Although I wrote a Free wisdom article here a couple of months ago on what I called the “perils of preachiness,” I guess the literary preacher in my couldn’t resist one more stab at the subject. Because I just published a post today on the same topic over at my Spontaneous Combustion blog. It’s entitled “Entertain, enchant, and enthrall: the three E’s of Fiction.”
The blog post is a slightly different take, more about avoiding didacticism than preachiness. What’s the difference? Although the two are often lumped together and castigated as a single literary sin, I think they are actually two separate things. Preachiness is telling readers what they ought to think about whatever it is you’re writing about; whereas didacticism is more like the dreaded information dump, or using a scene like a lesson from a textbook rather than a dramatic confrontation between characters.
What inspired me to write this? I work with a lot of teachers as both students and clients, and I was finding that often they couldn’t seem to shake off the habit of writing lesson plans. They’d treat a short story or novel chapter as a teachable moment about some passion of theirs, when what they should be doing is focusing on character, conflict, and plot.
Obviously I’m passionate about this myself, so for what it’s worth, here is my second stab at it.