1. Dryriver
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    Dryriver Senior Member

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    Political Themes that YOU find important/topical?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Dryriver, Jun 8, 2012.

    Hello All,

    I'm trying to enrich the narrative universe I'm building with references to political themes/issues that will - hopefully - help make the reader think "Wow. This is something I actually face/think about in my real life."

    I'm trying to add some "real-world realism" to my narrative this way.

    So I would like to know, what Political (or perhaps "Political-Philosophical") issues occupy YOU, your mind, in your current, everyday life?

    This could be anything from racial integration issues in your neighborhood, to the taxation politics of the country/state you live, to your workplace- or consumer-rights, to concerns about what kind of political party looks set to win the next election where you live, to issues with access to healthcare/insurance.

    Please help me pick out/identify some interesting Political Issues that I can sprinkle throughout my novel-in-making to really give the sense of a "living, breathing, realistic narrative universe", where the main characters talk/think about political issues, and act as though they are affected by them in their everyday lives.

    Thanks for any help,

    Dryriver
     
  2. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm an anarcho-capitalist, not much important to me is going to be that marketable. Ironically...

    But to my mind it doesn't really matter what political themes writer fills their world with, as long as the writer can put them across or present them realistically and, if not sympathetically, justifiably. I don't mind reading alternate views to my own as long as they are not thrust in my face, nor treated as truth by an author with an obvious polemic bias. Just make sure that whatever you do write about is coherent, considered, and convincing and you can't go too far wrong.
     
  3. Dryriver
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    Dryriver Senior Member

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    My approach to politics in my narrative universe is that it is a constant "background presence", kind of like background noise.

    My characters see things on TV, in newspapers, on the internet, or on the street that they react to, and hopefully in a measured, convincing way.

    Some political themes come up in conversations 2 characters are having, in a sentence or two.

    My overall aim is not to stuff political viewpoints down my readers' throat.

    It is more to "decorate" my narrative world with lots of small political themes & tidbits, to make the narrative world feel more real-world, as if inhabited by actual real people.

    I wouldn't mind hearing about your anarcho-capitalist views. One of my (many) smaller characters may very well bring some of your views up in some conversation without appearing out of character. =)
     
  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I usually don't use political themes. I think the closest I've come is a story in which the MC is fleeing from persecution from a strict and rapidly-growing religious movement. The story isn't about him fleeing these people, or about the religious movement, but that background does explain why the MC is where he is, doing what he's rather desperately trying to do.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    WARNING: This thread will remain open only as long as it does not turn into political debate or soapboxing. Infractions WILL be issued for anyone who tries to turn the thread in that direction.

    THIS IS THE ONLY WARNING YOU WILL RECEIVE.
     
  6. lallylello
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    lallylello Member

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    Bit frightened by the warning, so wont mention anything specific here. Try googling student protests or student demonstrations to get some recent issues that you could use.
    hope this helps
    am new so being good ;)
     
  7. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not certain exactly what you're asking for, Dryriver. You could find the relevant current political issues by going to just about any news site. It has been my unfortunate experience that most neighbors and many friends don't discuss political issues in depth on a regular basis. Most often you find that dynamic in or near a college or university setting, but sadly for the majority of Americans, current political issues don't occupy a large part of their day. In fact, many people actively seek to avoid discussing political issues for fear of offending their neighbors. Many people have turned to online forums to discuss political views, because it's easier to find a large group of people who either share your views or with whom you can engage in a worthy debate.

