Friday, February 15, 2019

Writing: RUE

One of the rules of writing is "RUE"--"resist the urge to explain." That's good advice, and there's a valid reason behind it..

One of the best bits of advice I was given came from well-known author Gayle Roper, who conducted one of the first writing seminars I attended. At that one, we each had to read a segment from the novel we'd written, but once we'd read it we had to sit silently as the group dissected it. Imagine holding your tongue while a group of other writers questioned your work. Each of us was anxious to say,"But what I was trying to do..." and "You don't understand..." but we had to sit by and listen without speaking. Why? Because, as Gayle put it, "You aren't going to be able to stand next to the potential reader and explain what you meant." In other words, make it clear to begin with. Let it stand on its own.

I've encountered the same thing as I put together my stories. When my first reader says, "I don't understand this," my first inclination as a writer is to explain. But instead, my eventual reaction (after pouting and sober reflection) is to rewrite the line, or scene, or even the working title, to avoid this misunderstanding. I don't explain--I simply make explanation unnecessary.

Have you ever seen something in a novel that requires explanation? How would you rewrite it to make explanation unnecessary?


Priscilla Bettis said...

Yes, I've been confused by too many POV's in one scene. I've caught myself doing it, too! In fact, I don't understand how the Victorian authors handled omniscient POV so well.

I think the best way to rewrite a confusing scene (POV-wise) is to stick with one point of view for a whole scene, with double space gaps to warn readers that a new scene/POV is coming.

Patricia Bradley said...

A lot of time we want to make sure the reader "gets" it so we tack on one more sentence after we've shown what the character has done. I'm guilty but not as guilty as I used to me. lol

Richard Mabry said...

Priscilla, that's what I try always to do--one POV per scene. It's easier, but sometimes takes some writing "chops" to carry off.

Patricia, we finally learn these lessons, don't we--a bit at a time, sometimes. Thanks for your comment.