One way for an author to slow a story is to employ “countersinking,” a term coined by science fiction writer Lewis Shiner. Countersinking involves making explicit the very actions that the story implies. An example is: “We need to hide,” she said, asking him to seek cover.
Countersinking is also known as “expositional redundancy” and for good reason; in the above example, the character’s dialogue already directly states that she thinks they should hide. So why repeat it?
Besides slowing the story’s dramatic momentum, countersinking suggests the author lacks confidence in his or her storytelling ability.
The solution is simple: Cut the redundant wording to tighten your writing. The above example could be rewritten as: “We need to hide,” she said.
Yes! This always bothered me in writing (including mine), but I didn’t know there was a name for it. I agree with Shiner – it’s due to the writer lacking confidence, but the result is worse than simply slowing the read. It can insult the reader. It makes them feel like the writer is ‘talking down to them’. Like you think they’re too dumb to get it the first time.
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