Friday, July 1, 2011

Please, Resist the Urge!

RUE used to mean only "regret and sorrow." But if you're a writer, it can also mean "Resist the Urge to Explain." Why? Because it's more fun to read, "A tear slid down Macy's cheek" than, "Macy was sad."

Jessica Nelson posted a helpful snippet about RUE lately, as she caught the explaining bug popping up in manuscripts she judged for a contest.

My husband is a world-class explain-aholic. I think it's the teaching gift in him. If he says, "I'm shopping on Monday this week instead of Wednesday," in half a second I've figured out why. But he MUST give me a five-minute explanation about this being the Forth of July weekend, and he wants to avoid the crowds shopping for their cookouts, and it will save him loads of time, blah, blah, blah...

Which isn't too dangerous for our marriage, other than that I occasionally get miffed and say, "I already figured that out; I don't need it explained. Do you think I'm a total numbskull?"

But it is dangerous in writing.  When we explain too much, we may not only bore our reader; we might insult their intelligence, implying they lack the brains to figure things out for themselves.

Reading is interactive entertainment. The more we allow our readers to enter into the story with their own imaginations, the more they'll be drawn in by our writing, and need to turn the page.

Whether you're a spouse with a teaching gift or you write, R.U.E. We'll love you for it.


  1. I used to be guilty of explaining too much big time. I've found reading my work out loud helps me come at it from more of an outsider perspective and helps me to cut out a lot of what's not needed.

    Happy 4th!
    ~ Wendy

  2. Understanding RUE was huge for me. Took my writing to a whole new level.

  3. Very insightful! I never really though about this. I'll be contemplating it all weekend now.

  4. That must be what turns me away from some writing. They haven't mastered the art of just - painting a picture, only with words. I've actually felt talked-down-to, and it doesn't make me pick up the book again.

    Great post, Jeanette!

  5. lol. Definitely an irritant in a marriage relationship and a necessity in writing. You always make me smile, Jen. :)


  6. Ah, I work with two people who suffer from this ailment. I can deal with it in my marriage much better than I can at the office!
    Maybe I'll put a sign over my desk to open a line of communication. : )

  7. So true! Thanks for the reminder! :)

    Btw - I am married to one of those gifted teacher types too, although the explaining kicks in mostly when discussing spiritual things.

    Have a lovely weekend!

  8. Loved your posting. I'll remember that... R.U.E.

  9. Love your you!
    Hugs, blessings, and prayers,

  10. Excellent post, Jeanette! Thanks for linking to me. :-) I happen to live with an overexplainer too. Very boring sometimes. LOL

  11. Got it. (I resist the urge to explain why.) :)

  12. Jeanette:
    I have the tendancy to explain. My husband has the same tendancy with a second feature, he goes off in tangents. His late sister did the same thing.
    I try to use RUE in my writing. Notice I said try.

  13. Well said, Jenn. I like a lot of things Ernest Hemingway said. One was, "The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water." To me, that reinforces the RUE concept in suggesting much can be communicated by leaving the majority of words unsaid. :)


  14. Hi Jen -

    Thanks for bringing attention to this important concept. Explaining pulls the reader out of the story.

    Susan :)

  15. Inspirational! Absolutely wonderful!
    Keep it coming! :)
    We all are always here to support you.

  16. Well, I am married to one with the gift of teaching and I am fully aware of his need to explain.....hahahaha
    I often ask him to explain something in 15 words or less but he just laughs because he can't do it....we both get a big laugh out of his "wordiness"........

    Since I am not a write, I love reading your posts about writing issues....this one was fun....thanks...

  17. This is great! I even linked it to Twitter. :)

  18. Wow, thanks, Kathi. That's a compliement I appreciate!

  19. I probably have that teaching, explaiining bug, too. I have to remember to let the details explain instead. Thanks for the reminder.

  20. Oh, I love this word ~ explain-aholic. I am married to one, too. I always laugh when people say guys never talk. I am glad I am not married to the silent type.



Oh, it's YOU! I'm so happy to see you here today, and look forward to reading your comments.