Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Bringing Up "Issues"

As an author, I feel like I have an obligation to try to give my readers a well-written, entertaining and engaging story that helps them escape whatever their real-life problems might be.

That's my superpower. Writing.

And I know that's why I read. To escape. To be entertained.

What we write and how we write it also reflects who we authors are, and what we believe. I believe in Happily-Ever-Afters and soul mates and the fact that we always have a choice. Those tenets are reflected in my stories.

I also believe in climate change, and that we need to work to find solutions to mitigate the problems, that we need to support the scientists studying the problem. I live on an ecologically fragile spit of land sticking out into the ocean, so ocean issues are daily fodder for me. I know that not everyone is as educated about sea level rise or the dangers of ocean acidification, so I used my super-power to try to help educate.

I wrote an environmental scientist into the role of romance hero in CRAZY ABOUT YOU.

I'm saddened by the rise in drug use and drug overdose deaths around the U.S., and embarrassed as hell that the HBO documentary on heroine addiction was filmed and set on Cape Cod, as a microcosm for the country.Especially heartbreaking are the young people who feel they don't have better options, so what the hell.

My novella BREAKING THE RULES focuses on how the drug trade preys on the young, and the immigrant community.

I'm also appalled by the intolerance I see in the news, that rose to fever pitch on all sides during the 2016 election. Forget "politically correct" - how about being polite? How can you hate a whole class or race when you don't even know anyone from that group?

I pose that specific question in my Young Adult mermaid series, and while the issue lurks in the periphery for the first two books, the third one that I'm finishing up now (DECEPTION) slams it home.



I don't think it's just me.

If you read romance novels written prior to the AIDS crisis, I don't think the word condom appears in any of them. Ever. Today the lack of a condom is more noticeable than the grabbing of one from the bedside table. NOT using a condom is no longer acceptable unless a lengthy discussion between characters precedes it. And if you the writer forgets, I think your editor will probably bring it up.

We're authors, but we're also human. We live in this world and have the ability - and maybe even duty? - to comment on what's going on around us. Don't we?

What issues do you slip into your story lines?

Or do you? Am I totally off base with this line of thinking? 

Either way - have a great week and Happy Writing!





24 comments:

  1. Katie - excellent points and BRAVA for incorporating topics into your stories that I feel too many fiction authors lets slide by. The condom point is well taken. In the beginning of romances where it was mentioned it stood out. Now, it stands out if if it is not mentioned. art is life reimagined and writing reflects the times. You've done the world and your readers a service by showing us reality laced with fiction, and fiction tinged with reality.
    brava!!!

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  2. Katie, I admire you for educating your readers about subjects they may not be aware of. I think many of us let a little of our own reality seep into our writing. It's natural. Keep up the great work.

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    1. Thanks, Sandra. I agree that it seems natural to let our views color our words, but I guess I hadn't thought about it too hard until this latest book - I found myself explaining the word xenophobia to my son, and then had one character explain it to another the same way. And it naturally got me thinking...

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  3. Great post. The environment, planned parenthood and the terrible toll of drug addiction are all big topics for me in life but I try to only 'rub up against them' in my writing. As you said we write to entertain. That to me is paramount. Ultimately my characters are all on a search for the big HEA as well as self respect and acceptance.

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    1. "Rub up against them" is a fine way to put it. You can't bash the reader over the head with facts and figures - you can't tell them what to think, but you can show them what you mean, through the characters' actions and consequences.

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  4. I LOVE this topic. As a writer, I hear equally that a) I should never talk about politics and b) I should feel free to talk about politics. Awesome! Thanks guys! But seriously, I think that an author should remain true to her (or his) own beliefs--that's how readers get authenticity. And while I'll never host political discussions on my website or my author Facebook page, based on what I include in my stories (gay secondary characters who are married, a character who is a recovering addict, Jewish characters who celebrate and observe different things), I suspect the reader can glean my leanings. I would never bash any belief nor would I ram it down a reader's throat. But I think our politics and beliefs come through naturally, and we can respectfully educate and inform readers even while providing them an escape from reality.

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    1. Thanks for chiming in! And if you think about it, the A&B advice you've been given are both true to some extent - it's a fine line between telling and showing, and when we as writers show the reader the world as we'd like it to be, that in itself is a political statement of a sort. Keep it up!

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  5. Wonderful post...as usual. I too incorporate a message or inspiration in the pages of my stories. Never preaching, but I don bring up current issuess through my characters. If they're to be believable they need opinions, values, motivation and issuses that form their point of view.

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    1. I agree - characters need to have opinions and viewpoints, which can lead to conflict and debate just like in the real world. It makes the story more believable.

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  6. A fellow author said she looks for an underlying truth in every story - hers and other's. You are amongst those story tellers who enlighten and entertain.

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  7. Excellent post. I see a lot of brushing up against topics that dominate the news in books that I read. In my tales even though they are paranormal, I address a variety of social problems, but don't dwell on them, like you I strive to entertain and write a feel good book with a HEA. Bravo, Katie. Great job!!

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    1. Even paranormal characters have issues to deal with, lol. Thanks for chiming in, Tena!

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  8. Concern for the environment is in all my books. But because most of them are set far in the past, it's probably not obvious. For most of human history we've been a part of the environment and therefore intuitively had appreciation for it. It's only in the last few centuries that we've distanced ourselves from the natural world and lost that intimate connection. Also, you could argue that most modern romance have a feminist angle. I know my heroines are usually very strong and that's part of what the hero ends up loving about them. Another "issue" that I incorporate into my novels. My heroines often rescue themselves, rather than depending on the hero.
    Good topic.

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    1. You bring up a GREAT point - how much stronger our heroines have gotten over the years. In older historicals it seemed like the fainting women were always waiting for a lord to rescue them from something. I totally prefer heroines who can "rescue" themselves.

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  9. Very interesting. I agree with everyone, but in my current WIP, I have a character who is fighting against a mining company. I feel very strongly about this issue, but I know there are lots of people who fully support the development of mines. I'm still not sure if I'll finish this story.

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    1. Keep writing. See where it goes. You can't give up on a story that speaks to you just because someone might not like it. No one would ever write anything that way!

      Go for it and good luck!

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  10. As always, you are on point Katie! I do the same thing. I'm editing my WIP that I was working on in November and surprise, surprise, the heroine is definitely a feminist and there's some mention of emails...I'm also big into animal rescue and dogs and cats are featured in my stories. I've actually lost 2 brothers to AIDS, one from heroin addiction and one from hemophilia. Because of the personal nature of the pain, I can't write about either of those. I believe we all weave our voices into our stories...and that's what makes them beautiful and unique. Claire Marti

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    1. So sorry about your brothers, Claire. Sometimes it's good to incorporate the issues that bother us - my mom was dealing with lung cancer around the time I was writing My Kind of Crazy, and my son went through the same burst appendix episode that brings Emma back home in Crazy About You. I do think it helped me immensely to deal and distance myself by writing about the issues.

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  11. Great post Katie! I try to put a few things in some of my books, but mostly I shy away from major issues (like politics). However, I enjoy reading it when authors stick their views into their books, it gives me a little glimpse into the author as a person. But I don't like it when they bonk me over the head with their views! :)

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    1. Romance with no bonking?!!

      LOL... no I get what you mean and totally agree. No preaching, even if it's to the choir. But sliding it in there under the radar is more fun anyway :-)

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  12. Wonderful idea. Great post, Katie.

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    1. Thanks Amity, and thanks for stopping by.

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