Whether to write a story, or to convey a message (in a novel), that is the question. But most beginning novelist will flare up and recoil at such a question. Why? Because they are confident that it can be both. They are confident that they most assuredly can purport their message via the venue of a novel — and pull it off.
Why is it that many novice novelists get touchy when this subject is broached? In nearly every case, it’s because that individual has a message lurking within his heart and mind. In fact that message may have been simmering for a very long time, slowly coming to a boil. The next step, to that novelist’s way of thinking, is to get the message out to the world by weaving it into a novel.
So what’s wrong with that, you may be asking. Sounds like a great idea.
Here’s the crux of the matter. A fledgling novelist with a message burning within, will invariably produce a novel that is message-heavy. This means the story becomes secondary to the message. It’s a guarantee for producing a weak, lifeless plot.
When message becomes the primary emphasis, the result is closer to a sermon or an essay. It harks back to the time when novelists inserted “…and so, dear reader…” speaking directly to the reader to make their point. Now the plot has become flat and cold.
When the message becomes the primary emphasis, it shatters the fragile illusion of reality that your readers is seeking. (That illusion of reality is the real reason she is reading a novel in the first place.) Today’s readers have no patience with such tactics as poorly-devised attempts to couch a message within the novel.
Keep in mind if the novel-reader were looking for the author’s opinion, that reader would read the editorial page, not a novel.
Let Characters Do the Work
If you feel strongly about a subject (and most novelists do!), wrap those ideas and opinions around your characters. Let your characters play out those ideas in their dialogue and actions. However, make doubly sure those words and actions belong in the story and help build the story. Otherwise, it still amounts to author intrusion. (Remember, the novelist’s job is much like a puppeteer; if you can be seen the illusion is destroyed. The author must remain invisible.)
Another point to be made is this: once you have emptied your gun in this beginning novel, will your need for enforcing your message carry you through a second or even a third novel? I’m guessing the answer is probably not.
Love of Story
However, if your novel-writing is conceived and birthed in the womb of love-of-story, now you are miles ahead.
The novelist who has an innate, insatiable love of story, can produce story after story after story – it’s a natural overflow of that deep-seated love and passion. And the good news is that a well-crafted, well-told, well-written story (novel) will nearly always carry within it a strong message. Hm.
I trust the teaching and instruction given in this blog post was helpful in your goal to be a novelist. For more in-depth writer’s workshops, check out the wide variety offered at the Be A Novelist Website.
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