Story or Mission?

This is a kind of double question.  I’m asking it of both writers and readers, as the simple fact is that they may not share the same views.

Some writers are utterly egocentric, and write as they do without even giving a nod to what readers might actually want.  Some only write according to what readers want.  Most try to keep true to themselves but acknowledge that they desire at least a reasonable amount of success and so endeavour to satisfy reader wants too.

Readers are generally driven only by a desire to be entertained or informed, according to genre read.  A few, however, are looking for more – some great purpose or illumination.  Fewer still are searching for the literary masterpiece, in which they find a writer who satisfies their ideas of perfect writing.

So, why do I write?  That’s easy to answer.  I enjoy writing, and I write stories that I would, as a reader, like to read. I do not write with some purpose beyond the telling of what I hope is a good tale!  Sometimes, something of my own morals might creep in, but I hope that such instances never intrude too severely.  I don’t want to change the world.  I’m not so presumptuous to think that I could make that kind of difference.  I’m not a teacher of ethics or spirituality!  I like a good story, simple as that.

The question is, though, whether a tale has to have some purpose beyond itself, some mission.  Do readers want to read something more than just a story?  Do they suspect that reading is a waste of time and effort if they don’t find some message hidden within a tale?  Or, are they perfectly happy to have a few books that ask no more of them than that they read them and gain simple pleasure from doing so?

If a story must have a purpose beyond the obvious one, then I’m wasting my time,and the reader’s time.  That would sadden me.  I would still write, but only for myself.

So, what are your thoughts?

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About Steve

An author since the age of 13 years, writing again dominates my activities. My "Imagineer-ing" blog is my primary site. Also: Beginner knitter since November 2010. Favourite knitting techniques: cable and lace. Beginner cross stitcher. Beginner jewellery maker. With the promotion of self publication and all the other work that has been going on here, Dad decided around 2am this morning (22/11/2013) that it was time to begin his next adventure. He was seen off earlier the previous evening by myself, my brother, my sister in law, and my sister, as well as his wife (our mum), and an enigmatic being known only as A Lorraine. After this time of story telling, laughing, crying, joking and mickey taking, we saw how tired both mum and dad were, and we decided to leave them under the (sometimes) gentle care of The Lorraine. When Dad found the timetable for his travels, he let Mum know gently, which woke her from her drowsing, then, with the same gentleness he showed in this universe, he boarded his favourite mode of transport, the Interdimensional Steam Train, and set off with a smile and a wave. For those of us closest, that smile was a reminder that his pain has ended, and the wave, an indicator that he will pop in to all those that knew him, from time to time. Usually at the most inconvenient and in opportune moments he can. While we are sad that he is no longer here, we are happy he now has no pain, and is experiencing more extraordinary things that his writers mind will be frantically weaving into a new story. Posted by Son Damien

2 thoughts on “Story or Mission?

  1. I think the answer is yes and no. I’m a huge reader, and I also write. When I read I normally am looking for a purpose, but I want to gain simple pleasure from it as well. All books have some kind of purpose, whether the writer realizes it or not. Your main character is doing something or feeling something for a reason, and that right there should be the purpose. I’m not sure this is making any sense.

    A lot of writers actually write what THEY want to write. I had a teacher tell me once that if you write something, and it’s interesting to you, then someone else will find it interesting as well. So, when I’m writing something that I worry no one will like, I always look back on that and think, “Well, if ONE person likes it, then that’s good enough for me.”

    This was an interesting post, and it really makes you think (as a reader and a writer).

    • Hi Hazel, and thanks for your excellent comments 🙂

      Yes, you certainly make sense in what you say, and I tend to agree with your point. I guess what I was thinking about is that not all tales need something more than the most basic “purpose”, of the characters doing and/or feeling for their own reasons, as it were.

      I had a teacher who said the same thing 🙂 As I was very much into heroic fantasy and science fiction, he also reassured me that the idea, drummed into so many students, that “You must write about what you know” just doesn’t always fit.

      Thanks! I’m glad that I’ve managed to encourage some interest 🙂


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