November 26, 2013
Fiction's First Purpose - Bonnie Way
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 I have written a series of young adult fantasy novels (unpublished so far) and am currently working on a historical novel.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 message. So I believe that fiction's first (mandatory) purpose is to entertain; it's second (optional) purpose is to educate.