This is as much for you as it is for me. Because I know you do it. I've seen it. And I have to thank Royce for catching me doing this. I was blind to it. To the point of him having to repeat it to me several times until I got it.
I tend to do this in the beginning of the chapters. In the opening sentence. I've written a post about it a long time ago, about summarizing your whole book in your opening sentence (and paragraph, sort of) as I've seen Stephen King do. I've interpreted it my own way and took it to heart. Well, I was both right and wrong about that. Right in that the first sentence has to hook the reader, and often the hook is the almost-spelling-out-the-whole-story kind of line (much like book summaries tell you everything you need to know minus the reveal, which is why I don't read them). Wrong in that when the goal to summarize the book (or the chapter) overrides the goal of the actual story writing, it makes the story weak.
"All was panic."
This is a sentence I recently struck from the current draft. It was opening a chapter. It was lazy writing. Though you might argue here that Tolstoy implanted this seed in me with his "All was confusion in the Oblonskys' house" second line of Anna Karenina that really reads like the opening line. Well, you can argue many things. The reality was, I knew it was lazy writing. I knew I have dismissed a couple hours of careful description writing with that one line and happily concluded that I was done.
Here is why it's bad, and why it's an explanation rather than storytelling.
Instead of showing you the panic and making you feel the panic, I'm telling you that all was panic. That's trite and boring and it makes you, my reader, feel stupid. Because you're not an idiot. You want to figure it all out for yourself. Is it panic? Is it not panic? To show it to you, to really show it to you will take long thinking and arduous writing and ruthless rewriting on my part that will hopefully, hopefully, produce one single sentence (or one passage) that conveys exactly that. That all was, indeed, panic.
I have since then gone back through the rest of the draft and slashed all explanations I could find and replaced them with bits of showing.
Another one I found and laughed so hard that wet my pants was:
"It was dark."
As you recall the famous line, "It was a dark and stormy night...", you're probably rolling in fits of giggles. I know, me too. It's the line that can be removed. It's the explanation of what's to follow, which is the actual description of what is going on: "...the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” See, when dear Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton mentioned the flame of the lamps, WE GET THAT IT'S A DARK NIGHT. And that it's stormy we get when we read about the rain.
You know where we writers have picked up this dreadful habit? In school. Remember those essays we had to write? Remember the instructions on how the first sentence of a paragraph had to state the intent of the paragraph, and how the rest of it had to open that intent or whatever? Yeah. Kill the sucker. Or write those teachers who taught you this into your next book and kill them off. That should make you feel better.
Your job as a writer is merely to record.
You're giving us a piece of you, and it's up to us to make sense of it. Or not. To you it's already clear. You don't need to produce bad writing trying to explain shit to us. Please don't. It frustrates you to no end, and it frustrates us to no end too, being shoved your thoroughly chewed drivel into our mouths. We don't want to swallow it. We choke on it and spit it out and never read your books again. See what you do?
Instead, record it as it is. As it comes you. As you understand it. Fuck what people will think. You're writing for yourself. And you don't need to explain it to yourself, do you? You already know. You know that it's all panic. That's obvious to you. What you see is twisted faces. What you hear is stifled screams. What you smell of that sour smell of sweating people who are afraid. That is what's mesmerizing to you. And guess what. That's the same stuff that's mesmerizing to us!
So leave out all your explanations, please. Just get on with the damn story. You'll sell more books this way. A handsome profit for a bunch of lines to cut, wouldn't you say?