4 Thou shalt not saw the air with abstractions, for readers, like lovers, are attracted to particularity.I have mentioned in a few posts how I need to remember that readers are intelligent, and I don't need to include everything but the kitchen sink for my readers to "get it", taking them by the hand and pointing out every symbol, unfolding every hidden meaning, or explaining the purpose of every move.
On the other hand, being too abstract landed me with a recent revision request, and I thought I could use the example here.
In The Inn, the main character, Elizabeth, has a past. I referred to it vaguely, only hints, leaving the reader to fill in the blanks. But this past is a major factor in Elizabeth's character, her reactions. Even I wasn't sure if there was a string of past events, or one single occurence, that affected her in such a way.
The feedback was this:
"The author has clearly shielded Elizabeth's past so that the reader does not know much about [her], but there's not enough back story about Elizabeth to give the reader a strong grasp of who she is."While it's true I wanted Elizabeth's character to unfold, this critique also pointed out that instead of "unfolding", I just revealed her past at the end. Kind of a let down.
With the invaluable help of my author friend, Abel Keogh, I was able to insert bits and pieces of Elizabeth's past along the way, building tension and momentum, without giving it all up until absolutely necessary. But, more importantly to building a better foundation for Elizabeth's character, I created a singular specific event in her past to overcome, and created situations where it is brought up, and she either has to address it, or brush it away. The result surprised me (a lot of things do as I learn this craft). It was a good surprise.
And yes, I'm being abstract because I don't want to give any more away.
What do you think of abstractions vs. particularities, in writing OR reading?