What Are You Trying to Say in Your Story?

So you’re writing fiction. There must be a reason why you are, that goes further than tapping letters on a keyboard and letting your imagination run free. Of course you have a story to tell. You have characters ready to be born; worlds begging to be created; problems waiting to be solved; and goals ready to be reached. But beyond on that, is there something you’re trying to say with your words?

Hmmm. Maybe, maybe not. And if you were to ask me that question, I’m not sure what my answer would be. I’m not the type of person to stand on a soap box and spout the meaning of life to any and all who will listen. That’s not my personality. I’m not outspoken. I’m not confrontational. I’m interested in politics, but I’m not one to discuss it much. I’m interested in education, but I’m not one to start a petition either for or against a new initiative. I will chat about it over lunch or perhaps sign a petition, but I’m not usually one to lead the discussion. I’m not very judgmental either. I’m more “to each their own.” (Unless the issue involves my husband or children then I’m more like a Mama Bear protecting her cubs, but that’s another story!)

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not real likely to discuss major or controversial issues in my writing. I do love to read certain authors that write fiction based on serious issues. Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors, in fact. But at this point in my writing career, I’m not likely to write hidden messages into my work.

Or am I?

While deep in the throes of revising my completed middle grade, I needed to get to the heart of my story. It’s important for any writer to know what the heart of their story is too.

What does your main character REALLY want? How do your secondary characters impede her efforts? Is there a message there? Is it hidden deep in your story? What about the world you’re building? Is there a message you’re trying to get across in the society you’ve built?

Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games) and Veronica Roth (Divergent) both YA authors, touch on issues seen in any society, like class hierarchies, educational systems, and moral codes. Both stories make readers think. And though both authors present these issues in over-the-top stories (very well done, I might add), I’ll go out on a limb and say that you may have something you’re trying to say in your own writing too. It may be subtle. It may be unintentional, but it still may be there.

When I dig deep into the heart of my own manuscript, I see that I have some things I’m trying to say too. And though none of them were intentional, I realize that all these hidden issues are very important to me. And somehow they’ve made themselves known in my story.

I see parents today pushing their kids too hard to be something they are not.

I see schools, failing some of our kids, but succeeding many others.

I see kids who have forgotten how to use their imaginations—how to play.

I see kids who don’t work real well with others. The concept of team is forgotten once kids get off the playing field.

I see kids who would give anything in the world for one true friend.

I see kids who are afraid to take risks.

But… I believe that kids are stronger and more capable than we give them credit for, and I believe that people of all ages need encouragement to chase their dreams. I believe that if given the right environment and support, people can do amazing things.

Wow. I guess I’m trying to say a lot of things in my story. I didn’t mean to get up on my soapbox, but I kinda did. Hopefully these messages are given in the most subtle of ways though. I’ve tried to create a story about friendships, family relationships, forgiveness, and teamwork, all the while challenging my readers to use their imagination and knowledge to create amazing things. It’s a fun story where readers will find things they never thought possible, really are possible- all because of hard work, teamwork, and imagination!

What about you? What are you trying to say in your story? You may be as surprised as I was at what you’ll find! 🙂 So come on…tell us one. It’ll be interesting for us to know what secret gems you’ve hidden away in your words!

2 thoughts on “What Are You Trying to Say in Your Story?

  1. Sheila Callaham says:

    Hi Jacqueline, I love this post about writing and hidden messages. I write both fiction and non-fiction and in my fiction I’ve always got an angle — sometimes very subtle and other times not. In my YA adventure series, “Wells Worthy: Books 1 – 3” my angle was to educate readers about science, history, and culture as well as to entertain. In my first book, “Truth Runs Deep,” a work of crime fiction, the message was to love your children no matter what! 🙂 P.S. I totally get the Mama Bear protecting her cubs comment!

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