Blog #15 Pet Causes

We can all have a few causes close to our heart. You have them, I have them, everyone does.

This can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on how easily you recognise it in your writing.

It can be advantageous because your writing may allow you to shed light on an issue that others hadn’t considered or perhaps make it some more immediate and real. You could write a fantasy story about sentient animals being hunted to draw attention to poaching for example. That adds an extra dimension and can help guide your writing.

There are disadvantages- don’t forget, people aren’t buying your high fantasy story to hear your views on international relations with regards to Syria.  Yes, you can use some heavy-handed metaphors if you want but people buy books for the stories, the characters, the plot. A message isn’t an appropriate substitution for these. We have all read those novels where the characters feel like cardboard cut outs and strawmen, used to highlight the author’s views. It isn’t a rewarding book to read, even if you completely agree with those views.

That may all sound a bit wishy-washy. My views can make my story better but I should be careful how I include them? How?

I’ll use myself as an example and not pull any punches either!

I am extremely interested in Scottish politics, so my story North Sea Nightmare has some political intrigues going on in the background, some commentary on how crucial the North Sea oil is for the separatist plans for an independent Scottish state. That isn’t the story though, the story is about a monster tearing rig workers apart.

So I know I am deeply interested in Scottish politics- I know that and realise it. I could go on and on about it all day, examining every nuance in the extreme. I read about it, watch documentaries, talk about the latest developments. I have a very active interest in it all.

It is only natural that my writing reflects this.

However, I shouldn’t put it in everything! That would become tedious and predictable. My story, Bad Credit, that I am working on now has nothing to do with Scottish politics. Instead the emphasis is on the luxury living in Edinburgh and the extremes people will go to maintain that lifestyle. This isn’t really a cause, more something I see in my day to day life.

Step one is awareness of what your causes are. Don’t let them slip into everything without knowing it, really be aware of them.

Step two is deciding if these can be organically included in your story. Making a critique of religious fundamentalism could add an interesting layer to your science fiction novel. Trying to force in an anti-processed sugar message to your political thriller might not be very interesting or work.

Step three is to try and make sure that all your work isn’t about the same cause. Politics found its way into North Sea Nightmare but Bad Credit and The Man with the Green Tie don’t really have that in them. If you find your last two or three books focused on a specific issue, why not change it, keeps it exciting and fresh. I’m not saying lose any intensity for your causes just don’t let them totally dominate your writing. You are the boss, not them.


Still pitch dark and freezing here! I do like that they haven’t taken down the lights on George Street.

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