Essays W/ SA

How to Make the Personal Political: On Making Statements in Fiction Work

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If you’re a writer you probably came to the craft wanting to express something. If it didn’t have anything to do with your personal life perhaps you needed to get your voice across about an event, opinion, or even retell a story. In that way, you knew that you had words that needed to make their way across the page so you began to scribble them down. But, what if you’re a fiction writer and you’re tasked with writing stories? How can you take something personal and create the political through the fiction craft? I’ll tell you the top five ways to incorporate social climate and messages throughout your work.


1. Create Dynamic and Meaningful Characters

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Typically, politics emerge from social interaction. The interaction between two people created something that can be commented on which then gave rise to a government or state. The people are the characters that create a given society so in fiction writing there can be features that set them apart such as a political belief, religion, sex, level of education, or even social class. All of these things work at intersections of identity which then fuses the background of a character and impacts the plot in various ways. In essence, create multicultural characters.


2. Comment and Create a Specific Setting

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There are places in society that can cause more or less social tension to happen. For example, bathrooms can be symbolic in that they can serve as an area where queer people are accepted or denied or where races are divided. Historically, bathrooms have been a place in society that has caused conflict. However, there are other settings such as a park, classroom, or even a restaurant where cultures can clash over politics.


3. Play with Concepts

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The reason why there are so many dystopian novels flying off of the shelf has nothing to do with who the writer is but everything to do with the concept. Most of the time, concepts that are well written revolve around a “what-if” scenario that incorporates some kind of social change. A dystopia is a corrupt society, however, the societal disruption happened due to some flaw in the social climate. So, make a dystopia where the concept is strong enough to be written alongside a multifaceted arc. This will give way to commentary on everyday life by distorting the idea of “what-is.”


4. Retell the Original Story

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The retelling of a specific story can be impactful if the story is clear to the reader. It can also serve as a way to change the way that history was once written. When retelling, sticking to the plot can make it clear as to what is being done, but don’t fear to stray away from the way the original story opens or close. Changing how certain characters are perceived can be a great way to convey a sense of hopefulness or despair in parallelization to our current social climate.


5. Shift the Point of View

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Lastly, changing the point of view can make the reader realize a different truth from another angle. Remember that in fiction in order to make our readers care we have to have amazing characters whose personalities are what we want to follow. If we can hook our reader to watch the story unfold from multiple different lenses then they are more likely to empathize with the political message you’re trying to convey. A great portion of writing an amazing story has to deal with empathy. And, a key component of that is choosing whether it’s the first, third, or rotating point of view that you want your reader to relate to.

2 replies »

    • Yes! Today in my organization we talked about having a larger plot by rotating the third person point of view in order to give insight on many other places and characters in the story. You should definitely do this!

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