1. bsbvermont
    Offline

    bsbvermont Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2012
    Messages:
    104
    Likes Received:
    1

    walking the political line

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by bsbvermont, Jul 27, 2012.

    So many of our most beloved classics have had a strong leaning either to the left or right. I struggle with when my heroin, who is in academia and hence fairly liberal, goes on a rant about the injustices of the world, that I might be taking things over the line for some readers. Any suggestions about finding that fine line to help my character define herself not just as fluff in her world view, but rather substance? Are there literary characters that you can think of (on either side of the aisle) that have achieved that well?
     
  2. mickaneso
    Offline

    mickaneso Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2012
    Messages:
    41
    Likes Received:
    0
    A rant might detract from your message. Rather than being sort of ex-positional on it try and be more subtle. Show your character being passionate about righting those injustices through their actions, show their annoyance at injustices happening around them. Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird is a good example on how he handles his morale/political stance without coming out and ranting about it. I think a rant might be a waste of your good message that you could convey in other ways.
     
  3. bsbvermont
    Offline

    bsbvermont Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2012
    Messages:
    104
    Likes Received:
    1
    Hmmm maybe the "rant" piece was not a clear indication of how views are being presented...and maybe that's where I struggle. I will give an example...This is when Anne's sees the make up of her new education course"

    "What did surprise her was that so few males wanted to teach. The national average of new male teachers entering the teaching force was below eighteen percent, which Anne thought was a true waste of talent. Some of the brightest, most creative teachers she had ever seen were male, and she wondered if they shied away from teaching due to some misconception of stereotypical professions where women were supposed to be more qualified to teach than men. More likely, though, it was because of the pay. It would always be a mystery to Anne why a profession that is rated annually as one of the top five most important professions in the country always comes in so low on the pay scale."

    Hope this clears up my wondering....part of me feels like this belongs more in a policy research paper than a novel...Thoughts?
     
  4. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    Yeah, rants don't go over well with readers. For the most part, they want to be entertained, not lectured to. Make the character's opinions come about via action or casual conversations, or short one shots ("That guy's a moron," she muttered, walking away. type of thing).
     
  5. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    I'd agree with you. Now, if you had her in a casual conversation with another student (especially male), you could bring out those same points without the research paper feel - sans the statistics, of course.
     
  6. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    The temptation to give into a rant or get on a soapbox can sometimes be very strong. I think it has to be resisted, though. Your character can have that position, and keep it in your mind as background to influence other actions. Maybe she meets a man going into teaching, and that makes her think more of him than she otherwise would. Or make her wonder more about the men who take her class. Or encounter another profession that pays similarly but is less 'prestigious' but somehow more acceptable to men.

    Once you get into rattling off statistics, the message overtakes the characters, and it really seems like the author is on a soapbox. If you really want to get a statistic in there, try to find another way -- like the character reading it and being surprised, or discussing it with another character or something. Also, try to sprinkle it around, rather than gather it up into one piece of narrative. If it's given in bits and pieces, it will be easier to swallow, if you do decide that that particular piece of info is something you really must have in the story. Generally, though, I'd say it's better to use that statistic as a leaping off point -- unstated, but the underlying cause of some situation or action in the story.
     
  7. bsbvermont
    Offline

    bsbvermont Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2012
    Messages:
    104
    Likes Received:
    1
    SOOOO glad I'm in this forum. The researcher in me has that little "but you must have statistics to back up your statements" voice which is clearly NOT supposed to happen here. (Thank God I didn't cite references...JK)

    I like the idea of it coming out in a conversation with the students. Not so "ranty" but could show her liberal side.

    Also, a side question here, If one did get a publisher, is it standard for them to also say "you might want to rethink that paragraph" here and there if they generally liked the rest? (I am NOT adverse to changing text at all)
     
  8. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    Publishers will make editorial suggestions, definitely. That's part of the job. Whether or not to make those changes is up to the author.
     
  9. mickaneso
    Offline

    mickaneso Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2012
    Messages:
    41
    Likes Received:
    0
    I don't think it's a bad thing that you have the urge to rant. It shows you have positive traits. You have passion and enthusiasm for the messages you're writing about. It's just about practicing how you present these messages. Not laying them on so thick.
     
