By Alex Raley
When you are reading an interesting novel, do you wonder what philosophical underpinnings feed the story?
I find myself deeply, perhaps too deeply, involved in the why of what I write: not just the telling of the story but the thinking which lurks behind the words and seems so impossible to put into appropriate dialogue and action. This haunts me even when I am doing expository writing.
Recently I found myself revising the by-laws of a club. Rather straightforward stuff – who, what, when, and how; nevertheless, I found myself dwelling more on the why of a change than on the simple task of rewriting the by-law to reflect the why. Does this make sense to you? Am I the only person who rummages around, hung up in the why process rather than telling the story?
I have just finished reading The Shack by William Paul Young. The book is full of homespun philosophy, or should I say religion? The author avoids the agony of dealing with his “whys” separate from his story by spinning them within the story itself. Although his themes are told in a clever way, his approach is too simplistic. The themes become almost trivial.
I began to wish that he had been able to reveal his thoughts in less overt ways, and I longed for the chance to figure out for myself the meanings. My analysis is that the novel is less interesting for the very reason that the author makes his philosophical thoughts his story. When stripped of the philosophical themes, there really is not very much story. Even the story we find does not rise to the level of writing we expect of published authors. For example, there is one glaring, though brief, change in the point of view of the story.
My inner thoughts will continue to inject themselves into the process of my writing. However, if I can find the way to keep them in the background and reveal them in interesting action and dialogue, there may be an interested publisher. But, there remains the nagging question. How did The Shack get published?