Tuesday, October 2, 2012

No One Likes to Be Lectured

Sometimes when a writer wants to give the reader a great deal of information, he/she dumps it all into one long paragraph. Just the sight of the long, solid paragraph is discouraging to readers. Break it up. Use actions on the part of the speaker. Let the other person interrupt with comments or questions. White space is good; it gives the reader the sensation of moving forward at a fast pace.
Meals or a task make good settings for these expository lectures. The dictionary defines exposition as “a statement or rhetorical discourse intended to give information about or an explanation of difficult material.” The reader may need to know it, but he doesn’t need to know it all in one speech.
The following excerpt is an example. The doctor could have given all the information about the patient at once, but breaking it up adds to the reader’s picture and is more interesting.
“She's resting comfortably. She has a concussion, and she’s lost a lot of blood, but the injury isn’t as bad as we first thought. She had her hair pinned up under the wig, and that, with the padding the wig provided, protected her skull somewhat.” The doctor tapped the back of his head, indicating the location of the injury. “It cushioned the blow. It didn't do nearly as much damage as it might have.”

“Does that mean she’ll be all right?” Relief brought tears to Kate’s eyes.

“I haven’t seen anything to indicate otherwise, but we’ll watch her overnight. Because of her age . . .”

The doctor could have said it all at once and a lot more besides, but his gesture and then Kate’s interruption and reaction help to create a picture and take away the “lecture” feel of his explanation. 


Una Tiers said...

Since I'm particularly good at interruptions, I will give this a whirl, thanks Ellis.
Una Tiers

Warren Bull said...

Very good example.

Star said...

That's a very nice example and a good tip to take on board. Thank you Ellis.

Polly Iyer said...

Didn't I just get this advice from you? I'm beginning to think that when you read a passage from my book, I give you ideas for your blog. That's okay, you don't need to thank me. Your suggestions are payment enough. :-)))

Ellis Vidler said...

It's an easy trap to fall into. We're thinking about the information and not how it reads.

I've read long, uninterrupted passages in several books lately, but thanks, Polly. :-) It makes me go back and check my own. I'm guilty too.

Nancy Lauzon said...

Ah yes, the info dump. One of the most common mistakes of newbie writers -- including me when I first started -- great post!