Victoria: As we near the presidential election I find myself discussing politics quite a bit with my writer friends. Some of them have much more to say about the election than I ever thought they would. Frankly, it’s more than I care to know. Even family members are driving me a little crazy on Facebook with all of the sharing of candidate message points. Which makes me wonder….
Mischa: Writing is and should be about voicing an opinion on a subject. If that’s not political then I don’t know what is. Strongly voiced opinions, however, can cause an uproar (Obama’s stance on gay marriage, or Todd Akin’s “legimate rape” comment). Fortunately, we’re not politicians who make careers out of saying precisely what they think audiences want to hear. Nor do we have to worry about elections or reelections. So let’s not worry about who is going to be offended, alienated, or shocked by what we have to say. Write what you know to be true and say it LOUD!
Gilmar: Being a storyteller requires the ability to wear multiple hats. One is as an artist: you want to craft a good story, with heart and soul and passion. You want a point of view—a commentary or theme about something important to you.
The other hat is as a business owner. Your work is your product, and you need to sell it to a buyer (a studio or publisher) that understands the commodity behind it. Whether your work risks ostracizing a large portion of the potential audience, or benefits from rallying a large portion of the potential audience, are attributes which need to be considered.
Victoria: I guess for me it’s about knowing who I want to reach and why I want to reach them. If I’m just being confrontational then I will lose some readers. But if I genuinely believe in a cause and I want to help people understand my view in a holistic way then I think it can be a good thing to get involved in the affairs of the world using the mighty pen. Many fiction authors do this all of the time, often without realizing it. Our views are a part of us and it is rare to write anything without some sort of bias in it. As soon as you state an opinion, it’s there.
Mischa: In other words, Victoria, you’re saying that you need to be manipulative in getting your point across for maximum impact. I couldn’t agree more. In constructing a written argument I am always looking for the correct word, the right metaphor, the most appropriate reference to strengthen my point. Let’s call a spade a spade. Writers manipulate. But let’s not forget that readers want that manipulation, although they prefer it to be subtle. There’s nothing more frustrating that being preached at.
Gilmar: Some of the best stories—in literature, stage or film—come from a commentary on current social conditions. We write what we know, we mine our own experiences, and these stories are an observation and opinion of the world around us. Likewise, political commentary looks at the current social climate and proceeds to argue the pros and cons of our world.
Once you decide on what story to write, it’s imperative that you have a point of view. Frankly, it’s impossible not to. So embrace that—and write without fear! Don’t worry about the politics—write what’s true.
Victoria: One must be careful not to fall into propaganda though. This is a sure way to lose your audience. It’s very easy for people to walk away from a book or blog now-a-days and people don’t like to feel manipulated. If you have to resort to propaganda then there is something wrong with your message. Resorting to manipulation is a sure sign you don’t have enough information on your topic yet and need to go back into the research stage. Most often you just need to research the opposing side so you can understand how to present your side with reason. When you address the opposing viewpoints in a knowledgeable way, you look like an expert who has done her research. Leave propaganda in the slush pile.
Mischa: Sometimes in conversation I intentionally play devil’s advocate just to see how well I can justify an opinion I don’t agree with. It’s good practice as a writer as you have to be able to write characters in conflict, and what is that if not two people with opposing points of view?
Gilmar: Your characters can be heavy-handed, confrontational, manipulative—but that doesn’t mean your story must be. Create depth by giving your story convincing antagonists that full articulate a different point of view. Give you heroes doubts about their opinions.
Also, make sure you have a precocious child use matter of fact dialogue to articulate your theme.