In a comment thread on my earier post on wise readers and editors and target audience, daveamongus asked "what exactly are you trying to accomplish, anyway?" I punted that question. elisem gave this reply, a quote from Emma Bull: "If I could have said it shorter, I would have."
Which is a perfect answer. And I can even elaborate on it a bit.
Or more than a bit.
1) The first thing I want to do is tell a goddamned story, and connect with a reader. And maybe, if I'm lucky, get him to examine a preconception or three. But I don't go in with thesis statements, in general--rather, I go in with internal arguments.
2) I write because I'm annoyed. A lot of what motivates me in fiction is irritation. So, for example, irritation with the well-worn fantasy trope (and it appears in so many otherwise worthy books) of the ugly heroine who becomes beautiful over the course of the book and is afterwards lovable led me to write a character who more or less defines herself by her disfigurement, and who is reluctant to let go of it. Even when she can accept being healed, (finally) she still resists being made beautiful or ordinary.
I'm currently irritated with the sex roles in an Elizabeth George book I just read. It'll be interesting to see what that gets me.
Every book is different in what I want to accomplish with it, and there's usually a whole plethora of things--which would take more volume to explicate than to write s fiction.
Thus, the darned fiction.
This is the big one. The astute reader will notice that my characters, protagonists and antagonists both, are rarely quite the good guys they think they are. They're all the heroes of their own movies. But they're also frequently just plain wrong.
For example, pretty much every government in Hammered is cryptofacist, whatever they claim their politics are. In Scardown, a Canadian politician who's a political reformer makes an appearance. That same astute observer will notice that she's something on the Socialist/Old Labour/Classical Democrat (depending on your nationality) end of the equation. But frankly, she's a bit of an asshat too, although that's likely where most of the author's political sympathies lie. *cough*
There's also a selection of socialists and capitalists being taken shameless advantage of by the various factions behind the power games. Ideological rhetoric and actual objectives rarely seem to go hand in hand, above the grassroots level.
Likewise, there's a moment toward the end of the third book where Jenny and another character are arguing about who the bad guy behind a particularly nasty bit of warcriminality is. I actually suspect Jenny is wrong; she's a bit of a conspiracy theorist and has a nasty suspicious mind (for good reason.) But she's got the POV; most readers will assume she's right. I don't think she is. But you never know.
Which is fine. History is like life. You never really know what went on while you weren't looking. You can only guess.
So, the present trilogy has a lot of arguments running through it. One involves the Great Man theory of history and whether or not it has any validity, or if it's a construct of the way we percieve narrative. Another involves God and religion and under what circumstances it's of use.
Hopefully, rather than answers, I've managed to turn up arguments on various sides of the questions. Because to my mind, fiction's for things that can't be handled in black or white terms.