Monday, 30 April 2012

MONDAY MAGIC - Cari Z - When is enough really enough?

When Is Enough Really Enough?

By Cari Z

I grew up with a house full of boy scouts, and from an early age I was taught that the golden rule wasn’t “Do unto others,” it was, “Be prepared.”  Be prepared for anything, from a blizzard to a heat wave, and I have dutifully followed suit.  My car has everything from chemical handwarmers to iodine tablets in the trunk.  Rest assured, if I’m ever kidnapped and dropped in the middle of nowhere with my car, I’ll be ready.  Without the car… um… I’ll have a pocket knife.  And possibly a mirror and some lipstick, depending on the day.  But regardless, I like to be prepared, and I like to prepare other people too.  It’s an impulse I have to fight in my writing.

There’s a continual risk for an author of over-explaining things to your readers.  You want them to understand, you want them to see it the way you do, and how better to ensure that than by telling them all about it?  I’ve found that when writing speculative fiction, that urge goes up immensely.  There’s more than just a character’s work or relationships to explain, there’s an entirely new world that readers need to be clued into.  It doesn’t matter if it’s high fantasy, science fiction or paranormal romance, I always get into a mental beatdown with my inner teacher over how much to give away. 

I’d probably be an abysmal mystery writer (omg, the butler!  Look at the butler!).

In May I’ve got several new releases coming out, and one of them is the m/m science fiction novel Changing Worlds, based off of a short story I wrote for the anthology Wild Passions.  It’s set far in the future and delves into the complicated relationship between my human narrator and his alien consort.  You can imagine just how much detail I wanted to give you: what is life like for humans in this era?  What about the alien world they live on?  What about their language?  What are the trials of adapting to an entirely new culture?  Is love the same thing for humans as it is for the Perel, the aliens that I describe?  The novel delves into all of this and a lot more, and was originally an extra ten thousand words or so long, mostly me telling you things that you didn’t really need to be walked through.  Thankfully that’s what editors are for, to keep their authors in check and up to snuff, and luckily I have the best and most ruthless editor ever to grace the page.

This is my first ever novel, and it turns out it’s a lot harder to stay consistently good over seventy thousand words than it is over a short story, but I’m thrilled with how the book has turned out.  My publisher at Storm Moon Press has been awesome enough to include the short story the novel is based on as a preface to the book, for free.  This way new readers will be able to get Jason and Ferran’s full story, while faithful readers will be able to get to the new stuff in short order.  I want my audience to walk away from this story thrilled by the romance and satisfied with the plot.  If you like new and exciting places, life-or-death suspense and steamy sex, then Changing Worlds is right up your alley.  If you don’t like those things… maybe we should stage an intervention.  Reach out!  I’m here for you!

Changing Worlds is available for preorder from Storm Moon Press, and will be released on May 18th.

Huge thanks to Maggie for hosting me, and thanks to you guys for visiting and reading!

Bio:  Cari Z. is a Colorado girl who loves snow and sunshine. She is back from Africa at long last, and loves it despite having to relearn how to drive a car and work a touchscreen. Writing consumes the free time that isn't spent on the mat or playing with her husband, or both (wonderful when interests coincide like that), and she hopes you enjoy what she writes as much as she enjoys writing it.
Blog:, website:

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In this sequel to Cari Z's Opening Worlds, former starship captain Jason Kim travels to Perelan, the homeworld of his lover, Ferran, to start a life together. The ruling council of the Perels have allowed this unconventional union to continue in the hopes of strengthening relations between themselves and the humans. And while Ferran's family welcome Jason with open arms, not all of the other major families are as pleased. The arrival of an outsider to their insular, subterranean world challenges the traditions of centuries.

Tensions soar as old rivalries are rekindled in the wake of Jason and Ferran's relationship. Inevitably, something snaps. Jason and Ferran soon find themselves literally fighting for their lives when xenophobic anger pushes things beyond the breaking point. Only their devotion to one another can see them through, but a ghost from Jason's past threatens even that. With Perelan on the brink of civil war, Jason and Ferran must find a way to stand together in the face of chaos and to change the world on their own terms before it tears itself apart.


Thanks for being my guest today Cari! I have to agree with you's so hard to get the balance right between how much you tell and how much is weaved into the story through description, and the five senses.  Great post!

The book looks pretty cool too!


P.I. Barrington said...

Great post Cari! I usually have the opposite problem of not describing enough! Now I can refer back to this to figure out what I need to add, lol!

Cari Z said...

Hey Patti! Glad you liked the post. Somewhere out there is a perfect writer who neither adds too much or too little description, but just the right amount...and if I ever find him/her I will throw that person to the three bears in a fit of jealousy:)

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, Cari,

The books sounds great! Congratulations!

I know exactly what you're talking about. You don't want readers to be confused, and you know so much more about your world and your characters than they do you know how much to share?

Here's a trick I use: don't share anything unless the sentence/paragraph has some additional function, other than just providing background. Does your detail reveal character? Further the action? Establish an emotional tone that echoes the characters' internal state? If your answer is no, hold onto the tidbit until you can make it do double duty.

With scifi, you definitely do face the risk of not telling enough. Don't forget, though, that puzzling your readers a bit is not necessarily bad. Make them wonder what's going on - who this person is - what he or she is doing and why - at least for a while. When you do provide the information/resolution, there's a pleasurable "aha" feeling that will draw your reader deeper into the book.

Tiffany said...

Excellent post! Details are nice, but I lose interest quickly when I read a book where too much is given away too soon. There's no harm in making a reader wonder!

Ashlyn Chase said...

Hi Cari,

If anything, I tend to under explain.
I like to keep my pace fast, and a reader who skims or speed reads will miss important details. That has come back to bite me in the butt a couple times. Even editors can miss important points if they're unclear.

Let's try to find that balance. i will if you will.

maggie brooke said...

always a dilema and, like you said, thank god for editors. hemingway (i think) said, 'when in doubt, cut it out' but i'm often not in doubt until somebody else tells me it's too much! besides editors, i find that critical reading helps. thanks!

Ashlyn Chase said...

Hemingway also said, "Everyone's first draft is shit." LOL

Cari Z said...

Wow, sudden outpouring here!

Thanks, Lisabet! And you point out a number of the things my editor did when she gave me my crash course in structure. A lot pf paragraphs got cut or moved to keep from info-dumping. Hopefully I can remember these tips when I'm starting on my next project instead of during the editing phase:)

Tiffany--you may have noticed my tendency to overshare... feel free to say "TMI, girl!"

Ashlyn--thank you for informing me that Hemingway rocks:)

and Maggie--my betas and editors are worth their weight in gold. The solid stuff, not plated, not at all. I tend to fall in love with my prose sometimes *ducks head, blushes*