When Is It Too Much?

When is it too much?

When have you gone too far?

Too Much is one of those things I can easily identify in other writers’ works, but find difficult to see in my own writing.

Overwrought description. Dialogue that meanders into meaninglessness. Emotions that spill all over the page.

(Was that Too Much?)

There’s something about Too Much that ruins the illusion of reality that a good story creates. A bit like breaking the fourth wall in theater, Too Much has the effect of the author pointing out his or her writing. “Look at me go!”

The other night my husband was reading a book that shall remain nameless. “Listen to this,” he said, and he read a sentence so heavy laden with adjectives and importance it nearly drowned under its own weight. I groaned and thought, Really? In that book?

But I do it, too. I imagine we all get carried away from time to time.

During our workshops, Jim Sallis points out Too Much by saying, “This is too on the nose.”

Too Much does all the work and leaves no space for the reader. “Don’t you see?” Too Much says, “My story is about (fill in the blank).”

Some of the best writing advice I ever heard came from Ron Carlson. He looks at the subject of a story like a target. The theme or point of the story is the bullseye. He suggests writers circle the target, aim to the side, and never hit the mark dead on.

Such a great solution to the problem of Too Much. Unless of course you then move into the opposite territory.

Writing Too Little.