An author would be lying or would perhaps suffer from severe attention deficit disorder if he or she claims that they do not have a message. This message sometimes overlaps with the “one story” an author has to tell and often retells.
We get it. You are the type of person who would engage with strangers about your beliefs and loudly advocate your position with little hesitation. The problem with being too direct is that most of your readers will either not care enough about your philosophical musings or the more avid readers may feel like you are patronizing them. The author’s job is to disappear among the many characters and the narrative, commanding the theme in a subtle way.
Actions speak louder than words
This is a strange thought to put down on a blog about fiction writing. What does it matter if people can repeat your theme but not connect it to their lives or thoughts in any meaningful way? It doesn’t. If a characters speaks about morality without that line making him out to be a rookie lecturer, there is no danger posed. If the environment and atmosphere convey a deeper meaning it does not matter if most people miss it. The art you create will often attract false ideas by lovers of literature and yet be admired. The point is that people who search for meaning will find meaning, whether true or false. If a small aspect of your theme made an impact on a reader so as to change his position or embolden him, what have you lost if he cannot recite your boring lecture?
It is up to you how you want to present your theme. I won’t deny that preaching about a theme is fun for the preacher, but it has to fit the story. The inverse of an idea can be examined in the arc of a teacher character for example, opening a story him advocating an idea and letting the story unfold with how his worldview might be challenged. At the end of the day an author will either torture himself with lack of beauty in his or her work and satisfying the readers thirst for entertainment or indulging too much in himself or herself. There should be balance here and it should be noted that what is beautiful for you is not necessarily ugly for someone else, but it can be. Think about all the times you had to put down a book when the themes came out slightly too obvious. Perhaps this does not happen to everyone, but use yourself as your own biggest fan and realize how self aggrandizing that is. Most readers won’t be a tenth as interested in your ideas.
Bait your readers. I discussed this in the “Hook” series about the importance of a good introduction. Once you have dragged readers in with what they really want or think they want you can slowly crawl towards them in your hunt for their hearts.
I realize this blog was rather preachy, but this is a blog… what did you expect? Or was it just preachy? (ques dramatic music) Keep writing people. Your sanity depends on it.