1. BWriter
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    BWriter Member

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    Story or Theme?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by BWriter, Jul 16, 2016.

    I just finished reading The Outsider by Camus. While I really liked it there were a lot of points in it where I found myself thinking that his philosophy was more important to him than the story he is telling.

    I like stories that leave you thinking after you finish reading and have something to say about the world (the one we live in, not the fictional one) but always believed story should be the most important aspect in any fiction.

    I guess my question is what is more important to people, story or ideas? Whether you think stories need to be thought provoking, rather than purely entertaining, to be taken seriously?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    There is an audience for each one.
     
  3. U.G. Ridley
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    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid Supporter

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    There is indeed an audience for each one like GingerCoffee said, but I still hate "preaching stories".

    For example: I love Ender's Game; I mean that book get's me excited just thinking about it. So when I was gonna read Speaker For The Dead, I was super hyped for a great story that also made me think and feel stuff. The first few chapters of that book were amazing, and so I thought for sure my hype was being met, and then the story took a huge backseat for the rest of the book, and it got super preachy. I was going to read the rest of the Ender series just for the heck of it, but then I saw that nearly every review for them said that they got even worse on the preachy side until they eventually felt like a weird sci-fi Bible.

    I don't really get the mentality to make a story that is preachy and super on-the-nose about its message. If you want to shove a message down our throats, why don't you just write an article? If you are going to write a story, then the STORY should be the main focus. If you tell a good story, then there will be morals to be taken away from it, guaranteed.
     
  4. BWriter
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    BWriter Member

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    So how much do you think about your theme or morals before you write. I've always written my stories without trying to say something in particular and then when I do draft 2 I think about it more.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This is a false dichotomy. First, ideas can be expressed through stories, and optimally (I guess) should be. That's what mythology does. Second, it depends on the book and on the author's purpose in writing it. I've read novels of ideas and novels of pure plot, and I've enjoyed both. I lean more towards novels of ideas, though, when they're done right.
     
  6. U.G. Ridley
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    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid Supporter

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    Personally, I think about them very little, but it is totally fine if your novel started off just as a moral lesson. The important part is that you don't let it overshadow the story itself, unless you like that sort of thing (I don't get it, but to each their own.) It still sounds like story is the most important thing to you, though, so I think doing what you say you do now is great.

    I do know some writers tend to purposly add moral messages in key points of their story, and sometimes this can actually lead to great storytelling, so it doesn't really matter how you write your story, or what comes first in terms of inspiration, what matters is the execution. Chances are you'll know if you've done a good job or not after you've finished your draft, so just write and see what happens. Alpha- and beta-readers can of course also help you out with this.
     
  7. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Almost every time I've tried to decide whether to do one thing or another in my writing, I have found that the work became a thousand times better when I decided that the answer was "BOTH" ;)
     
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  8. BWriter
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    I don't think there is a right or wrong way of doing just want to see how other people work. I dont have many people I can talk to about this sort of thing and its good to see different perspectives
     
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  9. U.G. Ridley
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    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid Supporter

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    I won't argue with that:agreed:
     
  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    In my own, totally-unsupported-by-experts classification system, stories where the ideas and/or writing take primacy are literary fiction, stories where the characterization and/or plot take primacy are genre fiction. (Setting could go either way, I'd say)

    I agree with @minstrel about the false dichotomy--there are certainly books that transcend the literary/genre divide. But in general terms, I think the division makes sense. And neither kind is better or worse. My favourites are the transcendent ones, where all elements of the story are perfectly balanced and beautifully presented. But those stories are few and far between, so I usually read a mix--maybe one "literary" book for every five or ten genre. (It takes me about as long to read one literary as that number of genre).
     
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  11. GingerCoffee
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    For me, it's important. It's also helping me keep threads in the story, tying it together and making it bigger than just the characters and their lives.

    There's no preaching in my novel though, more a reflection of society, showing some hidden elements without judging anything about them.
     
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  12. Harmless Weirdo
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    Not at all.
    For me, any themes that are present emerge from the story itself. The characters and the story always come first: Here are these people, in this place, doing these things, which are interesting all in themselves.

    It's during the rewrites and revisions that I notice themes that are present within the story. Yeah, I will notice the obvious ones as I'm pounding out that ugly first draft, but the subtle ones emerge as I work, and I can decide if I want to play them up or not.

    I'm not writing morality tales, or to spread a message, or for an audience that expects the story to follow certain moral precepts (I'm not writing Christian romance, to use a clear-cut example). I'm also not intentionally using fiction to illustrate a philosophical viewpoint (such as Camus or Sartre did--or Ayn Rand, for that matter).

    And honestly, I can't imagine gettin' my story on all literary-like by picking a theme and building a narrative around it. (I doubt very many "literary" writers do, either.) That seems like such a strange and artificial way to come up with a story.
     
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  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    In my case that's not the process I used. There were things I wanted to write about that included the themes and the story. It wasn't imposing one over the other.
     
  14. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    They're actually both the same thing.
     
  15. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Ender's Shadow was not too preachy. I loved learning about life from Bean's perspective. Ender's Game is still my favorite, but I enjoyed Ender's Shadow as well. I read them out of published order, but in the order of the story's timeline. Made it more enjoyable, I think.

    As to the original post, sometimes ideas for stories come out of thought experiments ("What would be happen if X were more like Y, and Z meant A") and so some of them have an underlying moral that the narrative explores, but I myself don't enjoy rambling social commentary taking me out of the story, so I try to avoid writing that way. If the moral or theme comes through organically, I admire it. If I'm slapped in the face with it, I resent it.
     
  16. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Expound. Expand. Explain. Please?
     

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