To and Fro? No, No.

Do your characters go to and fro? Many new writers think they need to show the reader every little detail their character does. Like this:

“She took her coat from the back of her chair and put it on while her computer finished shutting down. Then, she put the mouse in its cradle to charge it and pressed the button on the monitor, turning it off. She moved away from her chair, pushed it against her desk, and went to the door. She turned, looked at her desk one last time, flicked off the light, and left, locking things up behind her.”

Yawn. I know. Of course, this kind of writing usually occurs throughout the novel, at every scene change, making readers want to pull their hair out or toss the book across the room.

Writers sometimes need permission to drop the details. They can get so involved with their story that they forget the reader can fill in the blanks. Using the example above, I could’ve written, “She left the office.” We’d understand that she wouldn’t just get up and go without tending to the little details (unless there was an emergency, in which case we’d be more interested in what was pulling her away from work than whether or not she shut down her computer.) However, a writer doesn’t need to take us from Point A to Point B, at least, not every time. Change it up. Sometimes, you’ll want to show the character leave one place and arrive at the next, but you don’t have to bring us along for the ride (unless something is going to happen in the car along the way.) Other times, you can simply add an extra space (or “return”) between paragraphs to show the reader there’s a break in the scene. That way, when Judy leaves the office in one scene and the next scene shows her kicking back in her apartment, the reader won’t be jarred.

Remember the cliché “less is more”. You need enough details so the reader can follow the story, believing she’s experiencing everything through the character’s POV. However, too many details stop the flow of the story and risk losing the reader’s interest.

Have you read novels where the author used too many details and, as a result, you never finished the book? Or, do you skim through the details until you get to “the good stuff”?

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