Jurgen Wolff reminds screenwriters they shouldn’t hit the audience over the head with the moral of the story, or with some Important Life Message.
This, naturally, is good advice for those of us who are writing for a smaller screen, or for the page.
There are a few stories I want to write that are about Big Issues and through which I want to offer Important Life Messages. They remain unwritten because I haven’t yet figured out how to shape them so that they entertain rather than merely preach or scold. Good fiction often preaches or scolds, but it must first and foremost entertain. I haven’t found the right approach to make what I write fiction rather than a letter to the editor.
Wolff’s screenwriters have forgotten the adage “show, don’t tell” and they’re about as subtle as a Baptist evangelist at a tent revival. The characters have to play out the story and fail where they fail and learn where they learn (or fail to learn and learn to fail). The Important Life Messages about the Big Issue have to be planted organically in the flow of the story; they have to be presented almost Socratically. The reader can then find the ILM rather than having it spoonfed – or forcefed – to him.