If in your first draft, you're telling your reader
- HOW the characters are feeling, (he said, with an aching heart)
- HOW they are saying what they have to say, (he said, heatedly)
- WHAT the characters are thinking while they say or do something, (he said, remembering her smile and shaking his head)
You may have written a piece full of R-F.
Too much R-F (Reader Feeder) is nearly as bad as too much exposition (over telling/explaining) or as too much backstory (B-S) when it comes to story telling. This happens when the novice writer wants to get all the information in their mind over to the reader. So they dump as much information as possible onto their pages.
If R-F is in your piece to TELL the reader some bit of information, to explain what they think they need to know, it shouldn’t be. All the things you want your reader to know needs to be shown in scenes or revealed in ways other than narrating, when ever you have the chance..
Showing, we’ve already talked about. Revealing is done by events that happen right n the page. Reveal and show by dialogue, that does double-duty, and don’t let only your main character do that info to the reader. Reveal by characters that are not the Main character.
Here's the quick points of the reader feeder trap. Watch for this and note that these things are moments you might want to edit:
- Telling us something about a character's past in the middle of a scene, where she is doing something.
- Telling us why a character is reacting 'that way' in the middle of her reacting that way.
- Telling us how a character got where she is in the middle of her being there.
- Example Toggle
Reader Feeder stops the reader from thinking. And that is a bad thing to do. Sometimes the problem is too many –ly words. Showing dramatizes a scene in a story to help the reader forget she’s reading, to the point she feel she’s there.
Feeding gives the reader all the info the writer thinks is important, but doesn’t allow the reader to picture anything on their own or even to think on their own - you, the R-F writer has given them everything there on the page.
Feeding a reader an -ly word only shows us a writer who cannot draw that reaction on her character’s situation, face or body in details and descriptive writing.
Look at these examples.
Sadly, Raymond, who has a nice comfy white-collar job working diligently on his computer from home, has tried vainly to fight the dreams by refusing to lie down and sleep. But he only ends up with insomnia, blurry-eyed and wakeful. This time he hasn’t slept soundly for more than a week. At first it was just simply a matter of wishing his lovely wife and daughter good-night at 11:00 p.m. and then not turning off his computer monitor until a few “Raymond, GO to BED” reminder messages had slowly snaked across the screen. Then he wearily found himself startled at 4 in the morning by the clanging to of his neighbor’s noisy iron security door as the guy left for his shift at the bottling plant.
Raymond, who has a nice white-collar job working on his computer from home, has tried to fight the dreams by refusing to lie down and sleep. But he only ends up with insomnia. This time he hasn’t slept well for more than a week. At first it was just a matter of wishing his wife and daughter good-night at 11:00 p.m. and then not turning off his computer monitor until a few “Raymond, GO to BED” reminder messages had snaked across the screen. Then he found himself startled at 4 in the morning by the clanging to of his neighbor’s iron security door as the guy left for his shift at the bottling plant.
- Lesson Exercise 1 Toggle
Lesson Exercise 1:
Find any passage of yours where you (the writer) stopped a scene to explain something about your characters past or their current motivation.
Read what action is going on or dialogue is being spoken at that moment in your story (if any).
For example, maybe you wrote something like this:
I park across from the villa up in the Hollywood hills where the roads are often narrow and cars can easily crash into you as they come around the bend not seeing you. On my right side of the hill on this November, Thanksgiving day, flowers still bloom, not like the friendship I no longer have with my father.
I switch off the radio and sit a moment in the silence. Can I do this? Meet him again after so long a separation? I lift a pie from the passenger seat and step out of the car.
That’s a lot of telling, isn’t it?
We know the place, the problem and reason the character is there. But did we get any action or reaction from the narrator to the place and the problem?
What about setting – could we visualize that road, that car, that villa, the day itself? We were told the father is waiting in this villa. Why didn’t we get to find that out on our (the reader’s) own?
Do we see how this visit is affecting this narrator?
But what if you revised it into something like this. This writer concentrated on word choices to hint at the narrator’s state of mind, and at what is waiting once his character goes indoors:
I park across from the villa on a dangerous incline. On my right side the hill drops away into brush, cypress and wild oleander plants, despite October being nearly a month gone, some still hold white or orange blossoms. The road is narrow. It winds its way around the next bend, still farther up the hill- out of sight. The backs of my front wheels are turned sharply to the curb. I switch off the radio and sit a moment, then two in the silence. My breath comes hard and shaking in my ears when I reach over to check that the doors are locked, avoiding my own eyes in the rear view mirror. I lift a pie from the passenger seat, touch my tie and step out of the car. As I raise my eyes to the casement windows on the second story, a curtain falls closed, That’s him, I think.
Now you try. Look at the work you have that might be full of R-F and convert the info dumps into writing that reveals.
Take the info you want the reader to know and either weave it in somewhere else, or take only a bit of it and expose it via actions and dialog that reveal it to the reader. The important part is to NOT feed it all to us right there in a hunk, or in the narrator’s voice each and every time.