Thursday, April 22, 2021

On Adding Politics and Social Issues To Your Story

"This is a great conversation point..." This statement is really making the rounds the last several years as we face one political or social issue after another. If you are in the business world, you know that the odds are pretty good that you have had a staff meeting or a company email that highlights the need to "have a conversation" about something going on in the community. These conversations are important. These conversations are necessary to move forward in the world. But the question now comes, how much of these social issues do you put into a novel.

This is really a tough question. When we write stories, we choose something we are hopefully passionate about. We want to start conversations and to get people thinking. But the problem I often see in novels that attempt to add those tough conversations into the story, is that the social and political concern takes over in the novel. The characters, their lives, their story is moved to the background as the author adds another layer to getting that political and social message across to the reader.

For many novels that do this, the story becomes too preachy with the message being driven down the throats of the reader. While this approach would certainly appeal to those that agree with the message, those who might not fully be on board with the message, or those who just wanted a good book to read, will be turned away. The hope of changing their minds that the author had intended just is lost.

There is another issue here and it involves the element of making your story universal and not stuck in a single time period. If you choose a topic that is current today, will it be current in 5 or 10 years? Will someone read this story and think that the story and the issues are "dated" and not relevant for the current day? If you look at the stories that have lasted over the years, the authors have focused in on "Universal Themes" that are relevant to any generation and any time period. They may touch on, lightly, that political or social issue that was relevant then, but it becomes more of a quick example. 

I am not saying to eliminate these issues. Just stop and ask yourself how much needs to go into the story. As yourself if the message is supporting or covering up the real theme and message of the story.

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