Good writing asks good questions
Good stories often raise questions – questions that reveal the ignorance underneath accepted wisdom…questions that doubt the popular yet inhumane view…questions that rip the veneer off norms to show their underlying contradictions.
These are the questions that need to be asked. Whenever political power shifts, as new technologies propel us into new worlds, as a culture’s values evolve, people find themselves in a gray void. Questions about whether the old beliefs are still valid or if the new way endangers the very principles that hold together our civilization and humanity illuminate then color the road and signposts through the fog-laden journey.
The questions need not be the “big ones” examining why we are here or the meaning of it all. Sometimes just looking at the little ones like “How do I teach my child to share?” or “How do I deal with a pet’s passing?” can cast the most brilliant light on our beliefs and the path we might take.
A story doesn’t necessarily answer the questions raised. It probably shouldn’t. Anything more than inferring that a viewpoint doesn’t stand up to scrutiny amounts to preaching and risks making your story sound contrived. You don’t need to state that the death penalty is wrong, after all. Merely question the position that it is the right view.
Asking questions in literature marks a thought experiment. The story is a sealed environment in which we determine the consequences of our ideas in action, in which we test our solutions and views in a safe environment. If the author has thoroughly worked through the problem and deftly handles the craftsmanship of his art, the result will be an enriched world.
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