Thursday, February 12, 2015

What Is Your Take-Away

Lately, I have read a lot of books or seen submissions for those hopeful books, where I am left with
the nagging questions, Why? Why was this book written? Why did the characters do the things they did? What did the author want me to get out of this book? The problem is simple. There was no "take away" for the reader.

Now, I understand that many believe that books can be simply for "entertainment" purposes, but even those books will often have a message of some sort that we should leave with. Even movies like "The Hangover" or the "Scary Movie" series force us to look at the things we view as entertainment and questions, "Really? We watch that? We aren't like that? Are we?"

I am not saying that all books need to have a global, life changing message that makes us completely realign our thinking to some universal thought, but there needs to be something. And I should note, this "something" is not a catchy phrase you just shove into a query letter or throw into a pitch session with an editor or an agent. This is something that you decide on in the early phases of the writing and planning process for your book.

Knowing the "take away" will shape what scenes you put into your book. It will shape the thoughts that pass through your character's head. It will shape the sequence of the plot because everything is working for that one goal of the "take away." Please be aware, I am not talking about a plot element or a conclusion in your book. Things do not just head to "another scene" but to that message that is implied in your book.

If all people can do is talk about the events in the book, then you are probably missing the mark with the take-away. If all you can do is highlight these great lines or a description you put in the book, you are probably missing the mark. But if you hear people saying, "I could totally relate to what the characters were doing" or they say "I have been is a situation like this and it was great to see I did it right [or I wish I had done it that way]" then the odds are you are heading in the right direction.

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