Why Ask a Question That Already Has an Answer?

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"Why would your reader bother to think about what is going on, if the author carefully explains what each and every line means?" ("Short Story Tips").  Before I read this article, I did not understand the benefits of making a text mysterous.  I always thought the straightforword texts were the most effective, but now I see the error of my ways.  If the writer explained to the reader every single question about the setting, characters etc, what would there be left for the reader to answer?  That my friends, is a retoricol question.

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7 Comments

I agree Ethan. Telling exactly what is happening is not good for English. For math or science yes, but English, no. You want your text to have a kind of ambiguity that will spark debate. If the text just tells you everything, the only thing a person can do with that is summarize the plot. Reading the obvious isn't fun. Think of reading a text book. How about an Encyclopedia? They're BORING! But English gives you the power to use critical thinking and not simply commit to memory what you read. Memorizing a story does not help you grow as a person because as you age, you'll eventually forget. If you try to get inside the heads of the characters though, it can help you better understand what motivates them. By doing this, you can learn more about people in general. It is also like a fun little game to play. You start to feel like you know the character and you know their patterns so you can try to predict their next moves. It is nice to see exactly how the character grows and develops. You watch them grow up and they become like a child that you know growing into a teenager. Even if the character does not develop and grow, you learn that they are very stuck in their ways. They become like friends. Also, withholding information about a character makes them seem more like a real person because nobody introduces themselves by telling a person everything that has ever happened to them, their thoughts and emotions and so on. As you get to know someone, you find out more about them. Why should a character in a book be any different?

Good points, Ethan and Angela. A writer always knows far more about the character and the character's world than will ever fit into the story. I hope this class will help you develop the skills to look for those significant hints that the author puts into the story, in order to tease you into reading further.

nice, i am working very hard to get better english fluency in my work.

In the past in my writing I have also given away to much information to my readers. I always told everything thinking it was important but it is not. I think that the best short story is the one where the reader has to think a lot about what the author is trying to say.

I agree with you Ethan. I also thought that I did not like mystery stories; however I now realize that adding a bit of mystery to a story must always occur for the story to be really great. Angala is right, straightforward texts are really not that fun to read. In fact when I think of it, I have never actually read a story that has not left something unanswered until the end, but of course some authors do this better than others.

Great analysis, Ethan. I always seemed to have the opposite problem: I would have characters but not enough detail to back them up. This would make my characters bland and seem like they had no personality. It is important to find the healthy balance between telling every detail and leaving the reader guessing.

Reading the tips on short stories and your blog helped me to see that mystery was actually important. I never really considered it, but it does make sense. It's obvious that the reader will keep reading when there isn't enough known about a character or situation that seems interesting.

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This page contains a single entry by EthanShepley published on February 6, 2008 8:43 PM.

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