MESSAGES! Yay or Nay?

Posted on November 9, 2009

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If you haven’t watched the vid below from Ace Ventura, you must. Not only is it hilarious (I could watch Jim Carrey shake that Monopoly guy on repeat for days) but I think it’s actually rather instructive.

Srsly, readers. Ace has a message: he is all about the animals. And those of you who know me know I’m also all about the animals. Unlike Ace, however, I do not wear wraps made of people. Not yet. But I do feel very strongly about animal welfare, and have very strong opinions about animal cruelty (i.e. don’t do it, it’s very bad, Michael Vick sucks), most of which have been inspired by my experiences as a rescuer and a lawyer. I’ve even written a law review article about a topic that gripped the headlines and my conscience back when I was a wee 2L.

What struck me as I mulled this blog post over was that, as a law student, I found a way to write about something that mattered to me. And while I’m writing fiction now, I’m still writing about stuff that matters to me. Not in the same “persuasive argument” way, and certainly not on the same subjects. But still. I write because I have Stuff I Wanna Say (and because a lot of that stuff cracks my sh*t up, and I like making myself laugh). I think most writers probably similar, non?

Think about it: in order to get 60-100k coherent words out there, you have to write about something that matters to you; otherwise, how can you stay committed to your story? How can you infuse your words with enough passion to get anyone else’s attention? If you have that kind of passion- not just the passion to write something, anything, mind you- but the passion to write THIS THING you’re writing, THIS book, THIS plot, THESE characters- surely that’s a step in the right direction. Of course, you might run into trouble if you’re plugging away at that 300,000 word opus on the future of slug farming. This is where you must balance what matters to YOU with writing something OTHER people will actually want to read.

Since I write YA, I read a lot of YA. And I can think of a bunch of successful YA books that have clear messages that don’t overshadow the plot or pacing of the book. Like Scott Westerfeld‘s brilliant Uglies series, which explores the meaning of beauty.

While I don’t think my book fits into that category, I don’t mind reading books that do. Uglies was never pedantic, and while Breaking Dawn contained the scariest consequences of sex EVAR, the Twilight series was still an entertaining read.

So I’m curious: if you’re a writer, does your novel have a message? If you’re a reader, do you like reading novels with messages? What say you, Internets?

I decided that I love novels with messages, as long as they’re well done. I love me a good horror novel, but when an author manages to weave a positive or thought provoking message into a compelling plot and an entertaining read? It’s made of win.

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Posted in: writing