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The "P" word... or Politics in Stories


Brayon

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Recently, I read a story where the Author put in drops of Modern Politics into his story (Non-GA). Almost to the point of being nauseating. Regardless of ideology, where should an Author draw the line? I personally was turned off by the story, even though it reflected political ideals I follow.  It just felt "too much" but at the same time, because of the setting, and location, politics was needed.

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I think the line should be usually drawn at relevancy. Does this contribute anything to the story?

Now I do think it is a bit different when it comes to history and especially to an alternative universe. And depending on the genre and the subject a lot of politics might be needed in the story. Sometimes its just world building. Not everyone knows about politics everywhere in the world. If I was writing a story that takes place in my country and post it here, most people would have no idea what Serbia is like so I would have to elaborate on a lot of stuff so ppl don't get lost and that might include politics.

But I think a good author could have snippets of irrelevant stuff peppered in their story that would just make the setting more believable and make them seem interesting. 

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As the others have said, it all comes down to whether the politics fits the story. If it's relevant, if it impacts the plot, if it impacts the characters, then including the politics makes sense. Once that decision has been made, the next part is how much to include. A 30 page essay on the background of incident X and how party Y has made a complete mess of the situation is unlikely to be useful.

 

If it's background information that needs to be there to help the reader understand, then the author should try to think of a way to bring it into the story without being an info dump. For example, have two of the characters in the story start discussing/debating/yelling about the topic. That makes it the characters views, not the authors, and as such it's not as jarring.

 

Whenever an info dump is required, always try to include it as part of the story, not as an addon. It's not always possible, but do your best to find a way to tie the info dump to the story and the characters. Even in a science fiction story, where info dumps are quite often necessary to understand the world, there are ways it can be done that keep it tied to the story. I've just started re-reading one such novel, where the info dump on spaceships was made while the main character was standing admiring the ship he was about to start serving on. Details on the space drive were added as the ship took off. Information on instantaneous communications were dropped in as appropriate. It wasn't one massive info dump separate from the story.

 

If you try, there are usually ways you can tie an info dump to the story. Think about how the characters act or react in relation to what the info dump is about. Include their reactions/thoughts/comments/questions, or even their non-reactions as part of the info dump. A simple example from a Robert Heinlein story is how the narration said that the characters no more thought about the scientist/inventor behind the long-distance transportation system being used than a 20th century teenager would think of Otis in relation to elevators. That couple of lines told us who invented the transportation system, and how ubiquitious it had become, without a longwinded explanation of how it came about or even how it works. That level of information wasn't needed at that stage of the story, and could be added later on if it became relevant.

 

Inserting info dumps into stories is an art, but it's a useful one to learn as it applies to a wide range of stories. I would strongly advise anytime an info dump is required, find a way to make it personal, and link it as strong as you can to the characters in the story.

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I gave up reading two stories because they have the same formula: main character are gay but suffer a lot from their dads' conservative view. The dads ignore their children, only care for their political campaigns, force their children to act properly,... And they all belong to the R Party. Before these I've already read some stories that have exactly same thing. It's tiring honestly. Like they are bad because they are R politicians. I sincerely hope the authors see some good quality and stop making every R politician the biggest villain in the world. I know they have different views, but when they use it in stories they need to minimize a little bit.

But that's just me I think.. I'm too sensitive sometimes :unsure:

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43 minutes ago, hoaluu said:

I gave up reading two stories because they have the same formula: main character are gay but suffer a lot from their dads' conservative view. The dads ignore their children, only care for their political campaigns, force their children to act properly,... And they all belong to the R Party. Before these I've already read some stories that have exactly same thing. It's tiring honestly. Like they are bad because they are R politicians. I sincerely hope the authors see some good quality and stop making every R politician the biggest villain in the world. I know they have different views, but when they use it in stories they need to minimize a little bit.

But that's just me I think.. I'm too sensitive sometimes :unsure:

 

Totally agree with you. Those stories are a Dime a Dozen, and there's a couple with that theme here on GA. Evil Republican hates Gays! All those stories play up to stereotypes. They offend me as someone that is a Conservatarian because they unfairly label an entire group of people. The story that prompted me to start this discussion, was the exact opposite. The Evil Democrat who's intolerant against those that don't share the same ideology. Equally offensive to me.

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If you're looking for a story where the Republicans are not the enemy, you try Don H's Working It Out trilogy. There are other stories that I've read where that's true, too, though I can't recall them off the top of my head.

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Politics in stories is an easy way to take careful aim and shoot yourself in the foot. Politics of all sorts are so polarized today that half the readers might stop reading if they think you are pushing an agenda or preaching something that they don't like.

 

I can tell you how to NOT do it. Elysium came out in 2013 right in the middle of the Health Care debate. It was preachy and shoving an agenda so hard that the movie was coincidental. It should have advertised as a 2 hour political advertisement. Of course it's not the first or last movie with a rather blatant political message, it was as boring as listening to PRM.

 

The very best way to involve politics in stories is to do it so subtly that the reader never notices. You can read a lot of Heinlein and never quite understand how you became a libertarian.

 

Another big sci-fi author that's hugely political is... wait for it... get ready to froth at the mouth... Ayn Rand.  Her message is extremely political and it is science fiction. Anthem takes place in a future so wrapped up in collectivism that there is no concept of "I" (or self). Atlas Shrugged revolves around some revolutionary inventions, their inventors and withholding them because they will prop up the "People's State" which is very busily collapsing.. of idiocy. Of her most famous works, only the Fountainhead does not contain sci-fi themes but it is strong on innovation. I'll bet you've never heard Ayn Rand's work described that way. It's not for the faint of heart or anyone who is not open to considering that some of the basic foundations of our society are lies that run counter to human nature and human progress.

