TMI: A Writer’s Pitfall

The world is full of people who blurt TMI or too much information about their lives. Seriously, I. Do. Not. Need. To. Know. about your bodily functions, latest colonoscopy details or the green goo you discovered in your child’s Kleenex.

It seems that no matter where you turn there is someone who has TMI disease down to a science. They feel free to share other people’s information just as readily as their own.

So, what can we learn as writer’s from the TMI diseased, besides run fast? Avoid TMI in your novel.

The most common TMI disease symptoms in your novel:

*Too much Back Story. You start your novel by explaining your hero/heroine’s life from childhood and beyond. Maybe you don’t start that far back, but you don’t start in the action, you start a paragraph before. This is a clear symptom of TMI.

Cure:  Always start in the action of the story. Each scene should be active almost immediately, or within   the first few paragraphs. Avoid giving back story in the first chapter. Show back story through dialogue or character action.                                      

*Too much setting in chunks of text. This is one of my greatest annoyances. If I look at the page and there is very little white space and very little dialogue, chances are you have fallen victim to TMI in setting or back story.

Cure: Setting is important, but it can be weaved in. Launch the setting and then use action beats to anchor the characters in the setting. Avoid several long paragraph descriptions of setting. Watch for your genre’s setting standards when you read other books.

*Killing The Mystery. So many writers kill the mystery of a character’s journey and challenges by telling too much information. Making the reader curious about what will happen next is important, not just in suspense or mystery genres.

Cure:  Give the reader exactly what they need to know for now, then use breadcrumbs or little hints about the things you want people to know about your character. This will make them want to find out more.

*Offensive Grossology or Graphics. We have to remember the market we are writing for. If you are writing for CBA, there are times when softening the graphics of a scene will make your story more marketable. Being overly graphic for the purpose of sensationalizing the crime scene with blood and guts or advancing the Romance to the bedroom is TMI in CBA.

Cure: Know your market and research it. Learn what is acceptable for the publisher(s) you are wanting to pitch your novel to. All publishers have different quirks, don’t miss out on this information or you will be guilty of TMI.

* Repetitive Information. Telling the reader something over and over again insults their intelligence. Do not repeat clues and phrases to make sure they got it. They did.

Cure: Avoid repeating information that you’ve said before in your novel. Become familiar with Find and Replace in your computer’s edit menu. Eliminate overused phrases and words.

What are some other TMI disease symptoms? Or What examples of TMI can you give in life and writing?


About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

10 thoughts on “TMI: A Writer’s Pitfall

  1. Good stuff. Although I write picture books, I am often critiquing longer books. It is good to know what to look for. Thanks.

  2. One TMI…going on and on and on about what decision to make. Drives me up the wall. I’m guilty of wanting to put in too much back story. That’s been a hard struggle to learn.

  3. Melissa Tagg says:

    “Grossology.” Love it!

    I’m with Pat on this…when characters labor unnecessarily over decisions, I just want to bonk them on their pretend heads! Yes, people go through laborious decision-making, but sometimes in stories, it feels like the author is drawing a decision out for the sake of word count or something…

  4. Michelle Lim says:

    I am soooooo with you on the dithering! He loves me, He loves me not, I love him, I love him not……blech.

  5. jeannemt says:

    Such good thoughts, Michelle. 🙂 Perhaps one other thing that could be TMI would be sharing every detail in a character’s life. “She put on her foundation, then added her blush. She put on mascara, curled her hair…..” Don’t think a reader needs to know these details unless there’s more going on, like internal dialogue, or a phone conversation. Ya know? 🙂

  6. Michelle Lim says:

    So true, Jeanne! Or, how many times do characters wake up at the beginning of the scene…Too Many Times.

  7. Excellent post, Michelle! Great reminders on what else to edit out of the ms. 🙂

  8. Michelle Lim says:

    Thanks, Paula! Glad you stopped by.

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