I’ve noticed that exceptional writers tend to ask more than just one theme question, they present and then answer a question in each chapter, and even each scene. These questions build on each other, much like scaffolding, and take the reader to both sides of the issue, back and forth like stepping stones, making a case for the central question or theme.
For example, one question I’ve often written about asks, “Is there a difference between being religious and being spiritual?” My stories make the case that being religious has to do with believing in a higher power, a creator, and following a recipe of rules to eventually be rewarded by living forever in a place called Heaven. On the other hand, being spiritual means a person realizes that Heaven is a state of inner-being, a place of joy at your core, and tapping into that loving state of oneness with all life, every day of your life, is the path to Godliness. Can one be both religious and spiritual? All things are possible, but I believe once a person becomes truly spiritual, then religious dogma no longer applies.
Getting back to my original point, I think non-literary stories fail to ask or handle essential human themes. They are simply an entertaining read—mind candy. Please don’t read anything condescending into my words. As they say, candy is dandy. I think stories written for purely entertainment—whether it be romance, mysteries, adventure, thriller, comedy, or horror—are not only wonderful, but also very important. They take people on a ride, a mental escape, and fulfill a need.
Is it possible for a story to be both literary and a mental escape? Certainly. Most books are, at least the ones I read.