Ideas are like worms: you don't always see them, and they don't often look like much, but they are undeniably vital to the survival of their environments. Luckily for us, ideas don't live in the dirt, and aren't as prone to being eaten by birds.
Where the idea-worm lurks, instead, is among the winding words and wisdoms of a story.
Stories have all the advantages of dirt, being as ubiquitous in our culture as earth is to the ground beneath our feet. The author, like the gardener, cultivates this natural mass and draws from it beautiful works of their own. Every story, like every flower, is different.
Different also, like the worms that live in different soils, are the ideas in every story.
Stories provide the most direct routes to the heart and mind of every person, and the ideas we discover in our reading can touch us just as deeply as ideas we garner from personal experience. These ideas can go on to shape things vital to us: our opinions and priorities and beliefs about ourselves, the world, and our place in it. Most importantly of all, though, ideas can inspire us to do.
Everything, though, begins with the meeting of idea and heart. This, my friends, is what I am going to call the heartworm*.
The memorability of a book has a lot to do with the ideas that book conveys, the manner in which it does so, and the heartworms that produces. Even books that deal with the same subject matter are set wildly apart by their treatment of that subject matter; you can make a link from Othello to Mein Kampf if the only thing you're looking at is racism, for example.
However, it is that treatment of theme and subject matter that determines the kind of earth you're creating with your story, and the sort of heartworms that will live in it.
You always hear that you can't guess the author's views on a subject by the ideas in a book, but I'd be inclined to disagree. Whether or not it is the absolute truth of your opinion, the way in which you present an idea is nonetheless part of an organised, intentional effort to tell something to the audience - and that, in turn, will reflect a lot on their reaction to the story, the idea, and you.
This is where happiness comes into it.
I am a great advocate for positivity in all matters, but particularly those with an ideological basis. In debate, you're far more likely to get people engaged and interested in your idea if you present it to them in a manner that suggests that engagement and interest is welcome. This is not to say you pander to them - compromise rarely makes anyone happy - but you respect their right to disagree, and show you are aware of other aspects of this issue that you, perhaps, are not entirely capable of encompassing in your own right.
Do not simply put the worms into the earth and expect them to flourish. You have to put work into that earth, tinker and tamper and turn your thumbs black until it is best suited to showcasing the wonderful worms you produce.
A particular trend that I have noticed in the media of today - not just books, but newspapers, magazines, blog posts etc - is their tendency toward inspring fear, anger and guilt. These feelings are not invalid, far from it, but I do not believe that success is something that can be founded in encouraging people to hate and fear things, ideas - and each other.
Vehement and extremist language is brilliant at doing what it does, but if you want to create an idea that really changes something, I do not believe the answer lies in making people afraid and angry at the world. Anger makes for a strong starting point, yes - but real change requires a dedication, a unity, and a belief that things can and will get better.
For my part, I want to see more happy heartworms - stories that inspire by example, that show people that, although a world may be full of awful things, that there is something to aim for, and improvements to be made.
I want stories that inspire, as well as critique.
I want stories that lead, as well as warn.
I want stories that not only show us an idea, but what those ideas can do.
I want to fill the world with happy heartworms, and see what the world can do.
~ Charley R
* - I am using this phrase in a purely metaphorical sense. There is no link between this post and the advocation of actual heartworms, which are horrible and painful and just about the worst things to advocate beside amateur dentistry and frostbite. For the love of pancakes do not Google these things**.
** - I warned you.