    That said, you could find at least a couple people almost anywhere who might be very preoccupied with a particular political issue. This could be on either side of virtually any political issue. You'd probably want to avoid having the people engage in a particular election, because that would date your book (unless that is specifically what you're going for.) Personally, I think about and discuss the role of money in elections, the infiltration of religion into government, the drift of the Republican party toward certain elements within the party and whether they can sustain themselves in their current form, the proper amount and form of monetary stimulus the government puts into the economy, the support (or lack thereof) of investment in sustainable alternative energy sources, the need for more regulation of food and the harm imposed on our environment by big agriculture and companies that sell heavily processed food, developing a reasonable immigration policy, the importance of implementing fair trade practices throughout the world, the tilting of our economy toward an irretrievable emphasis on the development purely of monetary instruments rather than on goods and services, who is primarily responsible for the mortgage banking crisis and why mechanisms have not been put in place to address the perverse incentives that created the crisis in the first place, why our tax rate as a percentage of GDP is among the lowest of industrialized countries, and how to make our educational system more responsive to the needs of students so we don't continue to slip further behind other countries in terms of our students' knowledge and thinking abilities. Of course, if you really want to get into the controversial stuff, you can always go to abortion, gun restrictions, prayer in school, teen pregnancy/sex education, and racial discrimination. You can also find all kinds of fringe stuff out there, with people saying that whoever is holding the office of President (whether they are Democrat or Republican) is Hitler or Satan or some such nonsense.

    So, really you could sprinkle in just about any issue you find on a news site and it would be representative of some segment of the population. You already named a few, and any are equally valid -- someone is concerned about them. It also depends on where you're setting your novel. Particularly if it's in the U.S., there's more diversity of opinion in more urban areas. More rural areas have less diversity but there are still people who hold views opposite to those of the majority just about everywhere. Asking us on this forum isn't really going to give you any more information than would perusing the NYT or Washington Post websites. If you're looking for a particular city, go to that city's newspaper and network affiliate websites. They'll give you a sense of what people are discussing.
     
  8. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    At any one time there is a myriad of political debates going on. I think the biggest mistake you can make is thinking each side(s) will fall into neat boxes. Personally I am socially liberal and economically conservative (or economically liberal in the classic sense). Yet in my personal life there are things I hold tradition as the standard.
    A good friend I use to hunt with, was liberal in pretty much ever sense of the word, but was staunchly pro-gun rights and carried concealed.
    Thing is people rarely if ever fit the mold that we expect them to politically.
     
  9. Mr.
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    Mr. Member

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    I've been considering this a lot lately: the nature of property rights is a prevalent idea behind most all politics and philosophy, though it goes unmentioned. There's a great conflict in whether your ownership of something should go acknowledged or whether it will belong to the collective for the common good. It goes even farther with self-ownership--if we agree to toss away "yours" and "mine" concepts in favor of turning everything into "ours," a line should well be drawn at the bodies of others. Without that line, one person has as much claim to a man's body as he does, so things such as murder and rape would become justified. In every political system that same line is drawn regarding what is and isn't okay to take (though we generally draw it respecting a lot more ownership than just the body), and which specific people are allowed to do the stealing. It would be interesting to see more stories play around with cultures that draw those lines in different parts of the spectrum.

    Somewhat related: I once toyed around with a culture that used giving as a status symbol; to give a gift was to say you were better than the receiver, while receiving meant acknowledging the giver was above you in worth. There aren't any real human cultures that behave this way as far as I know, though some species of bird do. If you're stylizing some sort of social systems, it's worth looking into the rest of the animal kingdom to see how they do things.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    keep in mind that what you find 'topical' today, when you're writing your novel, may be dead and long forgotten 3-?? years from now, when your book will be read [if you're lucky enough to ever have it published]...
     
  11. Dryriver
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    Dryriver Senior Member

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    I am building the main trunk of my novel around fairly "universal" social/political/ethical issues that will likely remain pretty current even a decade or two from now, because the specific issues I picked are the ones that - sadly enough - politicians and governments just cannot seem to solve properly/conclusively... so some or perhaps even many of these issues will likely kick around well into the 2020s, or even 2030s, and possibly still remain somewhat unsolved and "controversial" or "topical" then.

    What I'm looking for in this thread though, mainly, are smaller - and yet interesting - political/philosophical issues that I can sprinkle around my novel to add some everyday realism/detail to the story.

    I want to give the overall feel that the - hopefully quite 3 dimensional - characters in my novel are part of a much larger society/narrative universe, where all kinds of interesting things are happening in the background, including interesting things in the news, and political debates about various issues.

