Monday, May 6, 2019

You Got Message in My Fiction

Sort of like the old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercials where the characters proclaimed 'You got chocolate in my peanut butter!" and "You got peanut butter in my chocolate!", I was reading along in a pretty good book recently and found message in my fiction.

Oh, in this case, it was a message I appreciated, but I think it was laid on a little thick.  And in some places, laid on thick enough that the message overwhelmed the fiction.  (Which is why Reese's has worked very hard to achieve just the right balance in their PB cups.  Not too much PB and not too much chocolate.  Yum.) 

Which got me to wondering if perhaps I might have done the same thing to my readers on occasion.  I mean, I try not to be heavy handed with the message, but in books like Blink of an I and Unequal, there are places where I laid it on thicker than I would've with, say, Sleeping Ugly.

At one point in Unequal, my editor noted that a passage sounded very similar to a passage in Blink.  And after some mental debate, I left it as it was.   The stories are different, but the general message is the same - freedom, individualism, with a 'lemme explain something crucial here'... as in 'this is what will happen later if we follow a certain course today'.

Anyway, I think message in the fiction is okay if the reader is open to the message and you're not beating them over the head with it constantly.  If they're not open or you've overdone it, they'll stop reading the book when it pushes their notions.  And even if they are open, if it's something they already agree with and understand, they'll flip past to get back to the story - which is what I ended up doing in the recent read.

But there has to be a story to get back to.  If it's all message and no story, it all falls apart.  Which is where, I think, some books end up and why I flinch away from most 'critically acclaimed' books.  Those seem to be more about the message than the fiction.  Too much PB and not enough chocolate, or vice versa.

Jus' sayin'.

Oh, and just a quick heads-up - Blink of an I will be on sale starting tomorrow.  99c/99p for a week.  If you haven't snagged a copy, this might be the time to do so.


  1. I think it's hard to keep messages out completely, even if we think we don't have one in our books. I know my books all seem to have a common theme...don't discount the elderly. It's usually thrown out there with a comedic element, but it's definitely there. I know what you mean about stories with too much message...very distracting!

  2. Heavy-handed messaging and political agendas by authors just irritate the snot out of me. Big time red reject button time irritation. And that reject button means I'm not likely to every pick up another book by that author. Like you, I try very hard to keep any messages simplistic. As pro cop as I am, I still have bad cops in my books because there are bad cops in RL. But I also boost the good cops. The same with the military.

    One-sided meessages is a total turn-off. When one side is espoused as all that is good and right and the other side is demonized, I'm outta there with a DNF. Dear authors, if you hate a real person, I don't freaking care. Make up a name for your character to dislike. Because guess what, my special snowflake, not ever reader agrees with you and there are more readers like me out there than you realize.

    Of course, present company is exempted from the above statement. Messages about causes--abused kids, elder care/capability, disabilities? Yeah...go for it. Just don't keep preaching it because the choir gets it.

    AAaaannnddddd, climbing off my soapbox now. LOL

  3. The best message fiction is where the message is so subtle the reader barely notices it. Much easier said than done.

    If it's all message and little story, it goes in to the DNF pile pronto, no matter how much I agree. Maybe that's why I rarely pick up dystopians. Still, I think yours balance it pretty well.