One evening while tagging along with hubby on a conference, we were visiting with the other people at our dinner table when it came up that I was a writer.
“Oh?” One gentleman perked up. “Our daughter writes books, too.”
“Really?” I wondered if this was anybody I’d read or would like to read. “What books has she written?”
“We don’t know. She won’t tell us.”
The gears in my mind started to slip. “You can’t find them by her name?”
“She uses a pseudonym and she won’t tell us what it is.”
The gears slid even more. “Do you know what kind of books she writes?”
“Yeah, they’re romance novels.”
“Oh.” I smiled as the gears got traction again. “That’s a lucrative market to write for.”
I did NOT say, “I get it now. She writes bodice-rippers and she’s embarrassed to have her parents read them.”
Writers are familiar with the mantra “Show, don’t tell,” but how much showing is too much? Obviously some genres will dictate those parameters, but other genres will give the author more wiggle room. At that point, considering what your audience wants is beneficial, but your personal preference will also come into play.
In the years of honing my craft, I’ve written something pertaining to every genre out there. But upon deciding to get serious about publishing, one matter I made up my mind on was that I wouldn’t produce anything that would make my mother blush. That meant when I wrote Darkness upon the Land, the first book in the End of an Age series, I had to get creative.
A coronal mass ejection causes electrical grid (and everything related) failure that plunges society into chaos. That means rioters and raiders use foul language and blood gets spilt.
My protagonists don’t cuss (although the hero will occasionally let one fly, but only in appropriate occasions), so I was able to use them as a filter for the language. By techniques such as describing someone’s dialogue referencing indiscriminate carnal relations, the point gets across without using the actual words.
The physical conflicts needed description, but going into detail on all the organic sounds and smells weren’t necessary (I also don’t want to make Mom gag). Shots were fired, the blood landed somewhere, and the characters dropped in certain ways. ‘Nuff said.
Sometimes in writing, less can be more. Striking that perfect balance is mental gymnastics that can feel like wrestling with inner demons. On the other hand, creative crafting can be quite fun.