© 2010 Kae CheathamThrough open invitation on a forum on Kindle boards, I submitted bits about my book Child of the Mist to Vicki Leiske's blog Victorine Writes. It's a neat concept she has to see if the first 400 words will "hook" her into wanting to read more. I've enjoyed reading the hooks of other writers, and also enjoyed Vicki's comments.
my piece, she wondered about a certain action of my character--hacking off bits of her hair and saying, "for you, Mother". What I had written (or hadn't written) is a good example of an author assuming too much. I wrote that section assuming readers would know the character was mourning for her mother. In many American Indian cultures, cutting hair is a way to show grief for the loss of a loved one. Silly me, to expect everyone to know that, and I could have explained it with just a few more words.
Often reviews and critiques mention how too much is explained, or the wordiness of a passage because it's stating the obvious. But exclusion and too much brevity can also be a fault. Writers of historical fiction often get caught by this. All their research and years of reading history makes them forget that everyone doesn't have this knowledge--maybe explaining a tad more might be helpful.
This is also true for those who write about anything fairly technical, be it sail boating or the possibility of wormholes. What the author knows almost innately, doesn't always translate someone who is unfamiliar with the subject.
It's a tricky area: don't tell enough (as I did not), and readers are a bit confused; tell too much, and readers are bored. Learning how to tread that fine line takes practice, and still doesn't guarantee you'll get it right.