Originally Posted by gmw
This is such wonderful advice, if only it meant something. Sorry, that comes out harsher than I really mean it to sound. The fact is that "necessary" with fiction is such a subjective thing.
There's a clip on YouTube where they give the story of Lord of the Rings as it should have gone: Gandalf and the hobbits hop on the great eagles and fly over Mount Doom and drop the ring in - the end. That tells the story doesn't it? Even down to the importance of the eagles that you haven't really met before unless you read The Hobbit. Everything else is filler.
The justification for all the extra bits is that they are what make the story interesting to the reader. Characters that seem real and interesting. Scenes that impart the feel of reality, of being there. A story that involves the reader, that has some emotional impact. But it's up to the author to decide just how much is needed to achieve each of these goals.
Yes, you should remove everything that adds nothing to the story, character and scene that is unfolding. But that still leaves a lot of room to add more than you need ... or not enough. Deciding what is enough is often the task of the second draft. The first draft is telling the story to yourself, the second draft is telling the story to others. Stephen King, in "On Writing", passes on the suggestion that the second draft is usually the first draft minus 10%.
True. What I meant was that the dialogue should add to the story in some way. As someone else pointed out you shouldn't go into a long spiel about what's for dinner unless it has some bearing on the story itself. For example if it's a story where the husband's boss is coming to dinner and he's allergic to something or if she's trying to impress her new mother-in-law etc. Dialogue has text and subtext. The text tells us direct information and the way it's presented tells us about the characters who are speaking the dialogue.