1. Jeredin
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    Jeredin Member

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    Embracing Ambiguity . . .

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Jeredin, May 5, 2009.

    Writing of any kind is a text form of communication. Yet as our style of writing develops, we may find that too much "information" impedes the flow of purpose. I use to write with too much description and overstated words. Now however, I find myself sometimes embracing ambiguity for the sake of flow.

    How about you? Think you can embrace ambiguity? Have you already? ;)
     
  2. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    It entirely depends on what I'm writing.

    When something is very strange, or new and needs a lot of detail (like the story I'm currently working on, inscriptions of an early, cultured race) but the rest of the time I always try to use very few discriptions to create a big, overall effect.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ambiguity, or only painting the broad strokes?

    Most often I don't want to be ambiguous. I don't want there to be two disparate meanings to a section ofd narrative, in most cases. In dialogue, or in a character driven narration, there may be a deliberate double meaning. But ambiguity in general narration is either an attempt to mislead the reader, or an unintended chance for misinterpretation.

    Personally I don't often plan to actively mislead the reader.

    Painting only the broad stokes is a different matter. I frequently choose to limit the level of detail I throw at the reader. Partly I do this so as not to inundate the reader with unnecessary information. More importantly, I prefer to engage the reader's own imagination as much as possible.

    In one of my short stories, the main character encounters a mysterious and alluring woman in his dreams. The only details I provide about her appearance are that she has dark hair, a blue dress, and startlingly blue eyes. The blue eyes are important to the story, and the other details only serve to set the mood. Everything else, I leave to the reader to fill in, because the reader will best know what he (or she) considers to be drop-dead gorgeous.
     
  4. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    I avoid good and evil themes in my stories. It depends on the morals of the reader. If you count the need to defend your people and culture is justified, then you're on Seonaidh's side. If you think that a treaty treaty signed by the legitimate governments concerned is justified, then you're in Keir's camp. You could be in both.

    Niall could be abusing his daughter. Or it could be a story of Micheal's invention to get more pay from the Irish king. It's not said in the story, and each character makes their arguments.

    Nothing in stories is ever that simple.
     
  5. Jeredin
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    Interpretation . . .

    That's what I meant really. When something is written carefully, only with the information needed so that your reader knows the core of what's happening, you can leave the rest to the reader's own interpretation/imagination.

    I use to spend so much time vividly describing things to a point where the information was more than just a speed bump. Now however, I've been tightly following two guiding words for my writing style: "Pure Purpose."

    If I write only what's necessary and I maintain its purpose--not to the point of bland mind you--I find my content is so much easier and interesting to read. Allow the reader room to imagine the rest and when it's really done right, it can strike the right kind of curiosity that drives a reader to want to keep reading, to learn exactly what IS going on, or what something was.
     
  6. Jeredin
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    Interestung indeed.

    I've been trying to write more like this myself. Put forth what's happening and allow the reader to determine who THEY think the "good guy" and "bad guy" is. Yet the really fun part is, that we can all do bad things sometimes but we're not necessarily bad people by nature, and that can make for really good reading. As characters develop, readers learn there's deeper reasoning behind their actions and their words.

    Some of my favorite anime/manga are from Hayao Miyazaki. In his stories, a lot of characters come off initially as this, or that. Yet as the story allows those character to develop, the audience learns there's more to the characters than what they initially thought.

    I suppose that's a play on people's initial reactions. So when you carefully write characters a little ambiguous, enough for them to draw an initial conclusion, you can then begin to lead their conclusion elsewhere and surprise them with twists.

    I'll say it again, "carefully written," because I would never want to irritate a my audience with horribly inadequate descriptions. But ambiguity can cause some interesting intrigue and reactions. :D
     
  7. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    As long as you're still more or less in control of the image the reader is forming based on your words, ambiguity is fine. But if you lose that control it can be jarring for the reader if an image they had built earlier is ruined by a description later. So you need to be aware how your ambiguous descriptions may be interpreted and bear all of these interpretations in mind when you continue, not just the one you as the writer intended.
     
  8. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    It’s amazing how similar painting and writing really are.

    To continue the analogy started by Cog, I think there should be premeditated mix of both broad and fine strokes. As long as there is thought behind the type of writing, it should be fine. It’s when the random element enters the equation that the reader could get lost.
     

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