Can Your Book Entertain and be Thoughtful?

Robert Bidinotto recently wrote:

…one cardinal rule, taught by many fiction instructors, is: Avoid expressing your personal views about politics, religion, and other controversial issues in your fiction. Your job as a novelist, they say, is solely to entertain—not to “preach.” If you get up on your soap box, you’ll only alienate many potential fans. To attract a broad readership, you should suppress the desire to push divisive “agendas.”

True art, which writing is, doesn’t shy away from controversy. How it is presented, however, is what sets apart good writers from the not so good. The not so good come off as preachy, overbearing or use drive-by attacks. You know the scenes, Robert does too:

In static scenes on porches, in drawing rooms, and around dinner tables, characters don’t converse; they deliver speeches and soliloquies. Too often, these wooden, one-dimensional “characters” are little more than premises with feet.

It doesn’t have to be way. The trick is to incorporate issues and ideas organically into the story:

I rejected the belief that there’s an inherent contradiction between entertaining fiction and thought-provoking fiction…I think many opinionated writers fail to entertain because they engage in extraneous pontificating, rather than make their ideas integral to the stories themselves. The trick is to weave a provocative theme or premise into the very fabric of your story, making it the thread that connects your characters to each other and to the events of the plot.

So when writing your stories, look for the characters who start speaking like a professor or some sort of activist. Sure, you have stuff rattling in your head you want to tell people. Everyone does. We all have strong beliefs. No one is going to listen if we lecture them. However, if you explore it thoughtfully, making it integral to your story, then even those who disagree with you will not be turned away. Most of them anyway.

You can’t make everyone happy, but you shouldn’t sacrifice your integrity either.

Categories: Books, Fiction, Writing | Tags: | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Can Your Book Entertain and be Thoughtful?

  1. Pingback: Writing 101 | Shadows of History

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