1. TOmRL
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    TOmRL Member

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    When is it appropriate to spell out the idea or message

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by TOmRL, Apr 6, 2015.

    I'm working on my favourite of my projects so far and I feel it expresses something very important. But I don't know if I should leave it ambiguous all the way through or to make it a realization at the end of the piece. I know I'm being vague, but this idea is important to me so I don't want to talk about it until it's been fully thought through.

    When is it appropriate to say what the point of a work is?
    I think it's particularly important to do this in art aimed at children, but it has always felt anti-artistic to do so. Art to me isn't really about saying something explicitly. It's about feeling and understanding beyond that.
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    In fiction? Very rarely, if ever, do I want to read a message fully spelled out for me.

    Even with kids I think it's better to let them figure it out for themselves. Make the clues a bit more obvious than for adults, maybe, but still don't spell out the answer.
     
  3. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It sounds like what's being discussed is a 'direct theme' or 'indirect theme'. In the first the author tells the reader what they should come away with after reading the piece. With an indirect them it is up to the reader to determine what message or lesson or experience they come away with.

    The former (direct theme) is often less effective, especially if it comes off as being preachy, but it means the readers will come away with the author's specific intent in no uncertain terms. The latter is often more effective, with the reader deciding what the point was, if any.

    In the end, it depends on the author's purpose and intended audience.
     
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  4. kfmiller
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    kfmiller Active Member

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    I think Life of Pi did this masterfully- if you havent read it I highly recommend it.
     
  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    There was a message in Life of Pi? What the hell was it?!? (Apparently the author was a bit TOO subtle in this case, at least for some readers...)
     
  6. kfmiller
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    kfmiller Active Member

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    Not so much a message, but the OP asked if he needed to essentially whack his readers in the face with his message or leave it subtle. In Life of Pi's case he left it ambiguous and up to the reader to decide: were the animals real, or were they his brain trying to reconcile the horrors he experienced?
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I think you need a full analysis to understand that book:
    SparkNotes: Life of Pi - Themes, Motifs & Symbols
     
  8. kfmiller
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    kfmiller Active Member

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    Exactly- thanks @GingerCoffee

    I'm on mobile and tbh I read it several years ago so I gave the example I remembered really well.
     
  9. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    The point of life of pi, or rather my understanding of it is, a comment on religion, tolerance and understanding that it doesn't matter what story /faith you have /you believe if the outcome is the same ie a fair just society.

    Back to topic, and let the reader come to their own conclusion. Anything spelt out would seem cheap and like bad story telling. One reader may interpret it differently to how you intended, but that is the joy, and mystery that can make stories last generations. The song bohemian rhapsody spells nothing out, and no one knows the true meaning, but it takes nothing away from the song.
     
  10. Poet of Gore
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    also be careful of this: readers do NOT want to be PREACHED to. this is why satire is so fucking good.
     

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