What is the purpose of a writer? What is our job? Translating thoughts into words, and words onto screen, paper, or some other medium. If someone is of a religious or spiritual bent, he might feel that part of his job as a writer is to honor his deity, or to try to enrich the world through writing good stories, true stories (for the Truth as he understands it), or to encourage his fellow believers. Or perhaps the writer’s job is to persuade readers of the rightness of her cause? For fiction writers, it is probably safe to say that our job is to entertain you, the reader.
I got to thinking about this because the commentor Sarah the Red mentioned at According To Hoyt that she felt George Lucas has a bit of sour grapes about the new Star Wars movie and affiliated stuff. Apparently Disney’s vision for movie VII and Lucas’s didn’t coincide. Sarah observed that perhaps Lucas had forgotten the purpose of Star Wars (and similar films) is to entertain above all else. Virtue is rewarded, vice is punished, we learned that you don’t underestimate furry guys with slingshots and log falls, but anyone looking for deep philosophical messages and social commentary in space opera is going to be disappointed unless they do a LOT of digging, or the author is very, very good and subtle. The point of the films is to entertain. That’s why we go see them!
That’s true about other things as well. You, my readers, expect a coherent post that does not insult your intelligence and that is not a bait and switch (VOTE FOR [Candidate]!!!) or a wearisome reminder that there are books coming out in two months, eleven days, four hours and . . . Yesterday’s commercial notwithstanding. You don’t care to read about the latest soap opera in the writing or publishing world. You probably don’t care to read me whining about how no one respects my ideas and the critics just don’t understand, and why can’t people see how superior my books are, and so on. You come here, I wager, to be entertained, perhaps sometimes to learn a little about history, or the High Plains environment, and to see if anything is going on Permafree. (Not at the moment. Sorry.)
Above all, my job is to entertain. There are stories I have written but not published because they are not entertaining. They are sermons. One or two are so heavy-handed that Hellboy looks over and says “Sheesh, lighten up!”
When I cease to entertain, I cease to do justice to my readers. That is, unless I can telegraph what the book is, so you have fair warning, or I do it so carefully and sneakily that any message is slipped in under so many layers of great story that you don’t realize what I was doing until after you’ve finished reading and had time to think about the tale.
People, OK, old-school Star Wars fans, groused about the Prequels because they didn’t entertain. The eye candy was spectacular, the ships way cool, but the core story wasn’t all that fun. And I say this as someone who enjoys Greek tragedies (in moderation). The message and “see what we can do!” effects devoured the story and left nothing for this viewer at least. I got bored. I was fast-forwarding to get to the fight scenes and the lava planet. That’s not an entertaining movie. I’ve read novels full of language tricks and flashy science that did not entertain me. I admired the technique but didn’t go back to the writer again.
My purpose as a writer is to entertain. I want you, the reader, to be carried away from the hum-drum into a new world, peopled by fascinating new acquaintances in intriguing settings, characters you want to root for (or throw popcorn at). If you look up from the book and mutter “enough with the free market economics lecture, sheesh!” or “OK, OK, dragons are people too, got it, can we please get back to the story?” and go read one of Anita Young’s stories, or Brad Torgersen, or Larry Correia, and never come back, I’ve failed.
If you accidentally learn a little history, well . . . *sneaky sideways smile*