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Friday, 13 September 2013

Friday the 13th. Ooer!

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You write fiction. In that occupation you probably have, as one aim, the spreading of your ideas and opinions. We are all storytellers, but we also tend to be preachers, if we’re absolutely honest with ourselves. Those subjects that most engage us form the themes of our stories. And our opinions about those themes permeate the text, whether we intend it or not. But, as authors in the electronic age, we’re expected to promote ourselves and our works on the web. Most of us run a blog or a website, or both. After all, the writer without an online presence is more or less invisible to those people who most matter to a writer; the readers.

There’s a great temptation to express our opinions on our blogs or websites, writing as ourselves and allowing our passions to spill over onto the electronic page. I know I’ve done it. And so, probably, have many of you. But is it wise?

I was inspired to write this piece because it’s Friday 13th today. The day has a significance and is a cause of superstitious dread to some individuals. Of course, the rationalist will pooh-pooh such superstition as irrational. And the person with a more emotionally based intelligence will sympathise, even empathise with the superstitious individual. If you, as a writer, express your opinion on your blog or website, where your words are your own, rather than those of a character you’ve invented, you stand the risk of alienating some of your potential readers.

Now, I have very definite views on superstition. But it would be foolish of me to express them here. I would inevitably cause offence to some of my readers. That isn’t helpful to the spread of my fiction, nor is it a particularly effective way to spread my ideas. Much more subtle and much more effective is the placing of my thoughts into the mouths of characters in a story to express my passionate views, preferably with some balancing arguments, so that the theme is available for both sides of the debate to claim as their own. Done cleverly, such exposition can influence readers. At the very least, it can make them think. Done badly, it is as bad as the bald expression of contentious issues on the blog.

So, if you side with the fox hunters, ride with the religious, condemn the poor, feel that justice is irrelevant, enjoy the subjugation of women, espouse the idea that there is no god, feel passionately that all people should be treated equally, or any of a huge number of emotionally divisive issues, the sensible thing to do is avoid them like the plague (as, of course, you should also avoid cliches) on your blog/website. Place them in the mouths of your characters, build your stories around them, make them the themes of your fiction. You will achieve much more than you would by proselytising and you won’t alienate half your readers in the process.

I’d love your thoughts, reactions, comments to this piece. Please feel free to say how you feel about the topic, and spread the word to your friends.
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