Friday, September 28, 2007

How Much is Too Much?

As I work through a new science fiction story, I’m finding that I have a lot to say around one of the main subjects – software development. I could go into extreme detail in this field because it’s what I do professionally, but how much detail is too much?

This balance of how much detail to give a reader applies to so many items within writing: characters, setting, dialog, etc. My preference is to have too much than not enough, but since I’m not writing for myself, I need to keep things in check.

My main responsibility, as the author, is that I do not neglect a detail pertinent to the story itself. If, for example, I use the term “bit” in a science fiction story, part of the reading audience may not be familiar with it. I could use the term in a way that they pick up the gist if I’m simply adding detail to paint the picture. But if the concept of a bit is crucial to the plot of the story, I need to make sure that I explain enough about what a bit is that allows for its usage elsewhere. Information relevant to the story only goes so far, so if I write three paragraphs on the history of bits, I’ve lost all but the most determined of readers (and if the plot depends on the audience understanding that much detail, I need to rethink the plot).

I feel like writing is like walking a tightrope. Explain, but not too much! Be concise, but don’t leave out anything important! All I can say is pick up a pole, and start heading across the wire.

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