The message of your story, generally, is also tied very closely to your Core Concept, although the message may not always be obvious when you first start writing. I think it took me a while after I started writing Singularity before I understood what possible message I could give to people through it. It was honestly an afterthought, because my Core Concept was just to write an interesting story. I didn’t want the search for a ‘message’ to get in the way of that. But I did what I often do in such situations, and what surprisingly works for a lot of writers – I just wrote the story down and let the message reveal itself when it was ready.
(Avengers: Age of Ultron SPOILER ALERT sort of)
I don’t always start a story knowing ahead of time what the message will be. I don’t always have an agenda like that. But I’ve found that when I write authentically, meaning when I let characters and events flow naturally, messages usually come about on their own.
I hope that can be an encouragement to some of you. If you already know the message you want to communicate, then great. If not, I would say not to worry about it. Just write honestly. Odds are you or your characters will say something without realizing it, maybe even just through their actions rather than words, and your audience will be inspired in one way or another.
People are naturally inclined to find messages in things, even if the writer didn’t intentionally put anything there. Sometimes what the audience gets is completely different from what the writer intended (which could be a sign of bad writing, but we’ll get to that in future posts).
People are surprised when I talk about how many Jesus parallels I find in the movie Chronicles of Riddick. I am quite certain that it is not what the writers intended, but it’s what I see when I watch it.
Of course, being Christian is likely a big part of why I even saw those parallels in the first place, because I’m already used to thinking in ‘Christianese’ terms. Be aware that the same will go for your audience. Some may not see what you want them to see. They may walk away with a very different message depending on their own experiences and what they associate with what.
I just recently watched Avengers: Age of Ultron with a specific view to what I sensed were messages about my personal struggles over the past few years. I have tried so hard to fix a particular issue in my life, and I’ve tried so many different ways, only to apparently make bigger messes. And I’ve worried a lot about how my unwise or misguided choices may have negatively impacted others. But now I recognize that everything is not my fault alone (in Age of Ultron there are many people to blame). Sometimes I played the blame game a bit too much. In the end though salvation comes, not necessarily through our own efforts, but through God taking our messes and knowing how to turn them around into something he can use to make things better.
Now, ask Joss Whedon if that’s the message he was trying to get across. Yeah, right! But that’s what I got out of it simply because that’s what my heart needed to hear at the time.
My next post will talk about how to communicate your Message without pushing away your audience.
For more on these and other writing topics, The Storyteller’s Handbook is available for purchase now.