 

Beware. There are dangerous ideas out there and they are just waiting to infect you when you dive off into the unknown.

 

Explore courageously.with an open mind and you'll never know what you'll discover. 

 

Edited by jamessavik
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14 hours ago, Graeme said:

If you're looking for a story where the Republicans are not the enemy, you try Don H's Working It Out trilogy. There are other stories that I've read where that's true, too, though I can't recall them off the top of my head.

@BHopper2 You can also try Mark Arbour's CAP Saga. :) Many of the characters in there fall all over the political spectrum, and Mark never portrays them as evil or good simply because they have a D or an R in front of their name.

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5 minutes ago, Drew Espinosa said:

@BHopper2 You can also try Mark Arbour's CAP Saga. :) Many of the characters in there fall all over the political spectrum, and Mark never portrays them as evil or good simply because they have a D or an R in front of their name.

 

Thanks, I'll look him up!

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On 2017-6-4 at 11:26 AM, hoaluu said:

I gave up reading two stories because they have the same formula: main character are gay but suffer a lot from their dads' conservative view. The dads ignore their children, only care for their political campaigns, force their children to act properly,... And they all belong to the R Party. Before these I've already read some stories that have exactly same thing. It's tiring honestly. Like they are bad because they are R politicians. I sincerely hope the authors see some good quality and stop making every R politician the biggest villain in the world. I know they have different views, but when they use it in stories they need to minimize a little bit.

But that's just me I think.. I'm too sensitive sometimes :unsure:


People write any stories because they resonate with themselves, usually. They reflect an experience they'd had. They help them work through it. So forth.

I am not American, so the D & R parties don't exist. But my conservative father made my childhood hell with his viewpoints. Not every person with on sides of the political spectrum is the same. But people read and write those stories because they reflect their own experiences. You don't like them because they don't reflect your own.

They can also be a bit preachy, so I don't read them very often. Politics is a difficult subject to put into a story. Some people set out to do it though. They want their writing to impart some message. But, there is a difficulty in doing that in a meaningful way. You should show not tell in my opinion. If you have an issue you want to make your readers think hard about, it is far better and effective to show them the issue and let them make their own conclusions, than tell them way to think. 

 

The Children's Act by Ian McEwan has that issue. It shoved its anti-religion message in the readers face with no subtly. And I'm an atheist and I didn't even like that. The already mentioned also Elysium failed, in my opinion. It was preachy, the plot mostly illogical, and tried to shove things too far in your face.

 

The Secret River by Kate Grenville on the other hand, I felt achieved what it set out to do. To show the reader another side of the Aboriginal rights debate. But for it to mean much, you need to be the right reader anyway. I'm Australian, so it worked. Non-Australians could probably care less.

Now all that said, I really enjoyed The Beard by DKStories, which features a good Republican politician. :)

Edited by Wicked Witch
edited to explain myself better
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5 hours ago, Wicked Witch said:


People write any stories because they resonate with themselves, usually. They reflect an experience they'd had. They help them work through it. So forth.

I am not American, so the D & R parties don't exist. But my conservative father made my childhood hell with his viewpoints. Not every person with on sides of the political spectrum is the same. But people read and write those stories because they reflect their own experiences. You don't like them because they don't reflect your own.

They can also be a bit preachy, so I don't read them very often. Politics is a difficult subject to put into a story. Some people set out to do it though. They want their writing to impart some message. But, there is a difficulty in doing that in a meaningful way. You should show not tell in my opinion. If you have an issue you want to make your readers think hard about, it is far better and effective to show them the issue and let them make their own conclusions, than tell them way to think. 

 

The Children's Act by Ian McEwan has that issue. It shoved its anti-religion message in the readers face with no subtly. And I'm an atheist and I didn't even like that. The already mentioned also Elysium failed, in my opinion. It was preachy, the plot mostly illogical, and tried to shove things too far in your face.

 

The Secret River by Kate Grenville on the other hand, I felt achieved what it set out to do. To show the reader another side of the Aboriginal rights debate. But for it to mean much, you need to be the right reader anyway. I'm Australian, so it worked. Non-Australians could probably care less.

Now all that said, I really enjoyed The Beard by DKStories, which features a good Republican politician. :)

 

I'm sorry if I said anything offended you. I'm not American either, but when you read American books, it is expected to have politics mixed in some stories. I know some people with conservative view have very unfair opinions on gay. They used terrible words to describe gay (if you understand those words, trust me, you just want to throw them into a river). Even my dad, once he told me "They're illness" and "Who cares about those .... (please fill in the blank)" But I'm not gay, so I didn't experience what they had to come through, like you said I couldn't understand their feelings. If it were me, I'd avoid talking and reading anything related to my background, so in their place, it's understandable they want to express their frustration. 

 

Maybe because I've read many stories with same formula that I feel like I have to experience those "frustrations" of the main characters again and again, it's depressing. I agree authors should express their views more subtly... or in the right dose. 

Besides, not all gay-bashing dads belong to R party. They can be like my dad, who believes in nothing, they can have bad experience with gay (like my friend's friend, he hates gay because of sexual harassment..) 

 

Thank you for your recommendation, I'll check it out :)

 

 

Edited by hoaluu
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On 2017-6-6 at 10:02 AM, hoaluu said:

 

I'm sorry if I said anything offended you.

 


No offence taken at all. These type of conversations are interesting, and hopefully we all learn a little from the various points of view. Writing is mostly about getting into heads other than your own, after all.

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