You read it here: my readers are the smartest on Earth. I won’t write down to them and make them feel stupid because they are not. They are wise, clever and enjoy puzzles.
I’ve had many suggestions from beta readers over the years to add clarification on certain sentences, certain dialogue, and while I accepted some, I’ve always fought against it. I understand the secret meanings behind specific sentences; why wouldn’t my readers? Why do I need to explain further? Isn’t that like explaining a punch line?
So what if they don’t get every punch line. Maybe the second time they read it, they will. They’ll enjoy the punch lines they get.
When I think of over explaining a scene, emotion or gesture, I think of that last scene in Thor: Ragnarok where Loki is sent back to Odin’s Vault to retrieve Surtur’s crown. For five seconds, the audience sees the Tesseract (which is the Space Infinity Stone) sitting on its pedestal in the vault, long enough to identify what it is. Then we see Loki run by the door, stop and gaze upon it. For viewers who know Loki’s history from previous Marvel movies, we know what he’s thinking; we know what he’s going to do. If the director had been more concerned with viewers who couldn’t read Loki’s expression, that scene would have not been as funny as it was. As soon as I saw his face, I laughed. I knew exactly. I didn’t need anyone to explain it to me.
The director could have catered to those who didn’t know Loki’s past, never saw the movies and wouldn’t know what he’d do, but why? He had to direct on the notion that the majority of viewers had seen the other movies and would know, and those who didn’t well…they should watch them. Why serve the minority when the majority mattered more?
I write my epic fantasy series believing readers have read the previous books. They won’t be lost if they haven’t, but they will enjoy book 3 more if they’ve read books 1 and 2. I’m serving the dedicated reader, the one who reads from book 1 to book 10 (when it gets here). These readers are smart and they don’t need things over explained.
Having a reader get the underlying meaning that triggers a grin or a knowing thought is easier in a series, where characters grow over spans of time and books. Healing Stones does this well for Bronwyn, Tam and Kellyn because there’s a lot of history between these three characters.
Here’s a scene between siblings Tam and Kellyn where they discuss convincing Bronwyn of a certain truth.
Tam grunted. “How long does it take to change the mindset of a stubborn honourable man?”
“Depends on your method of persuasion. Personally, I’d grab him by the scabbard belt and get into his face.” Kellyn chuckled. “He might take offence to you doing that. If that failed, I’d punch him the mouth.”
“That’s all you’ve got? You’re wearing that uniform because you did the impossible and convinced that man a women’s unit was necessary. How did you do that?”
“Sat on his lap and played with his mustache, after I whacked him across the knee with a hot poker.”
“That’s not an option.”
“Hit him low.”
“I mean sucker punch him with emotion. The boy’s a sap. He may be a lord, but he’s the same man who got his ear pulled by Beathas, the same man who danced in a field creating a light spell.” She pointed towards the castle. “There goes the baby of the family now.”
What about you? Are your readers as smart as mine?