It's OK To Send A Message

This post by Karen Harper originally appeared on Shelf Pleasure on 1/8/15.

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.


Read the full post on Shelf Pleasure.