Some years back I came across a book by Renni Browne and Dave King: Self-editing for fiction writers. One of their running lines, you could call it a mantra, is “Resist the Urge to Explain.” And that indeed is a fault with many beginning writers, and even with some experienced ones, and it’s not confined to fiction writers. How many poets have you heard give long, rambling explanations of their poems, before or after they read them? My reaction is always to think (because I’m far too polite to say it), “Shut the f*** up! Your poems should be their own explanation. ” If the meaning needs to be explained, it has failed as a poem, as an act of communication between writer and reader. Basil Bunting said “Don’t explain. Your audience is as clever as you are.” I like Basil Bunting.
You also see it in bad historical (and other) dramas, where dialogue is forced to include the back story, because the author couldn’t bear to let the readers use their own imagination to fill out the story. Dialogue should (a) be natural, and (b) take the story forward. Here’s a thoroughly bad example:
“Lord Vader, is it not?” Admiral Quint queried.
“Indeed,” he hissed, “What is our present course?”
“We are following the rebels to their temporary base on Spondulix, having tortured the information out of our captives before throwing them to their deaths in the spice mines of Thromb,” the Admiral replied, assertively.
“Very good,” retorted the tall, black-helmeted fiend from Hell. “Let me know when you arrive at the outer fringes of the system. That will give me sufficient time to clean my teeth.”
“Certainly, my Lord. And …. Her Ladyship?” he asked diffidently, but with a hint of cheekiness.
“Enough!” Vader replied angrily, almost incandescently in fact. “You of all my minions know very well I always travel alone, ever since that incident with the trouser press in the hotel room on Betelgeuse 3. And wipe that squint off your face, Quint.”
“My Lord,” the quaking and now red-faced Admiral tremulously and apologetically murmured.
I rest my case.