Is it ever okay to "spell it out?"

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Thread: Is it ever okay to "spell it out?"

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    Default Is it ever okay to "spell it out?"

    I ask this because of how in fandoms, certain things in a show or book or any sort of story can go over people's head with certain subtleties or, as TV Tropes calls it, Fridge Brilliance. It's common with MLP and Korra and those webpage enhanced my love for the shows. While some may be able to get it, others wouldn't. On the flip side, spelling things out could come off as you thinking your readers are idiots that need every damn thing explained. Which isn't good.

    This is an issue with me since I'm damn awful at elaborating on something like a character's inner conflict or psychological stuff. Hell, I'm praying that you're getting at least the gist of what I'm getting at with this thread.

    So, thoughts?

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    Default Re: Is it ever okay to "spell it out?"

    I think there's typically an ideal target audience who'll pick up on an intended message even if it's faint, and then many others who'll just be along for the ride. I find that spelling it out removes the reader's ability to put a personal spin on what they're reading or explore it on their own and may even bog things down, ruin the flow, and add too much extraneous detail.

    We live in a world where some people think Harry Potter is a guide to devil worshiping and some people love books because they relate them to their own lives more than to the fictional character's. To some extent people are always going to interpret literature how they will and enjoy it on their own terms, so don't stress too much about holding their hand through a piece.

    The most important things should always be clear. The extras can be subtle.
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    Default Re: Is it ever okay to "spell it out?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Yarrow View Post
    I find that spelling it out removes the reader's ability to put a personal spin on what they're reading or explore it on their own and may even bog things down, ruin the flow, and add too much extraneous detail.
    Though there'll be those who'll be lost saying, "I still don't get it."

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    Default Re: Is it ever okay to "spell it out?"

    If you go too far, you run the risk of insulting your readers' intelligence, which really probably isn't anything you want. I'd say save outright stating things in your narration for relatively obscure things that even your brightest readers might not get.

    Sometimes, you don't want to explain every little thing, since oftentimes the things a reader imagines when they try to fill in the blanks is far more satisfying than anything you can come up with. (See also: Noodle Incident and Nothing Is Scarier)

    On the other hand, you have things like XKCD, which is sometimes hard to understand if you don't know anything about higher math or aren't in a scientific field. It's actually better to err on the side of too little explanation than too much, and let people ask whatever questions they want.

    However, if your clues are obvious enough, that's essentially the same as outright stating something in narration, so "spelling it out" then would seem redundant. Putting a bit of a personal example in here--in the first chapter of one fic of mine the viewpoint character is deaf. This isn't outright stated (since it's not something they'd actively think about all the time), but the narration never mentions anything sound-related, and there's little details like him needing to face other people to be able to speak with them, lots of focus on another character's lips, and them not noticing or being bothered by noises that would go unnoticed by a hearing person (such as something breaking).

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    is obsessed with Noivern! Zekurom's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is it ever okay to "spell it out?"

    By "spell it out", do you mean that you want to tell exactly what's happening (She was mad) rather than just showing it (She yelled in anger)? Are you afraid that you're being too subtle in doing so, or not showing enough of it?

    Quote Originally Posted by juiceboxxx View Post
    On the other hand, you have things like XKCD, which is sometimes hard to understand if you don't know anything about higher math or aren't in a scientific field. It's actually better to err on the side of too little explanation than too much, and let people ask whatever questions they want.
    Of course, for those people who do want explanations (which is me sometimes; those jokes really do sail over my head sometimes), there's always explain xkcd. I can't stand people feigning enigmatism.
    Last edited by Zekurom; 1st June 2013 at 10:15 PM.
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    Default Re: Is it ever okay to "spell it out?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Zekurom View Post
    By "spell it out", do you mean that you want to tell exactly what's happening (She was mad) rather than just showing it (She yelled in anger)? Are you afraid that you're being too subtle in doing so, or not showing enough of it?
    I meant showing it and getting comments on how they "didn't get it" so to speak. I should ignore them but I wonder to myself if that's right of me...

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    Default Re: Is it ever okay to "spell it out?"

    You have to be very careful with this, because your attempt may come across as shoving it down the audience's throats
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    Default Re: Is it ever okay to "spell it out?"

    Another example would be the Anime Madoka Magica where a criticism is the apparent lack of "character depth and development" yet others (like me) didn't find the series to be lacking it even though it wasn't really spelt out. It was there, just not spelt out like other series would've. Conversely, I would venture to guess that they'd be the same kind of people to complain about being treated like a baby for having things shoved down your throat.

    (Oh and if possible, could we not have this thread spiral out of control with tangent on how Madoka is GREAT or AWFUL? Okay? Please keep this in mind.)

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