Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines clarity as lucidity, clearness of thought.
Writing with clarity can be a difficult aspect of writing. There isn’t a GPS for clarity. And, no matter how clear we think we are conveying a particular sentence, paragraph, or theme, we may not be able to see that we’ve missed the clarity mark.
How does this happen?
Missing the clarity mark may happen even if you have clearness of thought; if that clearness of thought or intent doesn’t translate onto paper, you’ve missed the mark.
As the author, we know what we’re thinking, what motives are involved, what we assume the reader should be seeing, or understanding—this knowledge may cloud our perception of what we are actually conveying. This clarity cloud can at times create a gap between what we think we’re saying and what we actually say. This happens because we are too close to our own writing.
Think of a color. Now, think of a very specific hue or shade within that color. Now, try to write what you see or explain it.
This is what can happen with our story. We can see what’s unfolding clear as day, the scene, the characters . . . the intent. But, our vision may not translate with clarity onto paper. We may think it has because of our preconception, but that doesn’t mean it actually has.
An example of this is a children’s picture book I reviewed. The content and illustrations were well done, but there was one problem. The story ultimately was about the main character having to go through a metamorphosis in order to be accepted by others. This is what a reader, a child, might take away from the story. While the story had a number of good points, this one flaw was problematic. The authors knew what they intended, but that intent didn’t show through. And, because they were so sure of their intent, they couldn’t see that the take away value of the story could be anything but what they intended.
Fortunately, there is help in this area: a critique group. Every writer who is writing a manuscript should belong to a critique group. Having three, six, or ten other writers, who write in the same genre, will help you find many of the pitfalls in your story. They are the unknowing audience. They have no perceived conception of your story, so they will be able to see where it goes astray and where it lacks clarity.
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This article was originally published by Karen Cioffi at: