“What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what
was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do?”
― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
Do you have something to say when you write? Or do you just tell a story and leave it at that?
Stories can work on many levels aside from the obvious recounting of what happened and how that affected everybody. Much, if not most, of the output of fiction writers is intended merely for entertainment. How often do we read just to while away the time with a well told story? At least we hope it's well told, or at the very least that it's a good story.
Most readers probably don't grab a fiction book off the shelf in hopes of learning something deep. Being entertained often doesn't mean stretching one's mind very much. Education is more for textbooks or something off the non-fiction bookshelves. Some of it might be entertaining to some extent, but often the non-fiction just doesn't seem very fun.
Then there is "literature" as in fancy-readin' English Lit kind of stuff. They might call it literary fiction or "the Classics". This is the kind of literature that is analyzed in college courses or by critics in high brow publications. This type of literature is more than just stories. The stories mean something besides just what happens from beginning to ending. There are themes and symbolism. The story represents something else entirely and is supposed to deliver a message, whether overt or cloaked.
This leads me to consider whether I should be expressing my opinions, beliefs, and life philosophies in my fiction. All writers do to some extent. But what about when the philosophy or belief system of the author can lead to rejection--vehement in some instances--that can cause bad press or boycotting? Should the author let inner feelings infuse the written output? Is it a fiction author's place to teach or preach, or is the duty of that author merely to entertain?
First Wednesday of the month means another edition of Alex J Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group. You can discover more participants here.
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