We are all always interpreting what is happening around us, so it’s no different when writing a story. Additionally, smaller themes or messages can (and should) illuminate different aspects of the larger themes throughout and points of the story. Hidden messages can help readers engage with different characters and have a better understanding of the story at large.
I mean, ideally…yes. I think often authors are trying to write specific scenes or move certain plot points forward and in order to do so send messages they maybe didn’t intend. But you can tell when an author has thought about the details of their characters and situations so that hidden messages and concepts come out and reoccur in the story.
This is an interesting question. I definitely don’t like reading a story where I have no idea what is going on or what the point is. BUT I will say the stories that resonate with me tend to have messages that evoke questions rather than tell me what to believe. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having clear moral messages - and, depending on the nature of the story - there are some things that should be clear. But for example, a lot of stories will give off the message that “love conquers all,” which is not a terrible thing, but I enjoy not having to take that at face value. Rather than accepting that love conquers all, I would connect more deeply to a story that makes me question what we mean when we say “love.” Are we talking about interpersonal (and usually romantic) relationships? Are we talking about love as a radical practice to combat injustice? Are we meaning it in one way when talking to others and are they interpreting it in a different way?
In general, the questions people ask are usually more important than the answers. Or rather, the questions they ask give more insight into their reaction to and interpretation of the story and that’s the beauty of creative endeavors.
This is difficult for me to answer because tbh I don’t finish a lot of stories lol. There are a couple that I think are set up to deal with hidden or deeper meanings, but they’re still in their beginning phases.
Yes. Our realities both shape and are shaped by the media we consume, among other things. Not everything has intentional hidden meanings, but all stories convey messages to readers. For example, going back to the comedy genre - there may not be an intended moral to the story, but based on the content of the story, are you sending the message that levity does indeed have its place when dealing with difficult issues? Are you, through degrading humour, sending the message that it’s ok to joke and laugh about everything, even if it harms other people? Those are generally not intended hidden meanings, but they are there. So whether it’s a good or bad thing I guess depends on how much consideration the author has put into the messages they send and their general understanding of the world.
Not really, no. But that isn’t to say the purpose of the story can’t be just for entertainment or to give others an escape from their reality. Doesn’t change that all stories are shaped by the author’s view of the world. You can write a cute story about friends that’s “just a story” in the sense that you’re just reading about their day to day lives. But you would still be sending out messages. Those messages might be “everyone is deserving and capable of having nourishing relationships” or “some relationships aren’t worth holding on to.” Nothing exists in a vacuum, but the general purpose or messages of a story don’t necessarily have to be deep or difficult to figure out.
I think this goes back to what I was saying before about stories that encourage readers to ask questions. I think it would be difficult for readers to find a moral or message that was completely different from what the author intended, but I think they can find and developed more nuanced understandings from the stories than just what the author put into it. Of course, I think there are messages about ~the power of love~ in stories that I don’t pick up on because I find the relationship toxic. So I guess in that sense, an author may be trying to say that love can change people and I’ll find that the kind of “love” they’re portraying destroys people’s sense of self and encourages them to accept manipulative behaviors from people who supposedly care about them. Which I guess means the answer to this question is yes lol. But in general, I think readers are more likely to expand on hidden messages rather than find something totally different. Not impossible though, of course.