Last week, I had a spirited discussion with my writing group.
Yes, they ripped me a new asshole. That’s what writing group is for.
One thing they picked up on was that I tend to hold things back, I keep information to myself in early chapters so I have more to play with later on. I call it being suspenseful, they called it playing my cards too close to the chest.
While it can improve suspense and tension to hold some things back from the reader, holding too much back could keep you from engaging the reader. In early chapters, the main thing every writer is trying to accomplish is engaging the reader.
Should I reveal a little of how a secondary character knows the main character? Sure. Should I spell out their history and friendship chronologically? No. Should I leave it up to the reader to infer? Again, no. Readers need a little something to hang onto, just enough to lead them onward and never so much to slow down the plot.
I tend to write toward suspense, while others often say too much. We need to meet in the middle, not just crafting a good story, but the sort of story that makes a reader want to keep going.
If we don’t play our cards at the right moment, the reader is going to deal us out of the game. That simple.