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All content copyright 2010 by Chelsea Biondolillo. Seriously.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 291

My goal for the weekend was to get a new edit of the hummingbirds finished. I think I did. It needs to decant for a day or two before I'm sure.

Here's the thing: I never know how much to explain to the reader. In my relationships, I am a big fan of "you should know what I'm thinking"--this is awful and unfair, I know, but it's a paradigm I can't seem to let all the way go. And I think I do that in my writing, but even MORE unintentionally than I do with my love interests.

Part of me feels like I shouldn't have to spell it all out. Hemingway doesn't spell it out in Hills Like White Elephants. (Though Faulkner does in A Rose for Emily.) It's not that I think the reader is dumb, it's that I feel stupid explaining basics, or I don't know how to without condescending or being clunky. For example, I always forget to describe how people look--since they are real people, how they look is so clear in my mind I forget that the reader needs to know this sort of thing.

Not like there's any mystery in my essay, but one of the reviewers said that I should explain more clearly and earlier on where I am and why. I agree that it shouldn't be a mystery to the reader, and if it is, I should paint a clearer picture. But how? And how much?

I think this is the sort of question that could be answered (in part) from the reading I am doing. Annie Dillard spells a lot out, but she doesn't talk down to the reader. In what will hopefully be the last week that I spend reading Pilgrim, I will be trying to better see the structure and what she shows vs lets me figure out. No idea if it will work, but it can't hurt.


Molly said...

I overheard Susan Orlean tell someone else in a workshop once that the most important thing is to never confuse the reader. I mention this cuz sometimes clarity is the secret answer to unlikely questions, or something.

also, fitness rules.

Chelsea said...

fitness DOES rule. and that is a great quote... But how can I know when the reader is *going to be* confused?

I don't always have the luxury of responsive readers...