Wednesday, June 29, 2011

R.U.E. -- Resist the Urge to Explain

There is a maxim in writing called R.U.E — Resist the Urge to Explain. Supposedly, if you show your readers the story rather than explaining it to them, it will allow readers to draw their own conclusions, thereby making readers a part of the story.

In some ways, my novel More Deaths Than One is a simple story. A man returns home after eighteen years in Southeast Asia to find the mother he buried before he left is dead again. Or rather, he finds her obituary in the morning newspaper, and when he goes to the cemetery, he sees a funeral party. He also sees someone who appears to be . . . himself. With the help of an unfulfilled and quirky waitress he meets in a coffee shop, he sets out to discover the truth.

Beneath that simple story lies the question of what makes us who we are. Is it our memories? Our experiences? Our natures?

And beneath that is the real story — a mythic tale of a man who reflects the people he meets back to themselves. This is the story I did not explain. I wanted readers to discover it for themselves, yet I’ve learned (by way of less-than-stellar reviews) that not everyone sees this story. One reviewer, who thought that the relationships were developed with too little explanation, couldn’t understand why the waitress would run off with someone she barely knew. I thought as readers got deeper into the story and noticed more of the characters seeing themselves in the hero (good guys saw good, evil guys saw evil, victims saw a fellow victim, the artistic saw the artist, the soulless saw a drone) that it would be apparent the waitress’s adventure-starved soul saw in him the fulfillment of her dreams. I guess not.

It’s too late to rewrite the story, and even if I could, I wouldn’t. But . . . here’s the question: should I have explained more? Should I have resisted the urge to resist the urge to explain?

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