When we choose to be vague about something that we write, it always leaves things open to interpretation. Maybe that's what you want, and maybe it isn't. People may be able to figure out what you actually meant, they may just stare at it scratching their heads, or they may take it in the entirely wrong direction.
Ok, that paragraph may seem a little vague in itself. Usually you have to have a really good reason for being vague. It most likely shouldn't turn up in your fiction, unless, for instance, if your character is doing it on purpose. It's perfectly fine to confuse other characters but confusing the reader may be a bad choice. If the reader isn't in on it, or if you don't give an explanation for being vague, it may just make things confusing.
But there are times where you may need to be vague, but that can also go wrong. Take my blog post on Monday, for instance. When I was talking about my idea for a weird scene, I decided to be vague about what it was actually about. This was pretty much for one reason: censorship. Well, ok, spoilers, too, but that was more about who was involved in the scene rather than what. I didn't want to say what was happening because I figured it would make some people uncomfortable. While I'm totally fine with adult content in my books, my blog probably isn't the place for it. So I figured vagueness was the way to go. And that's where I went horribly wrong.
This is where vagueness can get you into trouble. I mentioned that my weird scene involved a character texting a family member while "something else" was going in. Now, I was totally fine with people having absolutely no idea what I was talking about. The point of the post was to talk about the idea of writing weird scenes, not about explaining what this weird scene was about. But at some point during the day I had a slap-myself-in-the-face kind of revelation.
I felt like people assumed I meant my scene was taking place in a bathroom, to which I would say, EW! Really, I'm open to writing about most things, and I've certainly written scenes that take place in a bathroom, but never involving the most common things one would do in there. Because, like I said before, EW! I can't imagine a scenario in one of my stories where that would be necessary. Some things are better left unsaid, really. As far as I'm concerned, my characters don't go to the bathroom. What I meant was that something sexual was happening, but I just didn't want to say it (because fiction-writing me is a lot braver than blog-writing me).
But maybe I'm wrong and people actually understood what I meant. Some of the comments were vague as well so I have no idea what my readers were actually thinking. Maybe I just overthink things waaaaaaaaaaay too much (what else is new?). But I'm also thinking bigger picture here. When you purposely try to be vague, you leave whatever you are saying up to interpretation. So readers can take it whatever way seems reasonable to them. If you're fine with people being clueless, that's one thing, but they could also take whatever you're saying in the entirely wrong direction. So we have think if being vague is really worth all the trouble.
Have you ever written anything vague? Did people take it the wrong way?