CWM: #6 Unnecessary details

The plot is coming along. We’re getting to an important moment—but wait! I forgot to mention something. Let me write it down because it’s important.

But now the reader is wondering why I stopped the story to describe something in the middle of the chapter.

As a writer myself, I get it. I’ve wanted to explain details that may not mean something toward the plot, but they mean something for me. I created this world, and I want the readers to know everything about it. But that mindset doesn’t help the reader.

Let me give an example. This is a quote from Jeff Kleinman, who is a founding partner of Folio Literary Management.

“It drives me [wild] when I’m reading a book… Janna walked down the street, tossing her long, brown curls, and it’s not really important that her hair is long and brown, but the author wanted me to know. In reality, Janna’s being chased by this guy with a knife, and the last thing Janna is thinking about right now is her long, brown curls.”

Now, it isn’t always that drastic, but it’s important to realize what’s going on. Writers are like translators from one world to the next. We want the reader to live through the main characters. If we point out details that are important to us instead of important to the main characters, the story can feel off-balance.

To find these parts, we could pause at the end of every sentence and question whether it is necessary or not. That isn’t as efficient though because unnecessary details stop the rhythm and flow of a piece.

I recommend reading the story and flagging the spots where the flow seems off. Once you mark those spots, you can then go back and ask yourself if those details are important.

However, those details may be personal to you, so it’s easier for beta readers or editors to find them. Outside opinions may be what you need to realize if the detail is necessary or not.

I hope this helps!

Want more?

#1 — Using multiple adjectives
#2 — Vagueness for tension
#3 — Repeating words for emphasis
#4 — Common misused words
#5 — Misusing hyphens

#7 — Not developing characters
#8 — The words feel and felt
#9 — Overusing character names
#10 — Adding too many details with commas

#11 — Different types of dashes
#12 — Not using plain language
#13 — Dialogue tags vs. action beats
#14 — Misusing commas
#15 — No sentence variation

#16 — Misplaced modifiers
#17 — Characters with similar names
#18 — When to start new paragraphs
This was originally posted on my writing blog.

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