Creative writers have the power to change the world through poetry, short stories, novels, and memoirs. But writing political critique (or any work meant to raise social awareness or conscientiousness) is a task that can be fraught with pitfalls. If you want to influence the world with your creative writing, you need to be well-informed, bold, and—perhaps most importantly—aware of your own predispositions and intentions. Our tips will help!
Tips For Socially And Politically Conscious Creative Writers
1. Cut out condescension. If you’re writing a piece because you believe you need to change people’s minds about your subject, you might make the mistake of thinking that your audience isn’t as informed as you are about the topic at hand. Keep a keen eye out for anything that sounds condescending—and delete it.
2. Don’t oversimplify. Unless you’re writing a traditional fable, resist the urge to drive your moral point home by casting the issue in terms of wrong versus right or good versus evil. Instead, tackle complex issues with intelligence and sensitivity. Examine both sides of the issue if possible. And even if your antagonists are really, really evil, as a writer you must take care to…
3. Show compassion. The best fictional villains plan their nefarious schemes believing in their own righteousness. So the people who are on the “wrong” side of the issue in your work should be as well thought out and well-rounded as your protagonist. Let readers see the “bad guys” in your story as real, striving, yet misguided people in their own right. Learn more about writing unlikable characters.
4. Avoid stereotypes. While your characters may embody certain familiar traits of a given demographic (example: your wealthy fictional politician loves expensive suits), be sure that you create multidimensional characters who surprise us and engage us (maybe said politician has a secret love of cheap diners because his first job in high school was busing tables at the local greasy spoon).
5. Take pains to be accurate. If you’re writing about a social movement based on real life, or if you are writing about a specific event within a movement, be sure to do your research. Readers will notice errors and omissions.
6. Write about real people with caution. Before you write a book based on a real person, it’s important to know the legal ramifications. Is the person still alive? Be careful: You could expose yourself to a lawsuit. Even if your subject is deceased, you still might face scrutiny by the heirs. And keep in mind: Fictionalizing the life of a real person isn’t necessarily going to shield you from lawsuits if that person is recognizable. Talk to a lawyer if you have concerns.
7. And Our Number One Tip For Socially Conscious Writing? Change Your Approach. Often, teachers of creative writing caution their students about approaching any piece of writing with a conscious, preexisting intention to teach audiences something or sway their viewpoint. While today’s readers tend to give authors of the past some leeway about moralizing, modern writers who go into a piece hoping to change a paradigm sometimes strike readers as self-righteous and condescending.
Instead of trying to “teach the world a lesson” with your writing, consider this approach instead: Simply tell your story with authenticity, passion, intelligence, and dignity.
Anne Lamott says it best: “A moral position is not a message. A moral position is a passionate caring inside you.” If you care, readers will too.
QUESTION: Share your process. How do you approach politically or socially sensitive writing?
Progressive minded thinking is vital to write on outdated beliefs, religious fanaticism, issues like caste system, corruption, slavery, male chauvinism, same sex marriage etc. There are many incidents associated with these issues. They can be the core of short stories mixed with of course fiction.
It is very difficult to write socially conscious, non-fiction articles, in my opinion, simply because most people have already formed an opinion about an issue or don’t care enough to try and understand the “other side”.
Thanks for this…have been thinking for a while about how to teach social-justice writing…
Expert advice. I’ve struggled with this one, and, although my novels have received 5-star ratings, even those that enjoy my writing say I sound “preachy.” I’m really trying to tone down my third novel to show the message through the plot and actions, yet I can for sure say I write straight from the heart with a passion burning inside me. When our message feels so urgent, like the life of your own child and the planet depends on it, it can sound condescending for sure when we say it like it is in our own mind!
Thanks for the interesting post! Writing on social topics does not cause me any difficulties, if I study the subject, look at the results of social polls, but the political component is always more difficult, I found a useful service, I will leave a link in my profile, there are an informative selection of expert materials about political science, view it so that learn a lot of new and interesting things.