Every story has has a main message, something the author wants to say indirectly. That’s what every high school student who has an English class learns, though very often the message is a topic of contention. It may be as simple as good will always triumph over evil, or as convoluted as nothing we do in this world matters, since one day no one will remember us, so live a life you can be proud of.
The most celebrated books, the ones that people talk about for years after they have been published, are the ones that have a message, one that people don’t realize until they have finished reading and they then sit back and think, “Wow. That was simply… brilliant.” Even Harry Potter, which has so many fans, has a message: that love can overcome any evil. The best example, though, is perhaps The Catcher in the Rye. The message in this novel stays buried until the very end but it is clearly the entire purpose of the novel. Every moment, every scene, was helping to build up to the moment of unveiling.
I think that, secretly, everyone who writes has a message they are trying to tell. Their main motivation is to be a storyteller but deep down, hidden in the many layers of the story, lies the author’s direct thoughts. And those thoughts are really the purpose of writing so many words, spending so many months, days, and hours in developing this story. Certainly, some people do write just to be storytellers, but most writers are people who loved English class and if there’s one thing people who loved English class love, it’s hidden meaning.
The question lies in how to envelop your story into this one concept. And, as I am still simply an English student and the development of my own story is slow, I have no answer. It is worth noting, however, that dialogue is key. Everything your protagonist, antagonist, and support characters say must be significant. If they are meant to represent something, they must embody it entirely if you are to pull it off. If there is a symbol that accurately personifies your idea, have it appear in every important scene. And no, not every scene is important. There has to be some comic relief, or companionship, or something that helps to make your story more lifelike.
Yes, this is a daunting task. If it was easy, everyone would do it. If you can do it right, though, I think you will manage to separate yourself from everyone else who wants to be an author. Look at it this way: when your masterpiece is placed into the hands of an editor, it needs to stand out from the hoards of others piling up on the desk. Everyone has violence, romance, or mystery, so why not add a new feature?