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I realized I tend to state directly the message/moral of the story in my stories (as dialogue in most of the cases). My plots are rather ambiguous, though. And I use a lot of metaphors/symbols so the connection is not always clear.

Few examples:

Ghost Earthquake

The story is about a girl who misses an earthquake that hits her city. She doesn't remember what she was doing at the time, and nothing seems to have moved a single inch in her apartment. As she tries to uncover the mystery, she comes face to face with her deepest fears, and realizes the world around her is very different to the one she once knew.

Around the middle, the protagonist's boyfriend says (while discussing about earthquakes):

“Maybe what we see around us isn't as solid as we think. In fact, sometimes I think the concept of things being solid is just a human thought. Perhaps nothing is really solid in the universe. Instead, everything's constantly breaking apart, taking a new form.”

The Kid with the Gigaku Mask

About a girl who encounters a mysterious kid while on vacation at the beach. It's a story about ownership and belonging.

At the beginning of the story one of the protagonist's friend says (while discussing about his friend's runaway cat):

“Anyway, those things happen.” Kazuo took a long drink of his beer. “Nothing can be taken for granted. In fact, sometimes I wonder if anything really belongs to us in this world.”

Sushi Break

The story is about a girl who travels every weekend to another city to see her boyfriend. But he cancels every time, so she ends up eating sushi alone in a sushi stand. It's about love, distance, and how happiness can come from the strangest places.

Near the end, the protagonist's friend says (after the protagonist has already stopped questioning the reasons her boyfriend is avoiding her):

“You know,” Faye said, “sometimes I think the best thing to do is to stop trying to think about reasons. You have to stop trying to make sense of your pain, and actually do something to avoid it. If you don't, you'll find all kinds of ways to rationalize it, or find things to temporally fill the void they produce. I'm not saying it's bad. It's OK to find happiness in little things, little experiences. Just remember you gotta keep moving. No matter what. You gotta keep moving.”

Hope these examples helped to illustrate (of course, the characters don't bring the matter all of the sudden. The transition is smooth most of the time).

Some of my favorite writers do this, sometimes. But I'm wondering, is this an example of bad writing?

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Statement can work but I also think that demonstrating the moral(s) through the actions of your characters is more powerful...a combination can also work pretty well. Let the action take place and demonstrate, then perhaps the character learns a lesson/has an epiphany via internal dialogue... –  James Dec 27 '13 at 15:51
    
I don't know why but the story of Ghost Earthquake reminds me the Chinese film Re-Cycle. Is it inspired by the movie? –  Saint Georg Dec 27 '13 at 21:11
    
@Saint Cycle I checked the Wikipedia entry. Are you sure they share similarities? As far as I can tell, Re-Cycle is about a novelist who experiences the supernatural events found in her novel. Ghost Earthquake is about a girl who is trying to find out why she's the only one who didn't feel the earthquake that just struck her city. –  Alexandro Chen Dec 27 '13 at 23:45
    
@AlexandroChen: Did you see the movie? It is very interesting. I think in the both stories the idea of a/an storm/earthquake which is powered by the main character's "mind" seems similar. Unfortunately I didn't read your novels but I think they have really interesting main ideas and almost all of them are closely related to the eastern philosophies. –  Saint Georg Dec 28 '13 at 8:37
    
@Saint Georg Thanks for the info. I'll check it out. –  Alexandro Chen Dec 30 '13 at 14:39

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Ayn Rand was pretty explicit about the morals of her stories, and she sold twenty metric gajillion copies of her novels, so it’s clearly an approach that can work. But I think it’s an inferior technique. If the events of your story clearly illustrate the moral that you’re hoping to express, you don’t need to state it explicitly (although if it would be in-character for one of your characters to make that kind of observation, that’s acceptable). If the events don’t illustrate the moral, then stating it explicitly is making an unproven assertion.

The Israeli novelist Amos Oz once said that if he has a question and he knows the answer to it, he writes an essay, but if he has a question and doesn’t know the answer, he writes a novel. That’s an approach worth considering, too.

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I'm not sure whether I should be happy or sad about the Ayn Rand comment: xkcd.com/1049. –  Alexandro Chen Dec 27 '13 at 14:41

Many of my favourite authors are my favourites because their novels are ripe with great philosophical ideas. What you call your "message" is a philosophical idea. Reading your story, I might not understand it as the message of your story at all, but rather as a bonus, that does not prevent me from understanding the story in a completely different way.

Having a character (or the narrator) reflect and comment on the events, does not make these comments the only possible interpretation in the mind of a reader. The only danger I see is that an author writes with a raised finger: dear reader, let me tell you what you must learn from this story. You might want to avoid that, because your readers will want to resist your preaching. I call this the "but-induction": If you state a supposedly universal truth, every thinking person automatically contradicts you. "Smoking is unhealthy." "Yes, but ... ."

If you really want to educate your readers and lead them to your conclusion, you must let them experience your truth. The best learning is always through experience. But if your "message" is provided as interesting thought that you allow the reader to consider and either adopt or discard, then I don't see a problem.

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