1. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Writing to a stupid audience.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by doggiedude, Jun 8, 2016.

    Okay, I admit it, that title was total click bait.
    What I wanted to ask was -- How do you balance your writing between leaving hints to what is happening & spelling things out? How do you know when to repeat certain things because they're important to the story & when you've mentioned them enough?

    I've read lots of books where the author says something and then rephrases the exact same plot point three pages later. When it's done often enough, I feel like the author doesn't trust that I'm paying attention. However, after being on the writing side of the process, I'm continually amazed how many people will read a passage and either completely misinterpret what was written or glossed over something important.

    I realize there's probably no one answer to this question & having multiple people read and comment is important, but I'd like to get your thoughts on the subject.
     
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  2. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Write it the way you think is appropriate
    Give it to someone else to read.
    Take their advice... if you're being tautological (OK, OK I got it, something's gonna happen, but it hasn't happened yet) dial it back
    If they didn't see it coming when it happened, ratchet it up a bit.
     
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  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'd rather the author err on the side of not beating me over the head. I'll read just about any kind of book, but if I get the impression the author thinks his/her readers are stupid, I'm not likely to continue.
     
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  4. Raven484
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    Raven484 Contributing Member

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    The only time I would think to use this is if I am writing a second book for the story. In the first chapter I would go over what happened in the first novel so people would be caught up. Other than that I would try my best not to do it. I am not perfect, but I would hope I would leave at least 100-200 page gap before going over something.
     
  5. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    It takes a very smart writer to include a stupid audience. Not all minds are trying to think three or four steps ahead as they read, some are enjoying the story as it unfolds.

    The trick is when you give these hints, they need to be something that is funny/interesting in and of themselves as well as part of something greater.
    Obvious examples are in kids movies with "Hidden" adult jokes.
     
  6. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The only way I know is through beta reading. Like you, I'm always amazed at what people can miss but unless multiple readers have missed it (indicating that there's a problem with the way I've presented it), I just shrug and move on. I'm not going to patronise the 95% of readers who DO get it in order to please the 5% with strange comprehension problems.
     
  7. newjerseyrunner
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    newjerseyrunner Contributing Member

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    If I find something easy to miss, I simply go into slightly further detail the first time I bring it up, rather than just bringing it up again.
     
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  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Quoted for truthiness. ;)

    We live in a really hand-holdie world, which can be so tedious at times, be you the big hand or the little hand. I try my best to write for readers who know how to read, especially given that I'm likely to use a patronizing book as kindling rather than bed-time reading.
     
  9. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    Also, there's the forgetful writer with no recall they've made the plot point only three pages earlier. So they make it again. *whistles*
     
  10. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    The best approach I've been able to come up with is to have a good reason to mention something and do so in such a way that it adds new information. Also, if you can bring the subject up out of context to your third act, it becomes foreshadowing.

    I have yet to work out how often something needs to be mentioned, but if feedback I've gotten over the last year is anything to go by, it has to do with how it's mentioned rather than how often. If you write an entire paragraph to describe it, really getting into a couple of details (but no more than a couple) it'll stick in the reader's mind and that one mention may be enough.
     
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  11. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Depends what the point is being made. If I feel like I'm doing something controversial or radical I want enough steps for the reader to get where I'm leading them. But I'm not big on spelling things out especially as Sack-a-Doo mentioned the how being more important than the how often. I'm more about hiding the general idea in metaphors, actions, and then maybe some blunt mc insight. That way the reader doesn't see the idea but the scenes as a progression of the idea.

    It's kinda like in Jane Eyre we knew she loved Rochester but how he felt about her was hidden under his moodiness. So Bronte build up some scenes leading us there. My favorite was his tricky disguise pretending to be a gypsy fortune teller.
     
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  12. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    What @Tenderiser said. I'd only add that it's important to have multiple beta readers, preferably with different backgrounds (i.e. they shouldn't all be aspiring writers). This will give you a decent sample size in determining what works and what doesn't.

    In the end, it will have to be your call. What should you have to explain, and what you should be able to the reader to sort out. My experience is that novice writers tend to spoon-feed too much. My first attempt at a novel was shot through with it. Having had that pointed out to me, I probably now tend to err on the side of less is more. I had several beta readers ask me for more information.
     
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  13. Buttered Toast
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    Buttered Toast Active Member

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    This is interesting, I always worry about how much info I need to give, my first read through I removed a whole chapter cause it was a repeat, I don't want my reader to forget stuff so I tend to put it in conversations, like they are discussing what has happened.
     
