Why are you writing? I know the basic reasons already. To inspire, to learn something, to teach something. We all have our own personal reasons for writing. We all have stories we want to tell. But, technically, there are four reasons an author writes a story. Four purposes. Let’s try to identify which one fits you so that you can use it to enhance your story. To persuade, to inform, to express, or to entertain?
Throughout a long piece of text, like a novel, there can be more than one author’s purpose. However, there will be one that usually stands out more than the others. Short stories or novellas usually don’t show more than one of these purposes, but I suppose it is possible.
The first purpose of writing is to inform. This is usually seen in informational texts, so if your story has a lot of nonfictional factors, this could be part of your novel. However, it can also be seen in fiction in certain cases. If you wrote your story in order to prove something to the reader, then this could be your purpose. It could also be yours if you wrote a historical novel, and you are writing it to show the reader what something was like in the past through narrative. Also, if you are trying to tell the reader something by using statistics or facts, then this purpose fits your story.
The second purpose of writing is to express. When you are wanting to tell the reader something, but not inform them. You want to show them something with emotion, or purely just tell a story. You are showing the story to them just for the sake of showing the story to them, no other reason.
This is the most common purpose I’ve seen in fiction so far. Actually, there is one that is more common, but we’ll get to it. Fiction is just that: fiction. Sure, there are usually other reasons we write stories. But at the end of the day, we are just trying to express something. Even if we don’t know it (psychology…).
The next purpose for writing is to entertain. This purpose is by far the most common in fiction. To entertain is purely based on the enjoyment and entertainment of the reader, rather than sending messages and teach the reader. It is seen a lot, and you might think of a lot of books immediately that are in this category. On the other hand, a lot of the books that immediately come to mind are ones that actually have another purpose and you just don’t notice it. The Fault in Our Stars, for example, isn’t just to entertain. It sends a message, so it is to express. (It can also be put under to inform, since it is an inside look at living with cancer)
Finally, the last purpose is to persuade. This is very rarely seen in fiction. Usually it is accompanied by compare and contrast, stating of facts, etc. I’ve seen this a lot more in argumentative papers and, sometimes, nonfiction texts. Even though it is rarely seen in fiction, it is possible. To persuade is based on the author using their writing to get the reader to do something or think a certain way.
It’s easy to get mixed up between to persuade and to inform. To inform is like when the text convinces the reader that the world is round with science and facts. To persuade is when the text convinces the reader to look at a controversial topic a certain way. To inform usually pertains to proven and factual information, or explaining something that is commonly unknown. To persuade usually includes ethics and morals.
My challenge for you is to try and pin down which one of these best fits your story. To persuade, to entertain, to express, or to inform? By identifying which one of these you best fit into, you can enhance your novel and adjust your sights to embrace your author’s purpose. Say your purpose is to express. You might be writing to express, and looking at novels for reference that had the purpose of informing. In that case, those books aren’t good examples and you might confuse your readers. If your purpose is to express, for example, you take a better look at poetry or stories that express and use those for reference.
Holding My Breath would probably be to… express. I think it’s a balance between to express and to entertain. I don’t really know how to describe it every well.
If you haven’t heard yet, there is a beta reading being held of HMB. It begins on April 3rd and if you participate, you get your name in the back of the published novel. If feel like I’ve talked about this way too much, but it’s probably because I’m talking about it at different schools and clubs over and over. If you still haven’t signed up and want to, click here.
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Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!