Particularly in historicals, but in any novel where there is some sort of specialist knowledge, I think a definite sin is too much information. I learned this the hard way. Quite often, especially when writing about a period or incident that is little-known, the temptation is there to try get the reader up to speed.
My rule of thumb on this is if you are putting something in to clarify your story for the reader, you’ve written the story wrong.
Seamless. That is the watchword towards which I strive 🙂 .
Sure, we all fall in love with some little quirky historical fact or anecdote and yearn to put it in our stories. I fell in love with two, in a past WIP. One involving dried peas and another involving saucy laundresses. I managed to include both by integrating them into the plot, with the added satisfaction of knowing that both really happened, and that sometimes, fact is stranger than fiction. But at no point did I need to explain the why of these two things. They were (hopefully) a seamless part of the story, naturally emerging so that what happened seemed perfectly logical without any author intervention.
Reading a novel (contemporary or historical) where characters start giving each other facts and figures that have nothing really to do with the plot and which, as colleagues, they surely both already know, is a death knell to me. Often, the author is really writing what they know, they’re a lawyer, an art historian, a sailor, and they cannot resist including a whole lot of cool facts about their world, whether the story calls for these details or not.
As a history lover, and a researcher who tries to get her hands on as many primary sources as possible, I often find myself longing to add in things that I know shouldn’t be there. So I start a little side file, write them in, and twice this had turned out to be my Author’s Note. It’s a great solution to the bursting-to-tell-cool-stuff problem, and keeps the focus on the story, rather than the cool stuff.
So, whether its because you live in the town you’ve set your stories, and you tend to put in too many street names and places, just to show you know your ‘hood, or you’re writing a historical set in a period you know intimately, or your heroine is a specialist assassin and you’ve researched weapons and have come up with some gizmos you’d just love to share with your readers, what’s your Achilles heel in the TMI department?