Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What Is Your "Take Away" For Your Novel?

The business world has been using this term for some time. It's the "take-away". This is that one message or idea we should be getting from a meeting, an article or a discussion we might have. I use this same concept when we talk about novels. I have honestly found myself, in recent years, wondering at the end of a book, "why was this book even written?" or "what really did the editor see when he or she bought this book?" These stories, I often find, lack a "take-away."

When authors pitch their stories to me at conferences, I often see the exact same thing. They sit down and proceed to crank out this well-crafted speech outlining the plot of the story and when they are done, I simply ask them what the "take-away" is for the story. What is the message or theme you want the reader to be left with?

And they stare at me with that deer in the headlight  look.

It is crucial that, as an author, you know why you are writing this your story. It is crucial that you understand the message and the theme of the book. The reason is clear. That message, that theme, that "take-away" dictates everything that you are going to do in the book. It will control the type of characters you put in the story as well as the dialogues they will have with each other. It will dictate the smaller complications in the story as well as the larger conflict of the story. And, it will certainly dictate how you solve the story.

I think this is the reason why I do like the Inspirational stories. These authors begin with the message they want to get across to the reader. For fiction writers, however, they tend to start with the characters or a creative scene they have running through their head.

When I do talk to some fiction authors about this concept, I often hear people say "but can't we just have a story for entertainment purposes?" At some level, yes, but even then, there will be a message.

Consider comedians. Even in their stand-up routines, there will be a guiding force and take-away they want the reader to leave with. It might be that we take relationships too seriously and maybe we need to re-think our ways. It might be that we have placed too much stock in degrees and titles and we need to re-think what we do. Comedians hold a mirror up to their audiences to say "do you realize what you are doing?"

Now, I do have to stress that you cannot, after the story has been written suddenly come up with a theme just to have one. This is not an after thought. This might be a bit frustrating for some of you as you try to think of how you are going to sell your story to an agent or an editor, but it is something to consider. There might be one hidden there but don't be shocked if it isn't there.

Before you start that next book, or if you are in the middle of a story, take the time to consider that take-away first. You will find the outcome will be much better than you think!

No comments:

Post a Comment