I'm done listening to Haruki Murakami's A WILD SHEEP CHASE, listening, because someone (forgot who, sorry!) sent me the audiobook to listen to, after I said I loved 1Q84. And this struck me (Jesus, things keep striking me, don't they...). Explanations. I've been so guilty in my earlier books of explanations. Hell, I'm still guilty. Funny. I just remembered something. I actually wrote a blog post. Precisely after (or while) reading 1Q84. The title of which is...FORGET SUSPENSE, EXPLAIN EVERY DETAIL. You laughing yet? No? I think I'm laughing. No, not really. Because I have confused explanations for descriptions in that blog post. Hey, I was still learning, okay? What I meant there was, descriptions. Explanations are passages that dish on story shit. You know, explain the story.
I'll explain (the irony, eh?). What Murakami does is, he describes. Every detail. To the point of bristles on the toothbrush. And that's okay, it's all part of the story, depending on what type of story it is. There is something else though he doesn't do, neither in 1Q84 nor in A WILD SHEEP CHASE. He doesn't explain the story. Why is this, why is that. Why is there a sheep with a star on its back, why does it do the things it does? He explains HOW it does it, but he doesn't explain WHY it does it.
Watch for story explanations in your story.
When you find one, cut it out and see if it still reads the same. The reader is not stupid, the reader is smart, the reader will figure it out. The reader needs to orient herself in your story, that's why you can describe everything in minute detail, but the reader wants mystery, wants something to ponder about, something to think about and add her own thoughts and ideas to it. And those are the explanations I'm talking about.
For example: "She turned red, because she got mad."
THE SECOND PART OF THIS SENTENCE IS AN EXPLANATION. CUT IT.
What it should be is: "She turned red."
See, it's already clear that she got mad, that's why she turned red.
Or, another, more complicated example: "She felt lost. She didn't know where to go now that the tiger ponies ate her father."
All right. Let's think here. Do you already have a scene in your book where you describe in juicy bloody detail how the tiger ponies ate the unfortunate father? Great. Then you don't need to explain why she feels lost. The reader remembers and the reader is not an idiot. The reader will get it. Now, you might also think about how to SHOW this fact that she is lost, instead of just feeding us that line. That's also kind of like an explanation. Tell us how she darts from tree to tree in the woods, or from lion to lion in the zoo cage, to SHOW that she feels lost. You get my point.
One more thing that can be useful. It is useful for me. To cut out the unnecessary explanations. If you're old school, like I'm starting to notice writers are, those in the their 60's, 70's, 80's (not all, not all, so don't eat me!) who plot everything ahead and edit as they write, so that their 1st draft is often their final draft, well, maybe their 2nd draft is their final, then this won't work for you. But if you're like me, if you start writing and don't know where the story will take you and discover it via multiple drafts, then in each draft cut out the explanations. Now that you know what the story is about, it will be easy.
I'm surprised at how much I bogged down the 2nd draft of IRKADURA with explanations. I'm on 3rd draft now, and I've already cut 40K words. 40K! I'm down from 116K total to 76K. Can you believe it? It was all mush, all stuff that weighs down the story and doesn't let it progress. It's still shrinking. I think it might shrink to 60K total. I will do the 4th draft to add more descriptions where needed, but really, I can now say more with less, and it's an amazing feeling.
So. Avoid them. Explanations. Just tell the story. The reader will figure it out and love you for not chewing everything and shoving it down her throat.