I recently gave a presentation at the Cat Writers’ Conference called Changing the World Through Fiction: 7 (plus 1) techniques to effectively promote your point of view and was asked if I had recorded it. I had not, but I do have a this for you:
Today’s society calls for more from a fiction writer than a fluff-piece. It’s our obligation to bring light to the causes and conflicts of our world. In my presentation, Changing the World Through Fiction, I offer methods that even the coziest of writers can implement to gently present their values within their story.
If you feel something strongly, it’s easy to talk about it. Sometimes ad nauseam. I’m like that when it comes to cats. I love cats, have cats in my home, I foster sick cats and volunteer at a cat shelter. I attend classes about cat health and behavior. I write cat mysteries and cat poetry as well as a little cat fantasy sci-fi.
It’s not just a cute kitty thing with me; it’s a lifestyle, a relationship, and with it comes responsibility. A lot of bad things happen to animals in this world, and that must change. Indian visionary Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” I’ve chosen to be a cat advocate, both in real life and on the page. It may come down to saving one cat at a time, but it’s okay. No kindness is ever too small.
Sometimes I get carried away talking about shelters, rescues, or animal aid. People’s eyes glaze over, and they begin to hear only the words: cat cat cat cat cat. If that happens at a meeting, they can just walk away, but if I bore them on the page, they will put the book down and may never pick it up again.
As fiction writers, it’s important to remember the point of our writing is to tell an entertaining story, but that doesn’t mean we can’t educate and enlighten at the same time, without using soapbox rhetoric or putting our readers to sleep.
- Pick your battles, and your cause. You can’t champion everything. Choose 1 or 2 matters significant to you.
- Tighten up. Keep your cause-talk short, but make every word count.
- Establish your place. Use epigraphs, quotes, or an afterward as the vehicle for your cause.
- Why so serious? Don’t forget to include your cause’s lighter components.
- Show, don’t tell. Weave the cause into your story instead of pitching it on its own.
- Whisper, don’t shout. Be subtle: don’t give in to the urge to lecture or preach.
- Write to entertain. Make it fun. After all, that’s why people read fiction.
“Eliminate the negative.”
As my father-in-law often sang:
“You’ve got to accentuate the positive,
Eliminate the negative,
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In Between.”
–Music by Harold Arlen; lyrics by Johnny Mercer; singer: Bing Crosby 1944
All causes are based on something bad that needs to be changed, but keeping your attitude “positive” will leave your readers feeling optimistic about both your cause and your book.
Thanks for playing along, and please let me know if you have any questions. Now, go out and change the world!
Mollie Hunt, Cat Writer