Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Background Values by Andy Scheer

If you want your fiction to drive home a message, consider not making it your story's focus.

The past few weeks, I've re-visited the mysteries in Aaron Elkins's series with forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver. Reflecting on them, I see several themes.

Foremost, as with any classic mystery, there's a quest for justice and a restoration of shalom.

But other chords resonate. With their use of recurring characters, I sense of the value of friendship. I see the pleasures of exotic travel, well-prepared food, and the comforts of home.

Must underneath runs an even stronger testament to the worth of a great marriage. These aren't romance novels, but they resonate with glimpses of a married couple deeply in love. Gideon and Julie argue, they reconcile, they share ideas and chores. But especially they complete one another's lives – serving as models of mutuality that surpass even the best sermon on Ephesians 5.

There's nothing threatening for a reader whose marriage fires don't burn as warmly. Just an invitation to enjoy the glow with your own partner.

Plus discovering whodunnit.

9 comments:

Rick Barry said...

Has there ever been a message-driven novel that truly succeeded? Seems to me that the story swirling around the characters must be top priority in each case and that, as you suggest, any messages must take a back seat.

As I kid, I received a couple of message-driven novels. Seems to me that I skipped whole pages when the author mounted the soapbox. Not that the message was wrong, but I was there for an adventure, not a sermon.

Ron Estrada said...

Hmmm...Rick, I see your point, but I think we can deliver a message without the soapbox. I grew up on Clancy. Mr. and Mrs. Ryan expressed a devotion to family and their marriage without taking away from the action. Another thing I noticed about Clancy's books was that his servicemen were absolute professionals when it came to their duties. Now, I was a sailor, and I can assure you that wasn't always the case. But reading those characters made me want to be a better sailor, and to this day I admire their professionalism. So, yes, I believe we can express some moral messages without turning off the reader.

Davalyn Spencer said...

This very sound advice seems to fit in the show-don't-tell category. Thanks for sharing.

Rick Barry said...

Ron, I'm right there with you, and I believe we're both in accord with Andy's points. Nothing wrong with messages in literature. An author with a Christian worldview shouldn't try to strip away that worldview. The point I failed to make clear was that a message can be applied artistically, with brush strokes rather than a sledge hammer. Hey, I've seen you around the web and appreciate your input. Blessings.

Heather Marsten said...

You have mentioned this author in previous posts. Would you be willing to list the three novels by Aaron Elkins that you consider the best? Thanks

Andy Scheer, Hartline Literary said...

For his Gideon Oliver forensic anthropology mysteries, "Curses" is great fun, and "Old Bones" won an Edgar award. For fans of the new film "Monuments Men," the Aaron Elkins novel "Turncoat" provides a solid plot involving recovery of art stolen in WWII. General market fiction, but few caveats for CBA readers.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Love this post. The stories that stick with me over time are never preachy, but the characters' lives & choices make an impression (good or bad). Most classics HAVE messages, be they allegorical or less in-your-face, but they're generally not summed up neatly in an out-of-context monologue by one character. They're demonstrated through the story itself.

Andy Scheer, Hartline Literary said...

Like the way those values are demonstrated throughout "God's Daughter" and also in the forthcoming "Miranda Warning."

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Thank you, Andy! Definitely what I am striving for!