When you write fiction, is your purpose to entertain, educate or both? And which is more important to you? Why?
I think most readers read fiction to be entertained although they like historical facts or what is generally known to be correct unless it is paranormal or fantasy, and then they expect the unusual or absurd. That is why authors write them and why they buy them. But I llike historical novels to be correct on the events or styles of the times.
I agree with you about the historical novels, Joan. I learn a lot through them which I would otherwise not bother to look up.
I read fiction for entertainment. I read textbooks and non-fiction for education. When I write fiction, I write what I like to read; therefore, I write to entertain. I know several authors whose sole purpose for writing fiction is to disseminate their political beliefs. I generally avoid reading their books. As an intelligent human being, one with her own beliefs and ability to reason, I really don't need someone trying to brainwash me into their belief systems or way of thinking. So I stick to writers who entertain me, and I write what I hope others will find to be entertaining.
I love fiction for entertainment too, but I love reading fiction that has a message about life, eg. the Harry Potter Series (my favourite fiction books) are so thought provoking, and even though I read them three times, each time I found new elements and there were so many topics for literary essays in the books. In other words, these books impacted my life deeply while still providing the entertainment factor.
I agree. I don't think entertainment and education are mutually exclusive. It's possible to entertain while still, as you say, imparting lessons about life, the universe and everything.
I never meant to imply that entertainment had to be mindless. There is a difference between entertaining that is thought provoking and fiction that is meant to subtly brainwash the reader into adopting the thought processes, belief system, or agenda of the writer. I found Harry Potter to be vastly entertaining. Even as good as the series is, there are some of the ultra conservative ilk who wanted the books banned because they felt it taught something contrary to their beliefs. Some are opposed to the Hunger Games series for young adult readers. Words are powerful things. They have the power to hurt, to soothe, to raise one up, or to bring one down. As authors and writers, we all have a responsibility to those who read our words. We can write positive stories or dark stories, but we all need to think about what we are dishing up and how it may be received. I think I prefer reading authors who are entertaining me without forcing me to their way of thinking. I hope they give me things to think about in the process, but if I am trying to educate my reader, I write non-fiction.
Entertaining and educating is not mutually exclusive in literature. With the anniversary of the book, one of the best examples is To Kill A Mocking Bird. It is an excellent story and also teaches about prejudice, racism and what the world can look like through a child's eyes.
This weekend I heard a presentation at the UW-Madison Writer's Institute by John Vorhous, who gave a presentation on voice fiction. He defined voice fiction as work when the novelist intends to convince the reader or instruct the reader on a topic through telling a story. This is similar to myths which were often stories with a purpose.
Yes! I think a good story or least one that's appealing to me, leaves me feeling enlightened.
Entertain, primarily. But I tend to put a few pearls of wisdom in my books, especially for my young black readers. Wrote "Rock Stars: As A Matter of Crack" with the intent that my readers will see how horrible crack addiction is and, without having to find out personally, say "DAMN! I'll NEVER do that!" All the while out of ten books (writing 11th now so I'm not in this place as much as I'd like to!) MOST have some educational value. Even the ones that predict calamity, I hope to invite readers to foresee, as I often do, what the outcome of being HEATHENS can lead to.
All fiction teaches something. If an author is building believable characters, then there is a sociological atmosphere. This is regardless of theological or political issues which sometimes bleed through upon the readers experience, not necessarily the authors intent. Story telling is designed for entertainment, but even the simple ghost story told around a campfire has underlying lessons. I think that this is where proper genre choice and marketing is important.
There's nothing wrong with entertainment being the only goal, because it's pure medicine. I'm not a big 3 Stooges fan, but I grew up watching them, and there's got to be a reason why my generation and the one before can never get those stupid episodes out of our heads. My mind often conjures them, Mark Bros, etc when trying to noodle through situations that don't seem to make much sense. What's absurd can be both entertaining and a healthy frame of reference for the kind of world we live in. Jeff