DON’T PREACH – TELL ME A GOOD STORY INSTEAD

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When I read for fun, I’m not looking for a sermon. Most readers feel this way (non-adults included).

Recreational reading is fun, but you can bet my beliefs, morals, and experiences (world view) are coming in with me. To be fair, you should expect that an author will also bring their world view too. It’s very human.

Stories can be a great way to challenge how and what I think, as long as its done in a fun way, but I hate being preached to. You know, “you will think this way because…,” or, “if you don’t think this way, you are…”  Like that really works. So when an author (or TV show) tries to tell me what to think, and I disagree, I often stop reading (or watching TV).

Before we banish all fiction that portends social relevance, there is nothing wrong with stories that deal in difficult subjects. Some of the best novels are about tough things. Charlotte’s Web was on banned lists for a long time.

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Maybe a few suggestions.

  • Avoid stories that treat you like you don’t have a mind, or don’t allow you space to disagree. These stories may attempt to think for you.  If you don’t share the same world view there should be no harm and no foul, and the author shouldn’t belittle for disagreeing.

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  • Avoid novels that manipulate (melodrama). These stories have the amputee little boy or girl adopt the three legged dog because they child knows what it’s like to not be wanted for the same reason. Melodrama is dishonest and unfair.
  • if you are a “kid,” asking a caregiver to read a book with you is a very non-threatening way to look at a topic. My own son did this once or twice, so I know it works.

During my time as a University student, I had an advisor that was wonderfully honest and I appreciate something he said, allow me to paraphrase.

  • Fiction is full of agendas, it must be, because it is a human story. Every story teller and audience is human, and filled with opinions. You may be the preacher preaching to the choir, or you may be in the choir getting preached to (even if you don’t want to be). Regardless, always think for yourself and be sure you grant others the same opportunity.

Here are a couple good novels for difficult topics.

  • Speak – Laura Halsey Anderson.   This novel deals with the topic of rape in a very sensitive way. It’s also well written. A good template for novels and tough issues.

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  • Running Lean – Diana Sharples  This novel deals with eating disorders in a hopeful, respectful, and sensitive way.

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7 thoughts on “DON’T PREACH – TELL ME A GOOD STORY INSTEAD

  1. For me character is king followed by an exciting plot. I hate preachy in any form. Don’t push your agenda, make me listen to it with an intriguing story.

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  2. Amen! It needs to be woven in with subtlety. What really annoys me is when it is a subject I agree about but the book has pages and pages of introspection explaining and breaking down the topic and shoving it down the readers throat & I already know!!

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  3. It’s funny that you mentioned Speak. I have it on my desk waiting to review it. I finished it just before I read Amish Vampires in Space. I can see why it was nominated for the National Book Award. Fantastic but depressing.

    I had no idea Charlotte’s web was banned. For content? Why? Inquiring minds want to know!

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  4. In response to LIsa’s question, warning I am going to spoil the story’s end, the fact that Charlotte died in the end had a lot of parents upset. They felt that the topic of death didn’t belong in Children’s books.

    This goes back to the two basic views of Children’s literature. Childhood should be preserved for as long as possible, hence literature should preserve and protect the “childhood” experience (whatever that is). The other view is that information should be offered to the child to help them grow. I like to add the caveat- “age appropriate” information.

    What I found with my own son, and from my classwork with other teachers, is that children are very good at self-editing. They will pass over things they don’t understand, or if something is too difficult (or scary) they often quit reading.

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  5. Allow me one more reason that the book was banned. The animals talked and were “blasphemous” because human beings are God’s highest creation and these animals don’t reflect that.

    Allow me a sigh. “SIGH”

    Okay, I love this book and I didn’t find it blasphemous in the least. In fact I think of it as an allegory that reflects human experience.

    Tim

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  6. Excellent topic Tim! I agree whole heartedly! Books need to stretch me and cause me think about things in a new light. Not tell me how to think or what to think. I loved Charlotte’s Web and have read it to my kids a number of times. I’ve even read *gasp* Old Yeller to them. One of my dear friends was appalled that I read “sad” books to my kids… … …
    Your worldview, whatever it may be, will come through no matter what you write. So there is no need to preach. 🙂
    Anyway, I currently have Running Lean on my TBR pile. But the pile is a large one!!!! I suppose I should add Speak to the pile as well. Although, I don’t know if I could stomach it.

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    • Speak is so well done, I think you would be surprised at how much you’ll like it. It’s been eleven years since its been published and its still a strong seller.

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