Sneaky themes and those darn criminal interior designers…

Lit agent Angie Hodapp: “When we get a query that says, ‘People who read this book will learn…’ or ‘The theme of my book is…,’ it’s kind of a red flag for us.”
People who decided to teach a lesson from the outside generally (not always) spend more time teaching than telling us stories. But as a rule, overt pedagogy works better in church than in your story.
EVERY story teaches a lesson – or many. Stories are written by people, and no one does ANYTHING without letting slip the lesson they hope to impart.
But STARTING with a lesson for fiction is definitely a red flag.
Can it be done? Sure. But for the most part stories work best when they cloak truths in lies.
Stories are sneaky, subtle, and insidious. When they creep in through a rear window in your mind, they will rearrange every bit of furniture they find. Then you come home and realize that everything is different and – at the hands of the best trespasser-stories – better. The best trespassers are often also the best interior designers.
But we don’t typically let strangers come in and rearrange our stuff. Not only that, but as soon as we find out that’s the goal, we cast them out and put our internal thought police in notice: “Stop hat story at all costs. Don’t let it in because I already have people I trust to teach me, and I don’t need more of them.”
So stories can’t knock politely and shmooze their way in. They gots ta be sneaky.
So be pedagogical. But make it almost an afterthought. Or if it’s a forethought, dress it up.
Storytellers lie. And when they do it well, the results can be magical.

Posted by in Writing Advice