Lesson 15

Lesson 15

A Lesson by Tantra Bensko

Don't explain it.


Have you hit your readers over the head with a message? Do you have an earnest statement you're trying to make, and can't resist just coming out and saying it straightforwardly? Do you have any sentences in any of the stories you wrote that are like thesis sentences? "He had been damaged since youth and could never love anyone again." I see this regularly in stories that are masterful otherwise, but which slip explanatory sentences in that pull down the excitement of the fresh writing.

"She hated limes. Because she hated to see her mouth pucker. Why? Because she never felt comfortable with her looks. She wanted to remain youthful, charming, carefree. She wanted to be lovely lovely lovely."

This one still explains, but is less mundane, because of the use of rhythm, variety of sentence structure, repetition. But leaving out most of it and coming to a shorter way to say it that doesn't tell us what's going on, explaining the back-story, would be more lively. "She hated limes. She looked at the mouths of old women she passed on the sidewalk. She poofed out her lips when she did. She needed anti-limes. Something to engorge her youth. Something not astringent. Not astringent at all."

How can you revise any over-arching explanations and make them into startling details?

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Added on March 19, 2013
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Tantra Bensko
Tantra Bensko

Berkeley, CA

I teach fiction writing through UCLA Ex. Writing Program, and my own academy online where I focus on Experimental Writing, which I also teach through Writers College when I have time. I have nearly 20..