More issues I’m coming across in my reading travels.
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before: repetition is not your friend. May I add that repetition under the context of style is okay, but again, it has to make sense. And even too much repetition in the name of style can very easily and quickly turn into overkill and come across as comedic.
That aside, I’ve read plenty of “show don’t tell,” and plenty of “tell don’t show.” But what really irks me is when I see both working in overtime.
For example: a character finds herself in an awkward situation. Her speech is stuttered and her dialogue alone conveys her anxiety. That’s fine. But then the author, after closing up her stilted speech, proceeds using at least two to three adjectives explaining to the reader that the character is nervous.
My reaction? “Hey. I already heard what the character said, and I’m convinced she’s nervous. But now I just read ‘She said nervously.’ I got it the first time. Wait, there’s more? Did I just read another two sentences of flowery and random metaphoric descriptions explaining to me that the character is nervous?? After a paragraph of this nonsense, now the conversation continues… and the person she was talking to didn’t even notice that she was nervous! Argh!!”
I’m insulted. And I also feel like I’m wasting my time reading superfluous sentences of unnecessary description.
Stating the obvious is a real turn-off to the reader.
Take the above example, for instance. The stuttering dialogue is a good way of ‘showing’ nervousness. And if the character isn’t able to speak, then showing twitching muscles and nervous ticks would be another way of ‘showing’. Pick one of the other. But it can’t be both, unless one action leads to another that affects the plot. As in, nervous speech leads to tugging on hair leads to accidentally pulling out implants and now the entire audience is having a good time watching her have a fit.
So pick one. Or the other. And if there must be both, keep one of them minimal or else the reader will feel as if you’re talking down to them.