I learned a valuable lesson from author Michelle Hoover during a class at the Cape Cod Writers Conference last August. As I said in the prior post, the draft of my first novel came out pretty easily, but was too large. On the second day of this particular class, Michelle gave us a list of sixty questions we should be able to answer about our main character(s). Some were easy (Name, Sex, Birthplace), but most required complex answers (e.g., What would he/she see about you that you don’t understand yourself?). I started sweating … I
could answer most of them for my two protagonists, but laying out all that material would require another overlong novel. So I asked the obvious question. She smiled a friendly smile, one maybe inclining a little toward the kind she would use with a young child … or a neophyte novelist. “You only put in the story that which has to be in the story, but if you can’t answer all those questions about a main character, the character will not be believable to the reader.” It was an Aha! Moment for me, and most of the 10,000 words I cut out of the novel after that were things I know but that the reader doesn’t need to know and therefore probably doesn’t want to know. It’s still a hard balance, though. I like my characters. I want you to get to know them. But I understand now that there is such a thing as Too Much Information.