I love when PCW covers a topic that I’ve been struggling with, because she always seems to do so in a more nuanced and articulate manner than I ever could. Her Sunday post was about whether or not an author should include a moral, ethical, or political agenda in their book. And I think she does a really good job of discussing it, so check it out here: To preach or not to preach.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, too, because I’ve seen opinions that I have but never really thought too much about creeping into my writing. Especially my short stories. I have four out on submission and one in a completed draft and four of the five have at least one theme/message. I didn’t write them to convert people over to my view of the world, but I guess I did write them to explore an idea.
(If I ever get one published, I’ll make a post about it to explain what I was trying to convey with the story or what the kernel of an idea behind the story was. Most have a one-line thought that triggered them. They’re not political or religious, I seem to be more about psychology, class issues, and morality, but they’re still there.)
And if I ever do get my novel published it’ll be very interesting, because the world I’ve created is not one I’d advocate as realistic. It’s a utopian dystopia of sorts with a certain surface appeal that should be horrifying when someone really thinks about it. Ideally, people would infer some parallels to modern life, but I suspect they’ll be all the wrong parallels and I’ll quickly tire of having arguments with those people who took it wrong. So, I suspect people will think I’m preaching, but they’ll hear the wrong message. (If it ever does get published, I’ll make a post about the book(s)/psychology experiments behind the premise. It won’t help, but at least it’ll be there.)
I think PCW makes a good point, too, that “Once you start actually looking at novels, you can find rather a lot of them that clearly have some moral, ethical, or political ax to grind…” I still remember thinking that one of the Sword of Truth books was really as much about exploring the evils of socialism as anything else. And, I clearly remember how much religious and moral philosophy there was in Tolstoy. (I read him around 9th grade or so, so my original version of War and Peace is full of faded yellow highlights of passages that “spoke to me” in some way or other. Not necessarily because I agreed, but because I was at that age where you think about big issues. At least for me, it was that age.)
As a side note, one of my fellow bloggers, Elayne Joy, has been talking about her struggles to reconcile a desire to write with a desire to serve God in everything she does. And I think for someone of faith, that’s an important issue. But I also think that some of the most religiously minded individuals out there have used fiction or writing in general as a strong medium to convey their message to an audience that would otherwise ignore it, so I don’t think it’s impossible to reconcile the two. I think people who fall too heavily on the side of religion lose a large portion of their potential audience, but each writer has to find the balance that works for them. (I’m sure she’d appreciate insights from anyone who has dealt with similar issues.)
Enough rambling for today. I have a short story to edit, some chapters in a novel to write, and a hike to take.