1. Lucy E.
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    Lucy E. Contributing Member

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    Your opinions on 'special messages' in novels?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Lucy E., Aug 24, 2008.

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    Last edited: Jan 11, 2014
  2. Leo
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    Leo Senior Member

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    They aren't necessary, I don't think. And i think they can often make a story cliched, because most morals have been done to death.

    Furthermore, pretty much all of real life is morally "grey". So having very definite morals can make a story seem unrealistic, I think, and it can kinda put me off.

    But if you cvan find an original way of presenting a moral, and not get too self-righteous about it, I can see how it would definitely add something to a story.
     
  3. Shadow Dragon
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    Shadow Dragon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think everyone's personal morals probably effects their storylines. Its ok as long as it isn't too like in your face. Like if the message is anti-war, its ok that it can lead to a lot of destruction, but don't have the characters saying stuff like "War is bad, we should all live peacefully." every other line.
     
  4. Charisma
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    Charisma Transposon Contributor

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    I write stories to express my morals. However, that doesn't mean I'm all like a robot just uttering the same moral over and over again. I let my message come through the storyline as mistakes, realistic incidents and symbolic situations. For instance, in my story about hardships in life, I talk about the desert nomads often - not only because its set in a desert, but also because nomadic life is going on from place to place, and struggling in the face of difficulty. They never get attached to any place too long to be shattered when the place loses its grace. With that in mind, I let the reader understand the mistakes and accidents in the story.
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Lucy E,

    If a theme would qualify as a special message, it is quite common and certainly there is not a problem with it.

    Love conquers all. The futility of war. Backing down invites on more of the same. If at first you don't succeed, lie and lie again ;).

    All of those could be themes, or messages in a novel.

    Terry
     
  6. Jade
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    Jade Active Member

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    I don't deliberately write in a way to fit the morals in, but if I look at my work I can find them and also in most books I can also find them.

    So yes, I think there has to be a message in a story, but if you try to pick the message and force your work to fit it, then it feels cliche.
     
  7. Leo
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    Leo Senior Member

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    I think I get quite annoyed when people tell morals in a "This is black, this is white" kinda way, because I don't think that's life.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Your beliefs will tend to reveal themselves anyway. Going out of your way to make a point will usually annoy the hell out of your readers, unless you are very, very good.
     
  9. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    It all depends on if they are using the message to tell a story, or using a story to tell the message.
     
  10. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I would just leave the reader to interpret what you wrote and let them learn from it if they want to. But I wouldn't explicitly state a message or make it too obvious.
     
  11. ZionsRodeVos
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    ZionsRodeVos New Member

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    I don't buy or not buy a book based on if it has a special message or not and don't really care if it has one as long as it is not trying to convince me of anything. I don't really expect fantasy and sci-fi books (which is what I generally read) to have a special message. I simply like reading about dragons, elves, magic, and so on.

    With everything I've written I haven't tried to make my stories have a special message although it won't surprise me if they do end op having messages anyway.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    people don't generally read novels to be enlightened or be converted... they read them to be entertained, period... so, even if you have a 'message' you want your novel to deliver, it's not likely to make any difference to folks who're just looking for a good story...

    when it does make a difference is, as noted above, when the writer hits his/her readers over the head with the message, and the only difference that makes is to get the book tossed, before they get to the end [or even the point of the message!]...
     
  13. Ungood
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    I think if people are looking for a message in your work, they will find one, if you intended to put one there or not.

    Just like people try to find the meanings of songs, or poems or what have you. It is all the same.

    Just write what you feel like writing, if it has messages or not is irrelivent, all that matters is if it is well written and told.

    If it is a good then people will enjoy reading it, end of story.
     
  14. ParanormalWriter
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    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

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    I never like an underlying message (unless very subtly hidden). I read to be entertained and if I start to feel the writer is out, not to entertain me but to make me adopt some idea of his/her, it puts me off. Ideally, if somebody's going to write something like that into their books, they'll make the actual story so gripping I can't put it down no matter the message. Also, I take these things better if the message is imbedded in the story, and if I'm not bludgeoned over the head with it too often.
     
  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Well, it appears that opinions are pretty broad spectrum on this subject. I have to agree with Maia on this. You can work that axe on the grindstone so hard that what you end up doing is proselytizing. Proselytizing has its place, I guess, in a particular epistemology, but as Maia said, not when people are looking to be entertained.

    Sure, there are readers and writers who want (need) to read and write messages that agree with their view of world function, usually as a way to affirm their viewpoint. These are the Lesson Teachers. Sorry, but I don’t mean this in a flattering way. Ever met someone with the bad habit of often using the phrase, “I’m gonna’ show him/her!” or, “Just watch, I’ll teach them a lesson they won’t soon forget!”

