November 26, 2013

Fiction's First Purpose - Bonnie Way

In my creative nonfiction class this semester, one of our assignments is to prepare a book proposal.  We are supposed to research and pick a publisher, write a sample chapter, and outline our theoretical book—table of contents, back cover copy, who we are writing for, and why they'd want to read this.  As a writer, I find this a very useful exercise.  I also find it very daunting.  Over and over again, I find myself wondering, "Who would want to read about me?"

That question doesn't bother me when I'm writing fiction.  I have written a series of young adult fantasy novels (unpublished so far) and am currently working on a historical novel.  I've never stopped to ask why I'm writing any of these stories.  As a teenager, I simply wrote what I wanted to read.  As a voracious reader and a more experienced writer, I've continued to write what I would want to read.

When I sit down to read, I grab a novel.  I want a story to pull me in, to make me forget my everyday life, and even to teach me a little bit.  I like novels such as Kim Edwards' The Memory Keeper's Daughter, which tells a page-turning story while also challenging me as a reader to think about how I view children with Down's Syndrome.  Or books like The Offering by Angela Hunt, which explores a current issue while drawing me into a character's life so I sympathize with her dilemma.

Stories are powerful.  They have the ability to slip under a reader's defenses, to reach a person in ways that a sermon or article or nonfiction book never can.  That is not to say that story must have a purpose or an ulterior goal.  While I enjoy novels that challenge me, I also read them first and foremost for the story.  If the story is too preachy, then I as a reader will tune out the messageSo I believe that fiction's first (mandatory) purpose is to entertain; it's second (optional) purpose is to educate.


  1. I too believe that the mandatory purpose of fiction is to entertain rather than to educate or evangelize.
    Thanks for your posting Bonnie.

  2. Yes! I couldn't agree more. Well said

  3. I have mostly been drawn to nonfiction writing and reading, although I am beginning to understand the place that fiction writing has. I appreciate the insight on this very much.
    Thank you

  4. I agree with you Bonnie. Generally, I read fiction for the pure enjoyment of it.


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