Monday, February 07, 2011

What's the message?

So lately I've been thinking a lot about writing.  Truthfully I spend a lot of time thinking about writing, when I'm not thinking about my family and my job, the rest of my energy is tied up in writing. 

Because I'm a teacher I want my students to learn something when they read.

But when I look back at my own novel, there's not a clear lesson.  I never focused on a theme, or a motif or any of that stuff.  I focused on telling an entertaining story, realistic characters and the occasional joke.

My book is about a boy who is a terrible boyfriend and doesn't see that he's a bad boyfriend.  He's not abusive or mean to his girlfriend, just absent most of the time.

He also punishes the town bullies, in less the legal means.  But somehow it's justified because he's doing it to bad people.  It's a vigilante story... but he still does bad things and goes unpunished for them.

But I really don't want to change the plot either.

I should also point out that my students are not my audience.  I am gearing my book for an older YA crowd. 

So what do you think?  Does every novel need a message?  Or can an entertaining story be enough?


  1. I don't think it has to be so clear that it slaps you in the face. The character does have to grow or realize something. I think. There has to be some point to why this character is going on the journey you are taking them on.
    Just my thought. I have not read your MS, but you may not need to change the whole plot. It may just need a small tweak.

  2. Stories that try to push a message generally either bore me or infuriate me.

    In my opinion, just tell a damned good story and people will take from it what they will. You have little, if any, control over how they choose to interpret it or apply it to themselves.


  3. Ummmm. But there *is* a message, Erinn! (You can roll your eyes at me if you want lol) I mean, you characters learn from everything in the story, and they grow from it. Everything doesn't always go the way they plan, but they still find that ray of hope. That is the message.

    So, there. Every story has a message if you look at it the right way.

  4. I agree with Holly - I would think that how the characters change from start to end is the message of the book.

    Plus, the "do bad things and vengeance will occur" is sort of a theme.

  5. I struggle with this, too. I agree with Holly in that every book has a message. Now, it may not be a good message or the message you'd want, but every book inherently has a message. That being said, I think an entertaining story on the author's part is just fine, but personally I like to have a lesson subtley woven in (not sure I've actually pulled off subtle at this point, but that is the eventual hope).

  6. I think you may end up with a (surprise) unintentional message. Once it's done, you will see the story it's trying to tell and be able to develop it from there.

  7. I think an entertaining story can be enough. Even the books that have messages are done best when the message isn't conveyed in a preachy heavy handed way.

  8. Honestly, I would love to read more novels that are just GOOD STORIES.I am so tired of hearing, "there isn't enough at stake," or some variation of that. I love reading books that could *actually* happen. Where there are no life or death stakes, no big moral lesson- just a chance to see a different pov, or get to know a different character. Entertain me, that's all I ask.

    Stick with your plot if you love it. :)

  9. I never think of message when writing. It should come organically. The story is the main thing.

  10. I'm with Alicia--just tell the story you want to tell. I think almost every reader gets a different message after reading a novel, so just write the WIP first. :)

  11. I agree with all this great advice. A forced "message" is the worst.
    You may not see "the MESSAGE", but that doesn't mean there isn't a subtle, personal, and valid message there. It doesn't need to be an after school special.

  12. Not every story needs a message. Many people read for entertainment. For me, sometimes I just want to read a book and be entertained. If the writing is good, then that's enough for me.

    Also, thanks for stopping by and entering my contest! :)