Saturday, April 2, 2011

And the moral of the story is...

I've learned a lot from books over the years. Fiction, and by definition the men and women who write it, has helped me form my moral code, made me think, outraged me, soothed me, given me food for thought. I like a book that has some meat to it, something that, after the back cover is closed, or the last page has flashed by on my ereader, leaves me thinking. Some books I go back to again and again in my thoughts, mulling the core values of the story, wondering what the author meant in certain spots, weighing the morals and lessons I glean from the conflicts and plotlines within the pages. 

But sometime I just want a good yarn, a story that entertains, lightly, and without hitting me over the head with a moral. And yet, I don't think that 'light' has to necessarily mean empty of value. I do believe that even the lightest and fluffiest of novels can have a moral compass guiding it.

We, as writers, have a powerful duty to be sure we know what we're doing, that the 'lessons' contained within the books we write resonate, hold power and meaning, add light to the world, and not darkness. That doesn't mean no grit in the plot, no darkness, no true representation of evil, it just means--to me--that at the end, that the reader takes some truth away. This is a very personal view, one I hold close to my heart. When I set aside a book as boring, I often find it's because the book has no moral story at its core. I want to be entertained, but I want to be provoked to think, too, and I can't imagine hanging in there with a series protagonist who wasn't seeking the truth of his or her own life in the people around them. 

The mystery series I have stayed with over the years- V. I. Warshawski, Kinsey Millhone, Deborah Knott... these are the ladies I hang out with the most and have for many years. Even when I don't agree with them, they are mighty fine company. I feel that way about my friends in real life, too. I may not always agree with them, but I usually learn something from their company and enjoy our disagreements.

So... how do you as readers feel? What do you get from the murder mysteries, cozy or otherwise, that you read?  Do you want to learn something, or feel something while reading? No moral judgment here if you don't... reading 'just' for entertainment is fine. I'm that way with TV. After all, I watch so-called 'Reality TV', where all I learn is, don't trust anyone who says 'trust me'. Heck, I watch Wipeout, too, and you won't learn a single thing from that except watching someone try to navigate the big red balls is funny as all get out! After a day of reading and writing, sometimes I just need escape, and Survivor, American Idol and the like offer that to me. 

But what about you?


  1. I learning about new things or hobbies which is why I love cozy mysteries. If you make what I'm learning interesting and in a fun way, that says a lot about the book. I do like to be entertained when I read and when I finish that book and I'm sad that it's over and look forward to my next visit with them. This tells me the author has done a good job in making me a part of the book that I'm reading.

  2. Excellent point, Dru! Pulling the reader in is crucial to making him or her want to read the next book in a series... thanks for pointing that out!!

  3. I like to get involved with my main cozy character. Meaning that if I can relate to them than I can picture the movie playing while reading. They are like my soap operas. I get a kick out the books where I can not figure out the mystery. I like meaty books as well, but with my time constraints I don't have time to sit and read for long periods of time. Usually I am reading a few paragraphs at a time. The deeper books take a bit more concentration.

  4. That's true, Michelle. I like a lighter read most of the time. Meatier books are for lazy days... not many of those, are there?