What’s It All About, Alfie?

What’s it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?

(Opening lines from the 1966 Dionne Warwick song “Alfie”)

I can’t help but ask that question about fiction. What am I doing and why am I doing it? The hours I put into writing and the hours someone else puts into reading – what’s it add up to?

Here’s Sally Apokedak‘s conclusion of the middle grade novel we just toured, The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice:

The Year the Swallows Came Early is a beautiful book that gives a deep message with a light touch. Readers will take from it much or little depending on what they are ready to take, but they will grow from reading it. Because the characters in the book grow.

That’s the way I want to write. I want to create a story with a deep message, but I want to do so with a light touch so readers, all readers, will grow as they are ready to. Not because I tell them what to do but because they see the change in my characters. They see something winsome, something worthy, something satisfying, something that rings true and builds on what they know to be so.

From my analysis of The Year the Swallows Came Early I saw an amazing attention to detail that contributed to the creation of “a light touch.”

Now I’m wondering, do deep messages ever really “emerge,” or are those that do so, doomed to be light messages?

Published in: on February 26, 2009 at 2:01 pm  Comments (5)  
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  1. […] over at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, remarking on the novel, The Year the Swallows Came Early, said: Now I’m wondering, do deep […]


  2. I was answering you here and the answer got long so I went ahead and put it on my own site.

    My short answer would be that no matter when the messages emerged a writer has to weave them into the story from beginning to end.


  3. OK, I’ll have to jump on over to see the detailed version. I see what you’re saying, I think. The meandering author writes, and as a theme emerges, he goes back in a revision to add the necessary symbols, foreshadowing, dialogue, plot points, etc. to enhance it.

    Sure, that would work.

    I guess I’m just inherently lazy, though, because that just sounds like so much work! I’d rather plan the story first and in the planning have the theme emerge, then plan symbols, foreshadowing, dialogue, plot points and all. It just seems more economical to me. 😉



  4. Yes, I agree that it’s more effective to plan ahead.


  5. I mean effective, labor wise.


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