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Don’t Make it Suck: Clarity and the Reader

Via Natasha:

Recently, I was talking to a classmate who said that, regardless of the many different readings and analyses of stories that are made, the ultimate and definitive meaning of a story should be the one the writer intended it to be.

In class, I think one reason that the writer’s questions are left until the end is because once the writing is sent out into the world, it must stand on its own.

I always tell my students that they will not be there with their script, holding its hand. They will not be able to defend it, explain its meaning, or clarify any misunderstandings. Their writing must be independent of them.

They must not only to consider the message of their script, but that it must make sense, with clean lines of action, no matter how much they move around in time and space. It is about learning to write in cause and effect, intelligible transitions, and the clear, crisp images.1

I try and remind them of the reader, the person that considers their work for publication or production. This individual has a stack of writing on their desk or their bedside table. They have read more bad and mediocre writing than you can imagine, and they are not going to give the careful reading that you may wish. It is far easier for them to reject you than risk their job by considering you, and all they dream of is reading something unique, fresh, and exciting. The image is a cliché but the individual is very real.

My gut response to someone who ignores a reader’s interpretation of your writing is vanity, but more so, it is harming the progression of you as a writer. I believe there is a common ground where you can write your intent and still allow the work to stand on it’s own, ready for interpretation or misunderstanding. Never ignore why your writing is misconstrued or rejected.

It is about removing as many barriers of confusion between your writing and the reader so that it does not happen.


  1. It feels as if some form of Muphry’s Law or Skitt’s Law should be in effect on this. Anyone know what it might be?↩︎

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