    I want little political "tidbits" or "nuggets" or even "soundbites" that I can sprinkle about the story to make my narrative universe - which is set in a smallish country - feel more real, detailed, alive, 3 dimensional.

    It was my hope that - this being a forum for writers - I could pick people's brains for some interesting social-political themes that I can work into my story.

    I hope I was able to bring across what I'm looking for...

    If not, I'll try to explain it again...
     
  12. Tattat44
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    Tattat44 Member

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    Something that always remains topical to me is who has power. It might sound pretty basic, but delving into who really controls what and why is fascinating to me, in fiction or nonfiction. It might be that the great ruler you've created is actually a puppet, or that the power is really vested in a small group of oligarchs.

    Power play is always topical in any day and age. As long as we are human, we will have politics.

    As far as more specific themes, here are some ones that generate a lot of emotional torque, even today:

    Occupation by a foreign power
    Hegemony (one nation dominant over all others)
    Justifications for war
    Racial disenfranchisement (some people say it's overdone, but honestly I don't think enough can be written about it)
    Differing concepts of justice (putting a thief in jail versus lopping his hand off)
    Equitable distribution of resources

    If you could tell us a bit more about where you want to go with your story, what the general outline is, maybe I can be even more specific. I would love to let you pick my brain (as long as you don't take anything with you when you're done:p), but you need to give me a bit more detail first.
     
  13. Dryriver
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    Dryriver Senior Member

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    Thanks for the input, Tattat44. There's some good stuff in your post.

    In my story, the freedoms/civil rights of the society my Main Character inhabits are slowly being curbed/removed by the powers-that-be, due to some disturbing events happening in the country/society (violent attacks + acts of anarchism + civil disturbances/protests)

    My Main Character watches a lot of TV, and on that TV various Television Stations broadcast segments about the current events that are happening around this country/society, as well as editorials/debates about what is happening.

    My Main Character, as well as secondary characters, observe these events from some distance and think/talk about them quite a bit. A constant sense of "what the hell is happening around us?" is woven in the main story-arc.

    The main political theme, overall, is what happens to individuals in a society that is slowly but surely transforming into a very controlling nanny-state, and taking on properties of almost a "fascist" state.

    So your suggestions about "who has power and why" are relevant to my book, because the government in my book is becoming more powerful, and more controlling, and more hostile to regular individual rights and freedoms as the story progresses.

    The characters in my story all have to process and deal with this transformation in their own individual way.

    Keep the suggestions coming! It's helping me get some perspective on how well my novel uses political themes...

    - Dryriver
     
  14. Tattat44
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    Sounds interesting, and certainly topical considering the frighteningly significant amount of fundamentalist religious people in the world. I'm going to try and probe a little further:

    What is it that your Main is, or is doing that sets him apart from these new social norms? What are the norms that they are pushing? If its just taking rights away in general, then what is the rationale for this? It should be a compelling one, perhaps a massive terrorist attack or war.

    Is this a government-sponsored terror campaign, like Kristalnacht, or are they just letting it happen through inaction? What are the goals of the acts of terror/protest? To pass new legislation, or to intimidate dissenters? Both?

    Who are your factions, and what do they want?
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    If it's linked to specific events then yes. Some issues seem to persist, though, so if a writer deals with the issue rather than the event then it lasts better. In the song The Hangman and the Papist, Dave Cousins (of The Strawbs) addressed the troubles in Northern Ireland as they were in the 1970s by writing about a fictitious medieval incident. Many of Terry Pratchett's books deal with current issues but in a high fantasy setting. For example the political issues I am most concerned about relate to the treatment of minorities (LGBT, asylum seekers), society's "witch hunts" and the occupy/99% movements (why yes, I do incline to the left). All of those are issues that are pretty much timeless even if the particular manifestation of them changes (race relations manifest as trolls v. dwarves in Pratchett's Discworld, for example) and all are actually pretty complex, so a good writer will (I reckon) tend not to take sides but will raise uncomfortable questions.
     

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