Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Does politics or political topics ever play a role in your writing? (With Lindsay Franklin!)

Author Lindsay A. Franklin is back with us today. If you like young adult fantasy, you need to read this book! Here is a little bit of information about The Story Peddler to pique your interest:

Selling stories is a deadly business

Tanwen doesn't just tell stories--she weaves them into crystallized sculptures that sell for more than a few bits. But the only way to escape the control of her cruel mentor and claw her way from poverty is to set her sights on something grander: becoming Royal Storyteller to the king.

During her final story peddling tour, a tale of treason spills from her hands, threatening the king himself. Tanwen goes from peddler to prey as the king's guard hunts her down...and they're not known for their mercy. As Tanwen flees for her life, she unearths long-buried secrets and discovers she's not the only outlaw in the empire. There's a rebel group of weavers...and they're after her too.

Ahh, I (Jill) liked this book so much, I endorsed it. Can't wait for book two. Today's panel question is:

Since today is the Fourth of July (for those of use living in the United States, that is), does politics or political topics ever play a role in your writing? If so, how?

Lindsay: In very broad terms, yes. I don't address many hot-button political topics directly in my fiction, but I do make general observations and ask questions that could be considered political. Like musings about the role of political leaders in society and what makes a good, strong leader.

Stephanie: Not usually, but Within These Lines, which releases in March 2019 from Blink/HarperCollins, is a novel about the Japanese American concentration camps during WWII. I don’t consider myself a very political person, but it was impossible to ignore politics with a novel like that. What I found as I worked on it is that my interest was in the people and how the politics had very real, lasting effects on their personal lives. That I found fascinating and will likely explore again in future novels.

Shan: Yes. For certain. I think the trick is to honestly, thoughtfully create people groups and allow the politics to emerge organically. If you’re starting with a political issue, I wish you luck. That’s difficult to do and not a story idea I would actively seek out. But, I do greatly appreciate books that handle politics with care and take time to explore many sides of an issue. It gives the book depth and authenticity.  

Jill: Politics often play a role in my fantasy novels because what is going on in the government has a strong affect on the world my characters live in. And often times my characters are involved in the government!

But as far as writing politics in contemporary stories, I’ve never set out to do that. I did, naively, hedge partly into the territory of the pro-life vs, abortion debate in my book Replication when two characters were debating stem cell research. I know so little about science or politics, that I didn’t even see that trouble coming until I got an angry book review that pointed it out. I was like, “Oopsy. My bad.” :-0

But I’ve never intentionally set out to be political about modern day topics. I prefer to find natural themes in my stories or characters lives as I write and make statements about my outlook that way. It’s much more subtle and natural when it comes in the form of a situation a character is living through that from my own two cents.

What about you, writers? Does politics or political topics ever play a role in your writing? Share in the comments.


  1. Like you guys said, I don’t actively go out trying to put specific political aspects into my stories, but sometimes they will subtly bleed in.
    Happy Fourth!

  2. I love politics. It comes from living in the DC area and one of my family members working for a political think tank. But I think if you take a strong side to a hot-button issue, you'll divide your audience.

    I like how Unwind handled the abortion issue. By making the kids in question teenagers, the "right to choose" and the "right to life" collided so that both audience sides could support the main characters, who were exercising their "right to choose their own lives."

    I think politics are almost unavoidable in dystopians. It doesn't have to be hot-button issues, and it can be a broader blanket of politics, but having them enriches your story. You need to know where your government gets its money, who buys what, and what the people think about the economy, laws, social structure, etc. Not everything is Star Wars where the rebellions have a surplus of X-Wings and the Empire hovers in a giant metal "moon."

    In a fantasy world, I think you need enough politics to create a legitimate world for your characters (again, economy). It doesn't really need a key light in the plot, but it needs to be on hand in the back of the writer's mind in case the question comes up in the story.

  3. I haven't really been writing lately but I did get an idea of main characters for a story and one of them was a political activist and they were going to meet at a protest. I highly suspect it was because of all the protests I've been watching in the US.

  4. They say that when G. K. Chesterton was hired to write for a certain newspaper, they told him he could write "about anything but religion or politics." He replied that there was nothing else he could write about, because religion is about people's relationship with God and politics is about people's relationship with each other. He was right; politics is an inevitable topic. So there's no point in trying to force it when it will come up naturally. :)

    1. Someone else who knows about Chesterton!

  5. Sometimes, you can't avoid hot button issues in your writing. All of my books so far have dived into controversial topics, the War Between the States and respecting our Police Force, and on these topics, I can't stay neutral. But I've found that even if people disagree with me, they appreciate my honesty. People respect you more if you take a stand rather than sit on the fence. That being said, I don't write with the aim to "divide and conquer". Any time something controversial comes up, I try to deal with it as kindly and compassionately as I can. I never set out to hurt, but to help.