh. Yeah. Well, you see, I wanted to make sure the reader understood what was happening in that scene so I took the extra effort to explain in detail what the characters were feeling and doing at that point in time.

Story: I see. Can I ask you something?

Me: Make it quick. I want to finish this story.

Story: Do you hate the reader?

Me: Hate the reader? Of course not. I want the reader to like the story, that’s why I went the extra mile to point out the deficiency of that character in exposition. I mean, that’s why I did that. I want the reader to understand the story,  so I had to add that extra stuff.

Story: You went the extra mile and told the reader what was happening rather than showing the reader what happened?

Me: It’s an important scene. The story hinges upon this scene. If it doesn’t work, the story doesn’t work.

Story: Here’s a clue. The story doesn’t work now because of what you did. Not only did you tell instead of show, you didn’t trust the reader to understand what he himself was reading. Instead, you felt you had to hit the point again to make it apparent to the reader that what he was reading was important. Rather than letting him trust the story you have written, and to trust you.  Not only do you not trust the reader in this case, you don’t trust the story. You don’t trust me.

Me: I think I see what you’re getting at.

Story: Believe it or not the reader is pretty insightful. They see deeper into a story than you might think. You don’t have to spell everything out in careful ABC language. They’ll get what you’re going after if you trust them to do so. It’s one of the most powerful lessons any writer can learn, but when you do, your fiction will open up because you enter a synergistic relationship with the reader himself. It’s pretty amazing when it happens, and it happens more often than you think.

Me: I’ll fix it right now. Hey, writing is easy!

Story: Hang on there, spanky. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. That’s a conversation for a future date….

You don't need to overwrite. Trust the reader to trust the story, and he will.

4 Replies to “Conversation with Story: Trusting the Reader to Trust You”

  1. Reading the above makes me think of the sermons of one of our priests. He does not seem to be aware that the members of his congregation have all gone to school and can understand and apply to their life simple scriptural passages.

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