Monday, September 10, 2007

Don’t preach to your reader.

Tami Parrington mentioned this in blogpost right around a year ago and something has gotten under my fingernails and has forced me to mention it again.

Hubby is getting into a webseries called Afterworld. Normally, when something bothers me, I don’t mention it by name. Afterworld gets the dubious honor of being an exception.

I’ve watched just enough of that to make me ache. The idea is wonderful. The visuals are creative and good. The production group seems to have a real good handle on keeping tone. The voice actors are good too.

The writing, however, is making me wish I knew who to bitch slap. Every time the song in my playlist changes, it seems as if they’re preaching to the viewer. The section I actually sat down to watch had both hubby and I rolling our eyes and mocking it by humming a song. (I’d tell you which one, but the importance would be lost because it’s a long standing joke.) And hubby LIKES the webseries.

Here’s a clue…applied with a baseball bat. If you have to spread your “message” like I would cream cheese on a bagel, then you told it wrong. If you have to slap a sappy, sickening, after-school-special-flashbacks-giving, “What’s the lesson you learned today, children?” moment at the end of it all, then you are not only being condescending toward the reader, but you didn’t tell it right.

Besides, leave the preaching to the pulpit. It’s not a fiction writer’s job to provide a moral guide to life unless of course you’re one of those writers with an agenda. If you are, you can bet I won’t be your reader.

By all means, writing can illustrate a point and can do more than just entertain. But, as writers, we don’t get to tell the reader what lesson they’re supposed to learn. Reading isn’t a passive activity were the reader gets spoon fed everything. What a reader or a viewer garners from a story is unique to themselves. Writers set it up. We tell (via showing) our stories and let the reader draw any “life’s lessons” conclusions on their own. Those conclusions are the reader’s/viewer’s job not the writer’s duty.

Fiction writers can lead the reader. We can guide the reader. We can hope the reader will take home the idea that X leads to Y and Y is bad, but we shouldn’t smush anything against the reader’s face. Often times (I’m tempted to say all the time), the best way to make a point is to not come right out and make it. Hint. Elude. Imply. Finesse the concept. Do not take a…well…baseball bat and crack the point against the reader’s skull.

Do your job. Write the story and let the reader do their job.


Bernita said...

I so agree.
Of course, I'm so afrais of being overt that my cards aren't just close to my vest, they're under the table.

IM Cupnjava said...

If you agree, then I know I'm on the right track! ^_^ Thank you for stopping by my blog, Bernita. It's always nice when you visit.

Jon M said...

I agree! Always credit your reader with some intelligence!

IM Cupnjava said...

Exactly, Jon. I hate it when an book insults my intelligence.