  10. B93
    Offline

    B93 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2012
    Messages:
    297
    Likes Received:
    32
    Fiction has often been used to try to change people's minds. That can be the driving force behind someone's writing effort.

    You just have to stay entertaining enough that most of the audience will stick with it. Having a character with opinions and being involved in situations that dramatize those opinions works so long as the audience feels more entertained than confronted.

    That is not a firm line, but rather a continuum. Some people will love it because they agree, others in the middle may be swayed consciously or unconsciously, and some will disagree so strongly they stop reading. The better you blend those opinions with the story, as opposed to rants, the further down the continuum you will keep readers.
     
  11. Show
    Offline

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    30
    A "rant" is okay if it's done right. People DO rant. Ranting can be a very revealing thing and might even accomplish making the reader dislike her. If your goal is to convert readers, a rant is probably ineffective. If your goal is merely to tell a story about a character of a passionate political belief, then a rant can be a part of a bigger plan.
     
  12. Thumpalumpacus
    Offline

    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2012
    Messages:
    566
    Likes Received:
    106
    Location:
    Texas
    I don't have a problem with political views being expressed in a story where they're apt. I would avoid inserting numbers into it, though. How many people get worked up enough to rant because of a statistic? Not many. And beyond that, when the statistic undergoes change, and it will, your story is immediately dated.
     
  13. bsbvermont
    Offline

    bsbvermont Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2012
    Messages:
    104
    Likes Received:
    1
    Your comments are all so useful! I will rewrite part of that section with NO statistics and more interactive dialog that entertains, but doesn't preach....You guys are my rock...thanks!
     
  14. ThievingSix
    Offline

    ThievingSix Member

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2012
    Messages:
    64
    Likes Received:
    1
    My opinion is you should have strong views, but do it subtly, or through metaphor. Why? There are countless novels that have a nice flowery story, don't make any links to real life or statements, and the authors personal voice is non-existant. As a case study the "Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown made a huge political statement. It was quite clear his intent was to make people question their own religious and political views. However he achieved this subtly, and it is embedded so deep in the story that it only surfaces where he wants it too, but the connotations are there throughout, regardless of if he explicitly says it.

    Making a subtle statement is a key to a successfully story, but its often more effective if you let the reader come to the conclusion themselves rather than outright saying it. It feels like they've solved the puzzle in essence and adds depth to your story.

    Your abstract does a lot of telling, but not a lot of showing. Show us that there's a lack of male teachers and show us the pay is poor.
     
  15. James Berkley
    Offline

    James Berkley Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2011
    Messages:
    448
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    NYC
    I write science fiction so the politics in it don’t really go with modern day ones, but
    I find interactions are the best way to get this stuff across. Two characters talking about something in the news or and event can tell you a lot about both of their beliefs. It also (IMHO) adds more depth as often we and others do not just toe one political line and see others beliefs as contradictory.
     
  16. Hettyblue
    Offline

    Hettyblue Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2012
    Messages:
    78
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Middle England
    Political opinions expressed in a rant - either fictionally or in real life - rarely go down well. I would avoid, there will be more mileage in either showing their political leanings through their affiliations - "Claire was an active member of the [Teachers Union/ local Conservative Club or whatever]" or by working it into the storyline by giving them a dilemma to resolve which would reveal their political stance for e.g. "Claire knew that if she did not speak up she would be as morally bankcrupt as the company exploiting these migrant workers.". My favourite political works are allegorical - 'The Castle' by Kafka '1984' by Orwell and 'The Handmaids Tale' the political stance is woven in to the story without destroying the enjoyment of the novel (in my opinion) not expounded by individual characters.
     
  17. E. C. Scrubb
    Offline

    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2012
    Messages:
    413
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Southwest US
    Go right ahead and include the statistics if you want, but if you do it, make sure it's done very well. I think what is more important, is that you fairly represent both sides of an argument to not come off as "ranting."