    Those are the Lesson Teachers. :rolleyes:
     
  16. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Another vote here for the "mammamaia" theory. Lot's of people want entertainment. Very few are looking for therapy or a personal guru (and most of those have already discovered Scientology)! LOL
     
  17. Mateius
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    Mateius Member

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    I think messages can be quite important and sometimes they are crucial to the actual storyline. Such an example would be "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde. The striking imagery that Wilde creates to show how a life of pleasure can ultimately destroy you is too strong to forget. Without this message in the book, the story would have been bland and easily forgettable. Whenever I pick up a book, I'd like to think that I'd be learning something valuable as I read it. A story that doesnt relate to the world we live in, or doesn't try to teach us in any way, I would think to be rather pointless.

    Then again some stories work well without a moral being brought to the readers attention, and could be just as enjoyable. I suppose its all about the readers opinions and taste.
     
  18. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    They're fine if they're subtle and don't hit you over the head with blatant obvious manipulative cheesiness like some after-school special.

    I think many popular books have a special message. It's just that the writer does a really good job of not lambasting the reader with it by actually showing the message rather than telling (preaching) it. Most readers aren't stupid; they don't need the message laid out for them like that. They prefer to work it out on their own. For example, instead of saying, "War is bad!" show the reader how war, in certain situations, can be bad.

    That's another thing. Just because a book has a message doesn't mean the message can be applied to EVERY situation all the time (for example, "War is ALWAYS bad no matter what!"), so the writer should take care to avoid overgeneralizing as well. (Sometimes what's on the inside is really no better than what's on the outside.)

    Lastly, the message should come about naturally in the course of the work; if one sets out to write a story for the sole purpose of delivering a message, it will probably show, and show badly. If, however, one sets out to write a story and a message just happens to come about during the course of it, it'll probably fit in much better.
     
  19. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think people like morals more than they realise, they just don't want to be hit over the head with them.

    Children's stories are chock-full of morals, and not just because the adults want to educate the young. For example, in "Charlie and the chocolate factory", all the lazy, gluttonous and mean children get their (rather cruel) punishments, while the poor, but good-hearted Charlie gets his reward. It's so moral and just it can make an adult feel nauseous, but the children love it.

    Adults are not as easy to please. Often, they already have an opinion that may differ from yours, and if you write a story that only depicts one side of the issue, they'll feel like they're being coerced into choosing your side, or that their intelligence is being insulted. It's better to depict both sides and let readers choose themselves.

    But a lot of stories for adults do have morals, even if they are as simpe as "justice prevails" or "crime doesn't pay". Just think of how many movies end with the bad guys getting their just rewards.
     
  20. ChimmyBear
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    ChimmyBear Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmmm...personally, I keep my beliefs as far from my novel writing as possible. It is kind of like the way an actor gets into character. I get into the mind of my story's characters and write from their moral values. :)
     
  21. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like that analogy for the process of writing.
     
  22. TwinPanther13
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    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

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    Well there are a lot of replies here. I believe things are black and white in life. We as people all know what is wrong and right in this world. Gray comes from people trying to justify the things they do wrong in there lives.

    Me I accept the truth. I have done wrong and I have done good and I believe what I have learned. That being said our morality will show in our stories. Obviously we all write for different reasons but if a subject like abortion came up in a story we would all right it with our perpective.

    To me stories are where you can get rid of the bs and see the truth of what morality is wrong or right. There are no inbetweens, at least that is what my writting will reflect.

    Oh yeah to answer the main question. Everything you read is a moral tale. Nothing is without some hint at the human condition. Everything we read, even for entertainment, is that person's idea of what life is
     
  23. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    This, pretty much exactly.

    And this:

     
  24. mistressoftheflies
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    mistressoftheflies Member

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    If the so-called special messages aren't shoved down my throat, I can handle them.
    For example, Lord of the Flies has many messages, most of which are implicit; this makes me think and enjoy the book even more. :]

    I'm well aware of the fact that most people read just for the entertainment value, however.
     
  25. Palimpsest
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    Palimpsest Senior Member

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    I've said before that I think writers ought to take responsibility for the ideas they put out there.
    I didn't believe fiction and real-life morality can be separated because fiction, as media, is a feedback loop to reality. I don't believe in pure entertainment either: all good stories, however subtly, will change minds-- add to experience and enrich perspective.

    That said, I know different people can see a very special life message in a story that is probably different from what the storyteller intended (so, storytellers can't be completely responsible for the ideas that get out there), different from what other readers saw in that story, and different on a re-read 10 years later.

    The most imposingly treated Special Life Messages I think are frankly poison to this depth, variety of appeal, and ultimately its own significance.
     

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