Cole Parker Posted January 29, 2014 Report Share Posted January 29, 2014 I’d guess we all share some characteristics when it comes to writing, but I know we differ on some things, too. And I was wondering about ambiguity the other day. I’m in the finishing stages of a new short story. I’d written a line I was thinking about. It was this: He reached out his hand to touch his arm, then withdrew it; there was no need, now. I don’t much like ambiguity. I don’t like it when I encounter it in stories, and I don’t like to write it myself. I think it’s disrespectful of our readers. I think they want to know what we’re saying when we write, not to have to figure it out for themselves and perhaps miss the boat when doing so. Take that sentence. To me, when I wrote it, it was very clear in my mind what it meant. But when I thought about it from a reader’s perspective, I saw it wasn’t. The problem was that appendant ‘now’. What did it mean? As I say, to me it was clear. But then, I wrote it; it should have been clear. On consideration, though, it wasn’t. It could have meant …there was no need, now; he could do so tomorrow. Or, …there was no need, now; other things were more urgent. Or, …there was no need, now that he felt differently about things. Or a number of other things. What I thought it meant when I wrote it was, …he didn’t need to, now, because of what had just happened. But thinking of the readers, I wasn’t sure how many of them would understand that. I don’t want readers not understanding what I write. But I don’t want to oversimplify, either. How was I to fix that? I could have added those extra words, but I like streamlined sentences where possible, and I don’t want to bore the readers who already have assumed that’s what I meant. I figured out what to do, eventually. The first solution was a good one: just eliminate the ‘now’. Worked a charm. Then I went one step better and cut the entire sentence. No confusion at all that way. What I was wondering, though, is if we all do this? Consider how the words will look to the audience? And then change them according to what we think they might see, if we see they might misunderstand? And wondering, too, about ambiguity. Do you guys care about that? Or do you write what you feel, and not worry about that, just let what words you like and want on the page do their job. Quote Link to comment
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