I have wondered for some time now if it is just enough to entertain the reader or should we seek to educate or enlighten them. Perhaps make some social statement. It seems some of the best reading i have done is that wich simply entertains the reader. However other writers have told me that is shallow and lacks imagination. I would appreciate some feedback on this subject please.
August 15th, 2006, 06:46 PM
Making social statements, philosophy, and enlightenment are other forms of entertainment: higher, maybe, but still just entertainment, as people that read and love Crime and Punishment, or to give a modern example R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing books, enjoy it because it entertains their intelligence.
August 15th, 2006, 06:49 PM
Although I sometimes wonder at the point of some stories, there are almost always values somewhere in the mix. The good guys win, or they don't. There are good guys. There are bad guys. There are regular people, they have friends, they betray their friends, or they stand with their friends.
There is a thin little line between a purposeless, meaningless story, and one which rants and raves over some point which presumably the readers are too dense to scope out on their own.
On the other hand, point or no point. If it does not entertain, then why would anyone read it (Outside of a Lit. class.)?
August 15th, 2006, 07:24 PM
An interesting question. MrBF1V3 makes an interesting point. No matter what you write, there's some kind of statement in it. But, I sometimes write about things that I don't agree with and have them come out in a somewhat positive light. Sometimes it is solely for entertainment. Other times, its an exercise in speculation. Usually, however, I'm very cautious about what I do with stories that containn material I don't agree with.
As far as writing with a deeper point to prove - I think this is really up to the writer him or herself. I think it's okay just to write for entertainment and even a good mental exercise. And there's nothing wrong with wanting to simply entertain others.
Something to ponder:
If everyone was listening, what would you say?
August 15th, 2006, 09:26 PM
It is. Sitcoms entertain, and rarely teach a life lesson (Unless you count "Make sure you took the rent money out of the envelope before you throw it in the garbage" as a life lesson). Yet many many sitcoms are entertaining. Sometimes people want to sit back and laugh, cry, or be amazed by something without having to reexamine their life goals. I know I do.
August 15th, 2006, 11:06 PM
It's a difficult question for me too because I sometimes just write to entertain. Sometimes I raise questions, point out social failings, scientific flaws, but rarely do I answer or teach anyone anything and I'm not sure I should... how do you do that without sounding preachy or superior? But something I know I should do is put more emotional investment into each story, to give more and make the reader feel more. I would think feedback like "shallow" means the same thing.
You need to make readers feel and think as well as entertain.
The comment of "lacking imagination" may just mean you need to read more current work more widely. Perhaps you are just treading well-trodden boards. No point reinventing the wheel. Move the genre forward.
August 16th, 2006, 02:55 AM
I think the way I would put it is that some books purport to challenge the reader's values or way of looking at the world, while others make no such attempt (and may indeed attempt to reinforce values and perceptions). Obviously this is dependant on the individual reader -- a Marxist would probably find LotR highly 'challenging' to her values and way of looking at the world, whereas a Luddite reactionary might find it very comfortable and unchallenging.
I would say that both attempting to challenge your audience and not attempting to challenge your audience are equally 'valid' artistic choices, and I would not assert that writers "ought" to do one or the other. Personally I enjoy both kinds of fiction.
August 16th, 2006, 01:45 PM
Don't underestimate the value of entertainment. People can only work and actively play (sports, exercise, etc.) for so long before needing some kind of release. Morality questions inside an entertaining piece are fine, as long as it stays entertaining. Anyone can grab a non-fiction tome on philosophy.
August 16th, 2006, 03:16 PM
Entertainment should be your highest goal when writing. I love to read educational books but only if they are also entertaining, if I'm not enjoying the read after a couple of pages I won't bother with a book, there are so many wonderful reads out there why should I waste my time on something that isn't entertaining?
August 16th, 2006, 03:46 PM
Although not all stories are didactic, all stories contain a moral viewpoint. Even the aesthetes, who argued for "art for art's sake," in so doing made a moral statement.
Of course, the profundity of the moral statement may vary :D