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Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Archive for the tag “what a story means”

Lead readers to the water OR force them to drink?

“Different people will take different things from the story. I want to encourage readers to think rather than tell them what to think.” – Graeme Simsion (“The Best of Adam Sharp”) in a May 3 bookreporter interview.

What do you think?

Do you want to be led to the meanings behind an author’s characters, plots and themes? Or, do you want the author to tell you what it all means?

Author’s website photo.

When you read the classics,  you’ll sometimes find an authorial voice lurking directly or indirectly throughout the story, commenting on what’s happening. For example, in reading Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence again for the first time in years, I have to smile at the gentle mocking narrative in which Wharton makes it quite clear how she feels about the so-called upper class in New York’s society of the 1870s.

Yes, it’s fun to see that when I look back on a classic but, other than in satire, overt opinions from the author of a novel are generally frowned upon today. You can easily see them for what they are when something snarky is said about a character without any attribution. There’s a big difference between writing, Bob and his friends never looked for guidance from a supreme being because they thought them knew it all AND writing, Sam and his brother often said that Bob and in friends never looked for guidance from a supreme being because they thought them knew it all.

The first version is the author’s opinion that “forces you” to drink in what s/he thinks. That’s a weak way to write. It’s a little better to have another character say it or think it. It’s much better to show (in this case) Bob and his friends talking and acting in ways that lead you, as the reader, to the conclusion they have no need for God.

I enjoy puzzles in the books I read and write. So, the fewer tips from the author, the better I like it. Other readers, from what I hear, prefer a few hints as long as those hints aren’t too blatant.

Of course, if you want a bit of satire–and can remain consistent without throughout your story–you can write, Gentle Reader, are you beginning to wonder if Sam think’s he created the Lord in seven days?

Otherwise, strong hints bother me. In fact, they make me feel like the author is (a) Too lazy to keep his/her beliefs out of the book and/or (b) Thinks I’m too stupid to figure what the deeper points of the story are.

How about you? (Please don’t tell me you skip to the end of the book first to make sure the main characters don’t end up dead!) Are you in the mood for hints or puzzles?



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