Early on when I was writing fiction, I never wanted to write to on-the-nose. I wanted to be subtle and not explain my point to the reader.
When Angie and I started writing Along Comes a Wolfe, my intention changed and the more I worked with our editor, the more I realized that what I thought was on the page wasn’t on the page.
(A favourite example of this is that her and I went back and forth on Shepherd’s Watch because my understanding of a window at a cabin was different from hers.)
Now, while working with other writers I see this cropping up. Writers who don’t want to over-explain yet, but hold so much back that there’s barely any meat on the bone of the story.
And the reader suffers.
Because when the writer doesn’t take responsibility for their unclear communication, it’s not the reader’s problem. I am not saying spell it out, but you need to make sure that reader confusion is a bug, not a feature.
And on the other side of this is the need to know your audience. If only a percentage of your readers do get it, but that percentage of the readers are the only ones you wanted, then that’s okay. No need to sand your edges down too much.
But then you can’t complain when someone doesn’t understand it or like it because you made that choice.