I didn’t think so, until someone I trusted pointed it out to me in a few different stories I am working on. I’ve had the greatest fortune to recently find a critique partner that gets me, gets me writing and most importantly, speaks the truth. We’re thousands of miles away – she’s in New Zealand, and I’m in Florida, USA – but our email correspondences have become my favorite time of day. I’d honestly given up on finding this type of friendship / partnership, so when I saw the same word applied in her critiques to a couple of different stories I’d sent her, I took it as a sign that I needed to check myself. That was the point of finding someone whose opinion I trusted; if I wasn’t going to try to find cracks in my style, then there is no point of having a critique partner, is there?
I spent a few days researching online a lot of different philosophies and opinions on didacticism. I needed to fully understand what the word truly meant, and to learn why it was a weakness in fiction writing. Here’s a simple explanation in relation to writing:
intended to teach, particularly in having moral instruction as an ulterior motive:“a didactic novel that set out to expose social injustice”
As someone whose stories are often based in social issues, I quickly saw that it was a definite possibility that my voice was coming across louder than my character. I also read that it’s not uncommon to find this in first drafts of stories. Now there are wonderful examples of writings that have this term applied to them – think Aesop’s Fables or even Animal Farm. But was that what I was going for? NO. While I have strong opinions when it comes to many issues, I don’t want to force them on my readers. I’m old enough to know that there will never be a time when we all agree on the most important and sometimes controversial subjects of the day. That doesn’t mean I shy away from these topics in my writing – it just means that I need to do two things:
- Be self-aware: This is true for all writers. You do not improve if you refuse to see what your weaknesses are. Hey, I’m all for taking in the praise I often receive from my writer’s group – but it’s more important to find those areas to improve upon. Being aware of this tendency is going to make me a better writer, simple as that.
- Make sure my voice isn’t louder than my characters: I want my stories to entertain and get people thinking; I don’t want to preach at anyone, not for one second. My liberal heart could easily bleed all over the page, but as someone who wants to be the best writer I can be, it’s my job to keep things in check. So how do I do this step? I think the most important thing I’ve read is about balance. Having characters with different points of view is necessary, because it’s realistic. Show the whole picture, and remember the story is what matters – not trying to get people to agree with your opinions.
I will always write the stories that move me, but I will also make sure not to dilute their enjoyment with indoctrination.