Today I wanted to take a moment and talk about the importance of subtext and giving a story a purpose. In short, what is it that you really want your story to say.
To clarify, this was actually something I had a huge issue with in writing early on and is still something that challenges me to this day. However, giving your story subtext, a moral, or a meaning to the overall is what makes the difference between a story and simply imagining/fantasizing on paper. A story provides a goal or a narrative whereas fantasy is just that: the ideal wanderings of the mind. Allow me to give you an example that strikes close to home.
Consider Xenophobia. The original concept behind Xenophobia was just meant to be a little 'twist'. It was meant to describe this horrible place that just sounds monstrous and frightening but then the 'twist' was to reveal that we were actually talking about humans/Earth. While the concept is fun and the 'twist' is little more than shock-value silliness, there really isn't much else THERE. It's just meant as a quick, idle fantasy.
On the other-hand, where the story WENT is another matter all together (and the reason the beginning of the book is taking so much to re-write.) The story started to become an examination of human political behavior and is meant to reflect very real actions that are being taken today. You have people just sitting back and watching. You have people moving to war on grounds of fear and misunderstanding. You have people standing up in battles who were never invited and you have people who are just there to watch and amuse themselves.
With this in mind, a solid story will always involve some deeper meaning. It will allow a person to 'read between the lines'. Part of what personally helped me was a friend's recommendation.
"Anytime you watch a movie or read a book, try to figure out what the story
it ACTUALLY about? What is it telling you? What is the 'purpose' behind it?"
It was honestly a great exercise. It allows you to look at literature and entertainment with a whole different light and apply that seem concept to writing. If you're not able to apply a meaning and you don't know what you're actually telling your audience, why ever would someone bother reading it?
This isn't to say that every book out there needs to be the Odyssey and not every writer needs to be Shakespeare, but having a purpose behind your writing, a goal for the narrative, will give your story more substance. It will draw you away from the amateur habit of just writing endless description and either too much action or dialogue. Instead, it will focus you.
You could probably find thousands of ideas, however here are some ideas for morals and purposes:
- "Don't make a big deal about a minor problem."
- "The fallout of a lie may be worse than accepting responsibility for the truth."
- "A new friend may be worth more than an old one."
- "Don't bite the hand that feeds you."
- "It is not only fine feathers that make a fine bird."
- "Anger is a fire that burns all, friend and foe alike."
- "Necessity is the mother of invention."
- "Pride goes before the fall."
- "Misfortune provides insight as those those you should trust."
- "Deeds speak louder than words."
- "The power of one falls short of the power of many."
- "The wealthy are only as rich as how they use their wealth."
I hope this inspired some of you. Do you have any good ideas for morals or purposes? Share in the comments below for everyone to enjoy!