This is definitely one I struggle with. Because I wrote the story, everything that’s been written is perfectly clear to me.
So it’s a common occurance that I send out work and get back crit upon crit saying that they don’t know what’s going on. Because I can visualize what’s going on all the time, I can’t see when someone can’t.
In those circumstances, the solution is to go back to each scene that misses some clarity and make the necessary aspects more obvious.
On the other hand, I have found that writers make things too obvious. That is by far the number one on my pet peeves list. Because making things glaringly obvious looks like the writer thinks the reader is an idiot. And insulting the people you want to pay for the story is never the wisest course. Luckily though, it’s an easy fix. Deleting the reitirations of the obvious.
If the plot is too obvious or convoluted, though, you have a bit more of a problem. You’ll have to put your story through substantial revisions to complicate or simplify your story, depending on the situation.
So if you’re think that something’s too obvious or not obvious enough, you might want to get your CPs to help you spot all the places to fix…
Look Out for These:
1) Crit partners asking why/how/when/where questions.
2) Crit partners stating that they know something or that it’s already clear.
3) Readers predicting the end or not getting the end at all.
Do you make things too obvious? Or do you struggle to?
When you write, do you write for clarity? Or do you like to keep the mystery going for as long as you can?
I’m definitely in the latter category. My series is all about secrets and betrayals. So for that to work, I need to keep things on the obscure side. I think a lot of writers prefer to keep things veiled for the simple reason that we can add more twists and turns and keep readers guessing. I mean, we can’t keep people guessing if they already know…
Of course, that brings me to the first point I want to make. If you want to go for obscure, make sure that it is in fact obscure. There are few things as annoying as having to scream at a character because he/she can’t see something that is happening right before their eyes.
Making the reader scream because they can see something that the character has NO WAY of seeing, is sheer brilliance. It’s something I strive for.
Back to obscurity. It is also important that the writing isn’t too obscure. If the reader is saying “huh?!” too many times, it pulls the right out of the story. At best.
If the writer throws in a twist with zero setting up beforehand, it will probably result in the book being flung against the wall.
That’s too obscure.
So what would be the ideal reaction from the reader in this case? Something like the following:
“HUH?! Wait… *wince* oooooohhhh… that.“
Yep. I’m a firm believer in Chekhov’s Gun. Obscure the reason for the clue’s existence, but not the clue itself. It must be VERY clearly visible. Because the idea is to slap the reader behind the head with it later. Not because they missed it, but because they missed its significance.