1. Not sure how everyone feels about this, but if the plot or story doesn’t feel like it’s going somewhere, or serving a purpose, it’s much harder for me to pay attention to it or find it meaningful. This means that without a theme or at least an attempt to communicate/illustrate something, the story is more likely to feel pointless. There may be times when a story can resonate even though the author wasn’t intending to communicate anything, but that was probably because regardless of the author’s intentions, meaning could still be gathered from the tale.

    Of course this doesn’t mean stories should be preachy. It’s much harder to like preachy stories unless the author can make them entertaining enough for everyone to ignore the preachiness. But that doesn’t mean the stories shouldn’t have some sort of purpose.

    Something I learned from plotting one of my future Naruto fanfics, though, is that the point of the story doesn’t need to be encapsulated in the ending. Maybe in that fanfic the ending helps drive the point home (the accidental isolation of the main chars ended up being dangerous for them). But the story is less about that, and more about how isolation and mistrust affects the two main chars as they grow up.

    Athough the chars are good people, growing up under their particular circumstances changed a lot of how they interacted with others, where their priorities are, etc. The chars themselves aren’t even entirely aware of the story’s point, and the audience isn’t called to take a specific action. The story, instead, probably serves more as an opportunity to observe, understand, and empathize. And maybe doing so will give readers insight into human nature that will improve their lives in the future.

    Maybe that approach (having the point subtly illustrated throughout the tale rather that having it culminate in an obvious way at the end) can be a good stylistic approach for those that want to say something without feeling preachy.

    • It’s completely about crafting theme well. With the exception of, perhaps, an allegory along the line of Pilgrim’s Progress, nothing should be “obvious,” if it comes at the end or the beginning. We have simply lost the understanding that theme≠preaching. We think, meaning will naturally seep from our worldview into the story because it’s part of us. But that doesn’t make sense. We are “characters” and we still work hard to craft our characters. We live in the world and we still work hard to construct our storyworld. It’s simply off to think that we can make our stories about nothing in particular and meaning will jump out anyway.


What do you think?