  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    It's a tricky thing to work with, because while something might be stunningly obvious to you, the writer, there is no guarantee that every reader will pick up on it. It certainly doesn't mean they are stupid either. It might mean that they have been distracted by something else in your story, or simply that you presented the event or fact you want them to notice in such an offhanded manner that it didn't stick.

    If there is something in the setting you need your readers to be especially aware of, spend an extra sentence or two bringing it to life. A character can mention it, or notice it, or engage with it. Not a lot. Not so much that you're beating them over the head with its significance. Just enough so when the importance is revealed, the reader will remember it. Same with a remark somebody makes. If it's important for the reader to remember it, have a character react to it, either verbally or by thinking about it briefly. No big deal. Just an extra beat or two should do the trick.

    Any time, and I mean ANY TIME, a beta reader tells me they missed something or misinterpreted something, I always go back and tweak that spot a little. Make that fact or event stand out just a little bit more. Clarify the meaning, if need be. These tweaks don't take much, but they make a lot of difference. Discovering these spots in your story is one of the reasons you give your story to betas in the first place, isn't it? You know what you meant when you wrote. They don't. They just look at what's there.

    (And if they are skimming, better find out why! You may be boring them to death in certain passages.)

    As others have said, the more betas the better. You may be the best writer in the universe, but you will never know how your story is actually hitting your readers till you test it out on them.
     
  15. Alex R. Encomienda
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    Alex R. Encomienda Active Member

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    I have this exact problem!

    My WIP has so much references that the story itself seems to be a big reference (due to my constant anxieties). There's the big picture: occult, ethereal travel, gypsies and war. Then there's the references that give that "what did I just read" feel- at least in my mind. Recurring phrases, recurring themes, references to songs, movies and the bible.

    I'm thinking of typing a few pages of analysis of references (ex. What this really meant, what really happened.) so when it is published, the reader can go to the back and read them.
     
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  16. Seraph751
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    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole...

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    I think that before you foreshadow that you should outline what you're foreshadowing and set up the hints to follow that. Like dominoes, one thing leading to the next and the next etc. That way you do not feel like you are repeating yourself, but that you are creating a subtle arc through your story and all its ups and downs.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2016
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  17. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    It's good that you're thinking about this issue, but I wouldn't worry overmuch about it yet. Just do your best. When you're all done, give it to a few people to read, and pay attention to what they tell you. If they don't 'get' something, then you can fix it so the next one will.

    I don't know if you were joking, but I definitely would NOT type up a list of references and their significance, unless you need to refer to this list yourself as you write. It's okay to include a brief history as an appendix to a book ...a brief history of gypsies, the occult, a particular war...but make sure these are brief, to the point, and stuff that your readers probably don't know much about. Also, keep in mind that readers are unlikely to read an appendix until after they've finished reading the story. So this won't help you much, really.

    If you think about it, most books that aren't about the reader's here and now contain references to things the reader may not know about yet. A person from rural Kansas may never have been to New York City or Paris, but they read stories set in those places and get along fine. In fact, a good book will make them want to visit (or scare them off big cities permanently!) People who know nothing about spies still watch (and read) about James Bond. People who know nothing about the history of the Old West can still watch The Revenant, and understand what's going on. Or read Cold Mountain and 'get' the story, even if they're not American Civil War historians.

    Dare I say this? Many people who read books that contain references to stuff they don't know about are happy to be learning something new. You write a book that's absorbing and exciting to read, folks will be motivated to go out and learn more about the subject. I know this for a fact, because I've just researched stuff myself based on two books I just read.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2016
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  18. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    While writing my duology, I have some info that I only mention once for the sake of not having to constantly remind the reader of less important elements. Though I do have a lot of plans that go into effect in the story, so basically they will know where they will be headed off to next.

    But basically I done told you once, not stopping the bus if you can't keep up with what is going on. :supergrin:
     
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  19. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I do this too. I like learning from fiction. :)
     
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  20. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Definitely.
     
  21. Nightstar99
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    Nightstar99 Contributing Member

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    I think this is one of the areas where beta readers are useful. I am not too concerned whether they "like" my work but if they have misunderstood, or just missed, key plot points, then that is a failure in structure of the work.

    It can be hard as an author to keep tabs on this yourself as the peaks and troughs of your story is so vital to you, but may not stick out so obviously to readers.
     

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