Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Do I have to send a message?

by Milton Brown

Grab your compass and come along with the crew of the motor ketch the Lady Dance. Be with them as they unravel the mystery of the lost continent of MU for a great adventure.

Question from the E-mail: Lately all they've talked about in my writer's group is the "message" in your writing.  As you know, I write romance. My stories are not "Deep."  What message do I tell them I send?  Fran.

Answer: Good to hear from you Fran. Been awhile since you were my student. Every piece of writing sends a message and the most common one for romance is that "A loving relationship is a blessing in your life." 

In fact, Judith French, an excellent romance writer who lives near me, regularly buys up all her "returned" copies, and donates them to the library in the  Maryland State Prison for Women. She once gave a talk there and discovered most of the women present had no idea how a man was supposed to treat a woman. She asked them, what they would describe as a "good man." Half the room said, "A man who doesn't beat you."

Since all Judy's heroes treat their women with loving care, will risk anything to protect them, and always act respectfully to them, she thought those women should be exposed to men who would do that and gives them her books as good examples. 

As for the "message." What a story says is often as important as the way it says it. Take a look, for instance, at To Kill a Mockingbird, that I know is one of your favorite reads, Fran. We all know that the theme of that novel is that "racial prejudice is unfair." Harper Lee told a good story in her novel; a story that was loosely based on her own childhood experiences, as Atticus Finch was based on her father, Jem on her brother, and Dill on her childhood playmate, Truman Capote.

Lee created characters the reader cared about. She deserved the recognition she received. But she also created something good in the world that will touch many peoples minds and hearts and that will continue to shape her readers' thinking for generations.

Today, To Kill a Mockingbird is on every high school reading list in the country, because of the message. Every teenager is asked to read this book as an example of fine literature, which it is. But in reading it, they also benefit from Ms. Lee's message and walk away with the thought that racial prejudice is unfair, buried somewhere deep in their subconscious.

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