October 11th, 2010
Happy Thanksgiving Canada. Happy Columbus Day America
We’ve been receiving a number of submissions lately that deal with difficult subjects like child abuse and sexual orientation. These subjects can make for a story with depth and meaning – if handled well.
Unfortunately, the subjects are not often handled that well. The top two issues seem common: preaching and jamming on the delicate subject for no story value.
Preaching – no one likes to read a sermon about why they should feel a certain way. Preaching is not just paragraphs of exposition. You are preaching when your characters have a fight and their dialogue is a simple iteration of a stance.
Jamming the subject in means you don’t have a real story reason to have the subject. For example, your story is a mystery and your character doesn’t know he or she is gay. This plot line would be great if the character’s sexual orientation was critical to the solution of the mystery. It’s not useful if you just use the story to tell the reader they should be more compassionate or understanding.
How do you make sure you aren’t putting your soapbox into your story? The most simple approach is to ask yourself ‘is this critical to the story?’. If you can’t easily point to why it is, do one of two things: take it out of your story or change your story so that it does become critical.
Keep trying to bring difficult topics to the page.