I’m fully aware that over the years, fiction writers have been warned by that old Sam Goldwyn quote, “If you’ve got a message, send a telegram.” I know, I know, in mass market fiction, we’re writing primarily to entertain with great stories, memorable characters, adventure or thrills and gripping emotions rather than share a message.
Yet the longer I have written novels (over 30 years now,) I find I can’t quite follow that advice. Maybe it’s because I taught high school or college (Ohio State University) for 17 years. The teacher/instructor in me just won’t quit. Or maybe it’s because, even reading fiction, I like to learn something new and not only read a good story. Really, aren’t we learning something even if we read a fairy tale? Discovery is old as storytelling itself: Aesop’s fables are fiction and yet pack a punch.
So in my writing, although I usually begin with a setting I love—one with instant conflict embedded in it—and then progress to plot and character. I’m sorry, old Sam Goldwyn, but I think I do send a message, or at least try to inform my readers about something they might not know. Of course, I realize I can’t bog down the action. Interesting information has to be worked in, maybe through the heroine’s career or something huge (and evil?) she’s up against.