Simon Wood

SHELF LIFE: Soapbox Storytelling

I do quite a few talks on the craft and business of writing, so when I see something that I can use during a presentation as an example I pounce on it.  So when I saw someone using copyrighted images on the book cover of their self pubbed title (a no-no by the way), I took a closer look—and got quite a shock when I read jacket copy.  It was a novel, but what it was a manifesto for the author’s paranoia and hate.  The blurb was racist and bigoted at the minimum and pretty much libelous as it featured real life people as characters.  How anyone could hold such views in the 21st century astounds me.  It was a horrible and disgusting piece of work. 

That said, it serves as a good example on not what to do when it comes to storytelling (ignoring the hatred aspect) namely—authors, leave your politics, dogma and agendas at the door.  Fiction isn’t the place to preach.  Once you do, you’ve lost the audience.  You know you’re preaching.  The readers know your preaching.  And any point you’re trying to make is tainted by the heavy-handedness of your own beliefs.        
Now this isn’t to say fiction isn’t the place to raise an issue or fight for a belief but story comes first.  Story can’t become a vehicle for driving your dogma at us.  Instead story should act as a spotlight on a situation that everyone can draw their own conclusions from—regardless of whether they agree with your beliefs or not. 

Personally, I don’t dodge topics that I’m passionate about.  Many of my books are motivated by real life events, but I do my level best not to turn them into excuses to rant and rave.  That’s why I have pets.  It’s their job to listen to my tirades, not you.  As I’ve mentioned before I annotate my manuscripts for my wife for her read throughs.  I’ll put “am I being a little preachy here?” or “a little ranty?”  The answer is usually yes which means a trip to rewrite city.

The point is that there is truth in fiction and the truth exists in allegory.  In allegory, we learn and think—and progress.   We keep our mind’s open and our mouth’s shut.

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