The relationship between authors and readers is built on mutual trust.
The reader trusts the author will give them enough information to follow the storyline, while being entertained and shocked with plot twists and reveals!
The author must trust the reader to fill in the blanks and come to their own conclusions.
(By blanks, I mean, setting or clothing not described to the very last detail.)
When there is too much given to the reader, they can feel untrusted and possibly think the author isn’t giving them enough credit.
I’m going to call this authorsplaining. Avoid authorsplaining.
Consider your audience
If you are writing a crime novel, your audience has probably read other crime novels or watched TV and movies in the same genre. They don’t know your story yet, but they will know some things, like if the police don’t have a warrant, then anything they find in a suspect’s home is inadmissible. Or if the perpetrator doesn’t wipe down a weapon they used, and they weren’t wearing gloves, they will leave a fingerprint, or at least a partial. Things like these don’t need to be mentioned. They will get it.
Not mentioning these details increases suspense. The reader will want to know when the characters figure it out or when they will get caught by their errors.
Until they are told the truth, they will speculate, and that’s part of the fun!
Give a general setting description at first, then reveal the details that are different than expected.
For example, a scene takes place in a garage.
You can state it’s a garage with an SUV parked in one spot and junk in the other. Let the reader in on a few items that tell them something about the people living in the house and home in on an important item the reader needs to remember to follow the storyline.
Henry pushed the door to the garage open. The SUV was parked in its usual place and the pile of junk took up the other side. The bike he hadn’t used in years hung next to the tools he’d barely touched since they’d moved in. He spotted his daughter’s plush rocking horse, lowered his head, and stepped back into the house.
The reader doesn’t need to be told that the sight of the rocking horse caused him to forget why he went to the garage in the first place. They don’t need to know why he didn’t ride his bike in years or hadn’t touched the tools. The impression they are left with is … well, I’ll leave the impressions to you. I don’t need to tell you how you feel. But the rocking horse is the key to solving his daughter’s case.
Trust the readers' senses. The bitter taste of coffee. The pitter-patter of rain. The smoothness of satin. Chances are your readers know what coffee tastes like, the sound of rain, the feel of satin. Even if they don’t, they’ve probably heard or read about it before.
Explain sensations that are different from what they expect or use new terminology they may not have read before to describe them.
Amber brushed toast crumbs off her satin blouse, relaxed into the porch swing, sipped her coffee. Hazelnut creamer and tapping rain on the porch awning was the perfect way for her to spend her morning before work.
Trust your readers. Don’t authorsplain, and they will trust you.
Give them details that are pertinent to following the storyline, picture the setting, and sense what the character does.
Build suspense by letting the reader guess the plot, so your twist is a big surprise!