Politics in Writing: Great Idea or Bad Idea?


My head’s so big even photoshopped hats don’t fit. Note: This is intended to be humorous. A friend took my LinkedIn pic and photoshopped a political hat on it. This is not intended to be seen as a political commentary. Only self-deprecating humor.


Either you’re living in a vacuum, or you’ve seen political discourse the past few days. And unless you’re writing a novel on political intrigue or something historical, or are directly involved with behind-the-scenes politics, it’s a generally accepted idea to keep your political views, and affiliations, out of your novel.

But why? Shouldn’t we be able to run our mouths and vent? Given all the outspoken social justice warriors and armchair politics, surely the politics bug has hit one of your characters. I mean, even if you’re living in a fantasy land (or at least writing about it), isn’t politics and intrigue important?

“But why?”

Politics are a squishy thing. Malleable. Easily confused for pontificating or grandstanding, which usually it is. Heavy-handed political characters are a danger of becoming walking memes, or someone’s side-venture (witch hunt).

My opinion is, politics in a book isn’t bad. If a political view becomes a focal point, the book becomes political. Characters can have republican, independent, whig leanings. They can have a belief system in place, have specific issues be important like gun control or equality or a distaste (or rage) for so much gun violence. Whatever. I think that’s powerful, and important, and NOT putting it in your work seems like you’re not adding a whole lineup of perspective.

A lot of Americans’ philosophical perspective runs down GOP/Dem lines. And yes, I said philosophical. We all have a philosophy, or framework from which we see the world and categorize threats/challenges/friends/benefits. A character’s political slant isn’t necessarily yours.

And, a character’s political slant, if given too much focus, becomes the book’s focus. Obviously. If your MC is first-person limited and hyper-focused on some aspect of politics that got stuck in his craw, and he rants and rants about things, even if you don’t find it important, a lot of people will find it a turn-off.

Same with religion. On the other hand, it’s a pro as well: those who agree with this character’s political affiliation will be more apt to read it.

And here’s where you run into a potential problem: there are a lot of readers who get enough of that in their real lives. On social media. A lot of people out there want to escape while reading. Putting political opinion into a book that strikes too close to home might make a reader throw your book across the room.

For example, in my post-apocalyptic novel, a MC is exploring a house. Spraypainted on the wall in the basement was, “We Made America Great Again!” (Despite the fact that no other politics is referenced, and the apocalypse comes ten years after the referenced person is out of politics.

Is this a turn-off? Should I write “Yes we did!” On the other wall? It’s a calculated risk. Tongue-in-cheek humor. A friend who’s helping me a little said, “Oh no. No! Don’t write that!”

So I considered it. And I talked to another writing friend about it, and she said… “I’m going to go write a political story where there’s a lot of bodies being disposed of, if you know what I mean.”

Depending on the person, it’s a great idea. Or a terrible idea. I’d err on the side of political minimalism. But then, I’m one of those inundated folks who are tired of the deluge of misinformation and false accounts and hype. I’m tired of “Look what this politician did!” and “Oh that celebrity said what?!”

Individual political slant is important. The writer’s political perspective is important. There are many, many ways to write a perspective beyond using social media news, or Buzzfeed Facts, or whatnot. There’s an intelligent way to put forward arguments toward or against something, in a convincing manner, without devolving into a soapbox yell into the abyss.

You’re the master of this, right? You can have a woman suffering with stillbirth issues and considering abortion. You can have a cop with near misses to his life suffering from PTSD or whatnot. You can create the anecdote.

Or you can create a character with miles of statistics, facts. A very powerful clip came from the Newsroom TV show. It keeps making comebacks on my social media feed because the speech is profound and poignant.

I guess what I’m trying to relay is political slant is there for reasons, and those reasons should be more important than the politics in front of them. Unless the idea of debate and political discourse is important to the story or a character, then dive right in. But balance, try and be careful, and be aware the reader might see your shining knight as Two-Face from the Dark Knight, or your insightful information-gatherer as a walking statistic.

Speaking of statistics, I recently watched Rogue One. K2, the reprogrammed Empire droid, was phenomenal. And he used statistics all the time. And it was brilliant. Note: I love Alan Tudyk too, so, yeah. There’s my soapbox.

Have a wonderful week! Classes start in a few days, and I’m studying english rhetoric and discourse, and the history of the language, so my writing might become sparse or dry. Yeah. Even moreso.




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