by Paul D. Marks
Well, since I’ve pretty much answered this week’s question before, let me put up a link to the previous post on that: http://7criminalminds.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-egg-and-i.html . Everything’s pretty much the same as I talk about there, except that I’ve been to an additional Bouchercon in Raleigh, which was great fun. And, we loved the local food.
So instead, I’d like to answer the question from two weeks ago instead. That question was:
Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
That said, of course there’s some themes and/or underlying messages that come across in my work. And though my novels are noir-thriller-mysteries there’s usually something of an underlying theme. And some of those themes I’ve revisited in several projects.
Another theme I seem to go back to a lot is that of broken dreams, people whose aspirations are greater than their achievements. Along with this is the theme of Los Angeles as the last stop on the West Coast before everything tumbles into the Pacific—after all, Route 66 ends right about where the Santa Monica Pier is. And L.A. is both a theme and character in my writing in the sense that it is the last stop for many. In the short story Free Fall Rick comes to L.A., finding himself at the end of Route 66, hoping for a new start on life…and he gets it. In fact, he gets much more than he bargained for when he meets Gloria, who asks a favor of him that causes him to go into a tailspinning free fall.
In another story, Endless Vacation, a young woman comes to L.A. with stars in her eyes, expecting to find the streets of Hollywood paved with gold. Instead she finds that Hollywood is the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, paved with heroin instead of gold.
Howling at the Moon is a story about honoring the past and paying attention to tradition. It’s also about a returning war vet who reconnects with his American Indian roots in a dangerous way.
When I was judging for a short story award a while back I read every story word for word to the end because I wanted to be fair to the writers. But there was one exception. And why did I stop reading that one a few pages in: because it was nothing but a preachy didactic political diatribe. What happened to the story, what happened to the characters? This was just the author ranting on in the voice of the character or narrator. It brought the story to a dead halt and I halted with it.
So if we’re going to have a “message,” keep it low. Let the characters be who they are and not some cardboard fill in for your rants. And most of all be entertaining.
And that’s my 9 cents (increased for inflation) on the subject.