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I just noticed I have the tendency of "lecturing" my readers now and then.

Examples:

I almost let everything out. But, funny, I didn't do it. I didn't want him to feel bad. Which made me wonder if maybe I enjoyed punishing myself. Maybe we all have that secret wish. Maybe that's the reason humanity created gods, bad spirits, and demons: to have something to punish us when nothing real does. I didn't believe in any of those, though. In my case, I had to do it myself.

I knew two months wasn't a big deal for most people. But to me, it was an endless torture. Especially since I was waiting for someone dear to come back. That's why I hate it when people say to me: “It isn't that long. You'll see. It'll be over before you know it!” They forget time is relative. Just like Einstein said. You can watch time fly while watching your favorite TV show, or feel it extend forever while clutching a piece of burning coal.

I tried removing those, and the narrative reads perfectly fine. I'm curious though, about other's opinion. Should I remove them, keep them, or make them shorter? Is this an example of breaking the rule show don't tell? I was also thinking I could stick them into a dialogue.

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Rule n: You Should Not Lecture Your Readers. Rule 1. Rules exist to be broken. –  SF. Nov 25 '13 at 10:18
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5 Answers

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I also questioned the validity of the internal "lecturing" monologue, but much to my surprise, people often said this was their favourite part of the story. When I added other monologues to my other stories, they once again became the highlight of the story for a few people.

John Green does this a lot too. In an Abundance of Katherines, the vast majority of memorable moments come from the main character's "lecturing" inner monologues.

Consequently, based off of my expansive experience of my own two data points and my adoration for John Green, I give you the following guidelines, that are mostly truisms that I've tried to repackage here, for your benefit as well as my own.

Firstly, you cannot build momentum with "lecturing" monologues. Monologues are for when you already have momentum and you want to drive home a point into the reader's mind.

Secondly, it is a good idea to keep them short, as you have. The maximum being a couple of paragraphs is what I've noticed.

In terms of your text specifically, I found the point in your second paragraph to be a bit cliché and might actually be better as dialogue as you mention, unless the character is supposed to seem shy and isolated as you mention. I see it playing out more along the lines of:

“It isn't that long. You'll see. It'll be over before you know it!”
"Hey, would mind sticking your finger into a power outlet for a couple of second. It isn't that long. It will be over before you know it!"

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I see. I think I realized it's a matter of style. Maybe what I'm looking for, though, is something similar to Murakami's characters. They just observe their surroundings without making any kind of judgments. I'll experiment with both types. –  Alexandro Chen Nov 23 '13 at 16:08
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In short amounts, as you've done above, such "lecturing" is okay in first person. You're really not lecturing the reader so much as showing the narrator's state of mind. The trick is to ensure that these statements (also known as interior monologues) don't become long rants that are authorial intrusions and slow the forward movement of the plot.

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Agreed. To expand on this, I feel that the examples that you (Chen) gave work just fine, as they're showing insight to your character. But I once read a book that provided very lengthy lectures (no kidding, some were 2-3 pages). To make it worse, it wasn't to strengthen the main character--it was just a side character giving their view on the world. I honestly skipped those pages. It also didn't help that these views were often political ones that I didn't happen to agree with, but even if I had, they would have been far too long and too unnecessary to bother reading. –  Bullfrog Dec 3 '13 at 3:48
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I think the passages in Italics are perfectly fine; since the narrative is first-person, you are showing that person's inner life and motivation. Personally I would put more exposition, ie the stuff in regular font, between the thoughts.

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In first person, this is fine. The lecturing is coming from the MC. In third person, I think it depends on who is the narrator. Lecturing from an omniscient narrator would be bad, IMHO, unless it were very clever lecturing. But that is possible. Consider the opening line from Austen's "Pride and Prejudice":

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

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I think you question the utility of these passages because they stick out. This time you saw them as lecturing. Of course, "lecturing" differs from delivering a good lecture. Lecturing is boring. A teen feels an adult is lecturing when they make a point that is not relevant. That may be what is happening here.

In paragraph 1, you bring up the origin of deities which you then state that you don't believe in. The reader traveled into a blind cul-de-sac and was left there. They now must try to trust that the next time you make a point with colorful description that it will contribute to the narration and lead them toward the satisfaction of their interests in your story.

In paragraph 2, you invoke Einstein instead of deities. You then add two ways in which time can seem relative--examples that may be from Einstein or may be from the 1st person narrator. It may be that you go on to connect these examples to what is happening in the narrative, but if you don't, they will continue to seem like the lecturing adult, failing to make a relevant point.

I believe the short answer to your question is this. If you feel that your narrator is lecturing, and it is not the purpose of the narration to appear as lecturing, then you should avoid it. As Einstein says, lecturing is relative.

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