I would like to think that everyone has read a book that the finish and think “that was really quite good. It was a nice story.” However, has anyone ever noticed that some books seem to be very obviously about a certain topic? The first example is based on a book written around a story. The second is about books written around a message. What does this mean?
Writing stories means that the story comes first, so that the writer cares first and foremost about the pacing, the plot, and the characters being real. Yes, there might be a message or two, but the author is not constantly reminding the reader–either through the dialogue or the narration–that there is a message in the story. Instead, the characters have the potential to represent something, but there is nothing in the story that directly states or describes it. Books with these kinds of characters or stories indirectly teach the readers through their actions, events, and responses to events. For example, Ella in Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is a strong young woman who fights a curse of absolute obedience. She could represent female empowerment. However, the book is not written about the empowerment of women, it is written to show how Ella overcomes the curse. The point of the book is the story about Ella’s adventures, not to send a message about women’s empowerment. It focuses more on developing Ella as a strong young woman than about showing Ella as such in order to tell the reader that women can be strong.
Writing messages means that the message is at the heart of the story and the author is doing the best that s/he can do to get that message across the her/his reader. There are very few good stories that are written around messages–the only one that I can think of is The Giver, and even that has its faults. Throughout The Giver, Jonas is put at odds between what he has been told to be true by his community and what he realizes is true through his personal experiences. The overarching theme is that our ability to choose is what sets us apart from one another, and this theme appears constantly throughout the book from beginning to end. The heart of the book is a message about the power of choice, and while this makes for very good philosophical reading, it is not something that I would have read on my own in middle school–instead, I was told to. I did not have a choice. Why didn’t I choose to read it? I had thought it a bit dry. I wanted a story, not a lecture.
It is very difficult to write an engaging story around a message, which is why there are very few that people, and children especially, read for fun. Books with messages do not always get enjoyed because the message is the center of the story, as opposed to the adventure itself. This is why children are not reading The Giver outside of schools. When people want to read a book for fun, they do not always choose the one with the heavy meaning behind it. Remember, however, that I do not speak for everyone, only for myself. Some people do read these books, and I congratulate them. However, books written for their stories (and not their messages) tend to get a better response.
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