Welcome to my Sunday Writing Tirade. Here is the question: To trust or not to trust the reader.
The question stems from how much a writer is willing to let the reader infer. Let me get personal for a second. When I’m wearing my reading hat I read with a lot of ego. When I say that I mean I don’t want the author to dumb it down for me. I want to be engaged by thinking, not only by visualizing and setting. I don’t necessarily need the author to “put me there” as much as I want them to set it up so I can get there on my own. They should make it feel like I did something creative rather than they did something creative. Afterwards I’ll give them all the credit, but while I’m reading I should feel like a participant in the story, as well as a spectator. Therefore I need a lot left up to me. I love figuring out what a character is thinking by their body language and what they say. I love characters reacting to something to help their development. I don’t need to know why they reacted a certain way, (not all the time) only that they did. I need to know who characters are, not why they are who they are. The story will naturally cause them to make sense. At least that’s how I read.
Another way to think about trusting the reader or not, is basically the opposite from above. I know plenty of readers who love plenty of internal dialogue. They really appreciate a narrative that pulls them along, which is fine. Most people I know like a lot of back story. They like big introductions for characters so they can have a solid sense of them. As a reader, if not done well (and usually it’s not) it bores me into putting the story away for a while or not finishing it. I think if we did a survey, we’d find that most people prefer anything that will get them closer to the story. But, once again, maybe it’s better to give just enough, and let the reader do what they’re going to do.
With all that being said, where do we draw the line? When do decide, “Okay reader, you got this. I gave you enough information. Take this.” Or, does this never happen? Do we constantly rebuff the reader throughout the story?
I’m also part of a writers group where many think that, hey, sometimes you simply just need a nice info dump to make things make sense, you know, because the reader forgets. You have to help them out. Road signs, is what I hear. Honestly, I think the author has a job and it’s not to pamper the reader. At the same time, I’m not a bestselling author so what do I know really know. Still, what irks me irks me. I don’t want narrative dumbed down or over explained for me and I don’t like to dumb it down or over explain it myself. At least I’m consistent.
I’m sure there is no wrong way to do it. Ironically, I’m sure there’s certainly a right way. So now I’m throwing the question out there: How do you like it? Which way do you prefer?
Just keep in mind I’m the author of In Blackness