Monday, July 11, 2011

Do Everyone a Favor -- Skip the Lecture

For me, there are several things a writer can do to ruin a book:

    1)  Mention a vampire

    2)  Mention a werewolf

    (Thank you, Twitlight.  But that's beside the point.)

    3)  Turn the book into a preaching platform

    There we go -- today's topic. 

    Really, people don't read fiction to hear the author's opinion on anything other than what pertains to the story.  It's annoying, it's something that everyone can't agree with, and it totally interrupts the plot.  I don't read to learn anyone's stand on global warming or environmental awareness (ahem, The Final Warning and MAX: A Maximum Ride Novel, both by James Patterson.  Max is still great, though), politics, the economy, etc. -- unless it directly relates to the story.

    That said, I think it's amazing when books teach us about important life issues -- when it's done right.  Some of my favorites do this, without ever outright saying "War is bad" or "Be true to yourself".  Not only are these stereotypes (not all wars are bad; being yourself is great and all, unless you happen to be an axe-murderer or cannibal or Twihard), they need to be handled with more subtlety.  Here are a few of those favorites, in no particular order:

  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles.  Of course, being slightly biased, I consider all my favorite books amazing, but this one is especially so.  That's mainly because of my favorite character, Phineas, but the book also touches on deeper subjects, especially the darker side of the human nature.  (Really, we aren't so nice.)  While it takes place at a boy's school during World War II, the focus is more on internal war.  And while I would've judged the book by the cover (and synopsis and setting) and expected it to be boring, probably not even giving it a chance, it's now my favorite.  I'm primarily a fantasy reader, so that's definitely saying something.
  • The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  Most people have read this one, so I don't have to go into as much detail -- but the way she handles themes like war, violence, and freedom seems so effortless, so smoothly integrated, it never ceases to amaze me.  Okay, the gushing is over.
  • Uglies trilogy/series (I guess it depends on your opinion, and whether or not you include Extras) by Scott Westerfeld.  It hits a whole range of themes, from self-acceptance to society's place and influence to, again, freedom.  Even with all that going on, it doesn't seem too busy, and the world-building's fabulous.
  • Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.  Again, this is an obvious pick, which is part of why I couldn't leave it out.  Good and evil, fighting over power (of the ruling and magic variety) -- it's all there.
    Of course, there are countless other out there, and you can find morals or symbolism to almost anything, if you try -- but what are some of your favorites?  What themes/lessons do they express?  Do you think it's okay to preach in books, or do you also feel like it's a no-no?

    This lecture on lectures was presented in blog form, so I decided to ignore the irony and go with it. 


Tabitha said...

This made me laugh:

For me, there are several things a writer can do to ruin a book:

1) Mention a vampire

2) Mention a werewolf

(Thank you, Twitlight. But that's beside the point.)

Great post!

The Story Queen said...

Twitlight, huh? Never heard of it referred to as that before :P

As soon as you said transmitting a message without outright saying it (come on, who wants to read a book to be preached to?) I thought of Harry Potter and the Hunger Games.

I actually think it's pretty interesting because so many dystopians are being put out there. It's cool to see which messages they try to convey, especially since so many tend to overlap.

Interesting post as usual!

Jenna Blake Morris said...

Tabitha -- haha, thanks!

Story Queen -- I'm way Anti-Twilight, so I have to get it out sometimes. Great point with the dystopians! I hadn't considered looking at how they handle the same general themes in different ways, but now I definitely will. Thanks!

Lynda R Young said...

lol, I reckon a vampire preaching to a werewolf would be a win ;)

Great post. I'm not for books that overtly preach. I just want a good story.

Jenna Blake Morris said...

Lynda -- that's definitely a new one! I'm really loving the irony there. (:

The Director said...

Massively awesome post. Thanks a million! And btw, your blog rocks ;)

I love the irony of it all :P

Jenna Blake Morris said...

Director -- Thanks! So does yours.(:

And irony is definitely one of life's pluses.

Christina Farley said...

I really agree with you on these points. I too love the Hunger Games and Uglies series. They really captured the truth on a lot of our society issues and issues teens face today.

Jenna Blake Morris said...

Christina -- I think they did a great job of that, too. And they made the points so seamlessly. Maybe that's why I can read those books again and again.

Of course, they're also some of my favorites, which probably helps.