Where do you draw line between being clear in explaining the events that take place in your story and spelling things out SLOWLY AND IN BOLD TYPE TO BE ABSOLUTELY SURE YOU'RE BEING CLEAR? I said, SLOWLY AND IN BOLD TYPE TO BE SURE YOU'RE BEING CLEAR, in case you missed it the first time.

The latter always seems patronising to me. Readers have more intelligence than that, yet... sometimes I'll get feedback along the lines of 'what happened to Johnson's partner?'

I'll read that bit of the story back and it'll seem quite clear to me: 'Johnson raised his gun and took aim at his unsuspected partner's back. In the next room, Mary jumped on hearing the sound of a gunshot'.

Usually the reader will spot the implication if I point it out, but on a first read through it isn't clear to them. I'm trying to be subtle and they miss subtle. I've run across the same thing when making films. If I explain a plot point in dialogue, it's only 50/50 that a viewer will pick up on it. I'm sure that's why people complain about Hollywood movies being dumb and explaining their plot over and over again - you may notice that they've pointed out who the killer is half a dozen times, but the guy in the row behind you may only think they've hinted at it once.

I don't want to always have to write: 'Johnson raised his gun and took aim at his unsuspecting partner's back. He pulled the trigger and the bullet smashed through his fellow cop's torso a moment later. Johnson's partner - ex-partner - fell to the floor, the life gone from his eyes. Johnson crouched down beside him. He checked his pulse. Dead. He did the mirror test, just to be sure. Yep, no breath. Johnson's partner was dead. Johnson had shot him and now he was dead. As a dodo. Bloody hole in his back and Johnson was responsible. Johnson was a murderer. He'd killed his partner. Who was now dead. Johnson shot him again through the head, just in case. In the next room, Mary jumped on hearing the sound of a gunshot.'

But I also want my readers to enjoy the whole story, not my whole story minus all the bits that weren't quite clear enough or obvious enough. How do you judge where that line should be drawn?

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Sorry Vincent - I think you need a bit more clarity here. I can't quite work out whether Johnson actually killed his partner or not???? And could you please explain where the dead dodo comes into the whole thing? Was the sound Mary heard the sound of Johnson's partner shooting the dodo? Why? What did da dead dodo do?
Confused of Glasgow
On the one hand, I want to applaud your witty response. On the other hand, that's exactly the kind of thing I've run across and my instinctive response is to want to strangle you.
But Vincent...I am still confused. How will you be able to applaud with only one hand? And if you strangle me, how will Mary be able to hear the sound of that? Should I sort of gurgle loudly? Or will we ask her to come in from the next room so that she can jump?
You [meaning John Rickards and Donna Moore] are evil.

I know anything else I write here will be wilfully misread, misunderstood and misrepresented, so I'm going to stop here. And go borrow Johnson's gun in expectation of the inevitable.
Vincent - how are you going to stop there AND go and borrow Johnson's gun? It would work if you called Johnson and asked him to bring his gun TO you. Then you could stop there and wait for it. He could kill two dodos with one stone then. Well, maybe a bullet would be best.. Up to you though. After all, it's your dodo, your gun and your Johnson. Mr Rickards and I are just being helpful. We'll take your thanks as read shall we?
I see there is only one way I can counter this insurgency. As old Chinese proverb say, when goats are eating all his crops, the man who eats mushrooms and whistles Dixie need not fear the Ides of March.
John, I think we have just been called goats by that mushroom-eating, Dixie-whistling, Johnson-loving, dodo-killing rapscallion. I could be wrong, but I think that's what we've been called. How ba-a-a-a-a-a-a-d is that?
As another Chinese proverb says: It is cause for lament when intelligent discussion descends into petty name-calling, but sometimes descend into petty name-calling it must.
Okay, for John and Donna...

Johnson stepped over his dead partner, then he stepped over the dead dodo lying next to the man he'd worked with for twenty years. The dodo explained a lot. It explained what Professor Southfield had found in that iceberg off Talulah Sound. It explained what 'unidentified artifact' had been stolen from the musuem and it explained those fuzzy pictures of local Mob Boss, Boris Maloney. If Mary wanted to get her own back on hubby Maloney, stealing his criminally-acquired, defrosted dodo would be the way to do it.

But now Mary had to pay. Johnson stepped toward the bedroom door.

Mary heard the footsteps. She knew death was coming for her. She'd changed her underwear twice already, but it was no good. When this stranger put a bullet in her head, she knew she'd be thinking of a coroner cutting the panties off her corpse and noting she'd had carrots for breakfast.

But the footsteps stopped short of the door. The handle didn't turn. Had destiny put her fate on hold? Or should that be fate put her destiny on hold? Whatever, it was curiousity that lead her over to the door and through it she could hear whispered voices.

"I still don't understand the dodo."

"I don't understand these unattributed quotes. Who's saying this? I don't know and I'm the one saying it."

Johnson was in the room with the voices. For a moment he thought they were the voices in his head, the voices that tormented him constantly, but then he realised they were coming from behind the sofa.

"Behind the sofa? Surely that's a matter of perspective. From my perspective I'm in front of the sofa and Johnson is behind it."

"Have you ever had mushrooms with goat cheese? I'm not sure where either of those things came from, but that doesn't seem to matter in this story."

Johnson approached the sofa. He'd heard such inanity so many times before. He'd always assumed that was because he was crazy, but now he thought about it, the voices had only started after him and his partner paid Professor Southfield a visit at the mental asylum. The poor guy had a psychotic break after his prize specimen went missing. Even more unfortunately, he burned to death when the asylum caught fire. Johnson should have been more careful when throwing those matches around, but then Maloney wouldn't have paid him his bonus.

Still, after the fire, there had been reports some inmates had escaped. Johnson held his gun ready as he dragged aside the sofa. A man and a woman were revealed squatting down in the corner. They were still in their straitjackets.

"He's a man! Who'd a thunk it? I thought Johnson was a goat. No one said he was a man. He could have been a coy carp for all I knew," said the woman.

"I thought we were supposed to be the goats," replied the man. "Though if we are, it does beg the question where this goat cheese came from."

The voices in Johnson's head had been made flesh. They had been following around, driving him mad, but now they were here, babbling away in front of him. Johnson knew you couldn't silence a voice in your head, but a voice with arms and legs and a body... Johnson knew how to deal with that.

Mary heard another series of gunshots. The whispering voices went silent. She conceded that listening through a door left a degree of ambiguity as to what must have happened in the next room, but as she made an exit via the window and down the fire escape, she hoped those voices weren't going to be talking any more, because even in the snatches heard through that door, she'd decided the owners were really irritating.
Donna, the answer of the one handed applause waits for you on a mountaintop, twenty years from now.
Vincent that is much much clearer. I now just have a couple of questions. Who IS Mary, and why is she always on the other side of the door? If Johnson is a fish, how does he breathe and why is he not as dead as the dodo? In fact, if the dodo had eaten Johnson the fish the dodo would probably still be alive. And...errrrr....this man and woman in straitjackets.What are their names? Actually, I think you should just give up the whole Johnson/Mary/partner/gunshot idea because it's obviously confusing you too much.
I didn't want to have to say this, but you've both got the wrong end of the stick. Y'see, all the characters are merely cyphers. Johnson represents the undereducated proletariat, Mary is bourgeoisie decadence, the dodo is avarice, the door is the World Bank's policy of forcing third-world countries to open their borders to competition during the final decades of the 21st Century, while the sofa is a metaphor for missold life insurance. I could explain the rest of the symbolism, but I'm afraid you're simply not up to this level of literary sophistication.

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