    I keep thinking of John Grisham's 1989, "A Time to Kill." That book could have come across as preachy, holier than thou, etc. etc. However, by pitting Jake Brigance and Ellen Roark against each other in a number of debates concerning the death penalty (among other things), and showing the negative side of both white and black culture in the south, Grisham instead has a book that ends up reading as brutally honest and one heck of a story.

    So I'd say, let your character have at it, but also, have her speech be with someone, and have that person respond with good arguments that make her think as well. In ending the discussion, just a simple, "I'm still not convinced, but you bring up some good points," by the other character frames your character's argument in a very positive light.

    Just my 2 cents.
     
  18. Thumpalumpacus
    Offline

    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2012
    Messages:
    566
    Likes Received:
    106
    Location:
    Texas
    I don't even think balance is necessary. I think it's more important to be subtle than it is to be even-handed. It's a rare story which is both polemic and artistic.
     
  19. E. C. Scrubb
    Offline

    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2012
    Messages:
    413
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Southwest US
    Thump -

    I'd agree with you, but the OP stated later on that he had some statistics that he was thinking about sharing. That's what got me thinking about two people debating an issue. The worst turnoff for me when I read books, is when one side is presented in an underhanded manner.

    All in all, I do agree with most of your post however. It's just in this specific situation, I think the "A Time to Kill" method works rather well.
     
  20. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I agree with Thump, too -- you don't necessarily need to present both sides of an issue. You're not writing a news article, but a novel. The characters are going to feel strongly about various things. Showing what those things are and how they think about them is part of developing the character. Not all of us have good friends who hold views directly opposite from us and with whom we engage in a debate on a regular basis. In this case, the OP is upset that there aren't more men in teaching and about the low pay and reasons for it. The "debate" there wouldn't so much be that someone else argues that men should not teach and that the pay should be low or lower, but about the relative importance of the issue and how many resources should be used to change that. And if the character is a teacher, many of her colleagues and friends are likely to also be in the profession or know teachers well, and would be more likely to hold views similar to her own. (This is not to say that everybody she knows would agree with her 100% and that she would never have an occasion to debate or argue the issue.)
     
  21. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I'm sorry, Vermont, but it still comes off as forced and contrived to me. The "rant" is still as clear as day, even though it has been disguised as dialogue. I suggest sprinkling some of these points in dialogue over longer stretches, where it might be less preachy.

    I'm not 100% clear on your premise -- I take it that your MC is a professor of educational policy? I'm not certain how the interns work into the structure. But anyway, although getting some of these points in through dialogue is a good way to go, it is still possible to do it in narrative if it's sprinkled in lightly. To use the old adage, you have to show us some of this stuff, rather than just tell us.

    Something along the lines of:

    Anne sighed. She was amazed at how quickly the school year had passed. They seem to pass more quickly each year, and of course there was the yearly dilemma of what to do over the summer. When she was a kid, she used to think what a lot of people still think -- that teachers had it so great, having two whole months of vacation each year. Who wouldn't love having the whole summer off? She'd love to have the summer off, if only she could afford it. Anne couldn't go two months without pay. She thought she was all set with the summer school spot she had snagged. But just last week she had found out that the class was cancelled, due to lack of enrollment. She was going to have to do what she had sworn she never would. This summer she'd be working at her father's hardware store, just like she'd done when she was sixteen. Only this time she had a Master's Degree. At least the job paid more than minimum wage, which when you factored in all the time she spent grading papers and heading committees and supervising the Young Entrepreneur's Club, was probably more than she made at her real job, anyway. Personal fulfillment, she reminded herself. The chance to mold young minds. Influencing the youth would have to wait until the Fall.

    Then later on, she could have a conversation with someone about what they did over the summer, or about the lack of men, etc.
     
  22. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I like what E C suggested also. I was thinking one way to get in the thing with men is to have the MC meet a man (maybe they go on a date or it's a romantic connection, but it doesn't have to be). He says something like, "Oh, so you're a teacher. I should have been a teacher. I love history and I really enjoy teaching my son about it." Your MC could respond, "Why didn't you go into teaching? I always wonder why there aren't more men in it."
     

Share This Page