Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Is the State of the World Affecting Your Writing?

It’s become increasingly obvious that the fate of the world is keeping me from completing my current work in progress. Every day I try to concentrate, then a crisis distracts my attention and mires me in a variety of fears, insecurity, and shock. Where I used to worry about what my main character would do next or what I’d make for dinner, now I worry about the survival of our people from the cold and hot realities of life on this planet, children I don’t know and never will, and the threat of another foolish and unnecessary war.

I worry that our government representatives, people we put in place to take care of those things, seem not to worry about anything other than enriching themselves and putting their ideological desires for power ahead of their own grandchildren. Doesn’t anyone consider the consequences? Have they never seen a dystopian movie or read a book where the aftermath of greed, the thirst for war, or the quest for power leaves us destroyed? Hell, if 1984 by George Orwell or The Children of Men by P.D. James, about the inexplicable infertility of the human race—probably caused by poisonous chemicals, in my opinion―or the rear view mirror of history doesn’t inspire them to look forward, what will? Even the genre film Mad Max series should have some message for them.
These books used to be considered science fiction. They don't seem that way anymore.

My book is political. It’s about a man who speaks up about what he considers his government's inhumane abuses toward people under its control, and as a newspaper publisher, he has the platform to promote his opinion to every citizen. For some he’s a hero; for others he’s a traitor. Those who consider him the latter, plan his assassination, not in his country, but in ours. Not just anywhere but in front of the United Nations where he is to give a speech. It's up to a retired military general and his twin sons, both who have been changed by war, to stop the murder.

I started this book a long time ago and put it aside. I thought things will change. A sane head of government will be elected, a peace accord will be reached, and my story would be obsolete. But that did not happen; in fact, things are worse. Sides are split, vitriol is the tone of the day, and people have lost their moral compass. Politics span countries. What happens in one country affects others, and in turn, affects the world.

Writers are influenced by what happens―in their homes, in their cities, and on the planet. In whatever genres we write, we incorporate what we see and feel around us, whether we know it or not. Bits and pieces creep into our dialogue, in the actions of our characters, and yes, in our plots. Many of us have sponge-like minds, curious natures, and feel the righteous duty to explore and expose the inequities as fodder for our stories.

In my novels, I’ve tackled criminal justice, racism, the plight of the handicapped, sexual and vicious assault, vigilantism, art theft, Satanism, and prostitution. Writing about politics is pushing the envelope in a divided world. I’ll eventually finish this book. Some might not like the way it comes out, and I’m sure there will be critics. But what the hell.

Polly Iyer is the author of nine novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and Indiscretion, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

21 comments :

  1. I am so totally on the same page with you, Polly! Good post!

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  2. While my lawman series happens in the Mid 90s, what happens today, still provides fuel. There were crooked politicians back then, there were secrets barely kept under the radar, and what we see happening in the world today has been there before (we just hear about it better today). but I do borrow from today. In the family secrets series, Will talks about rescuing a Mexican woman who was abducted and now a victim of human trafficking. He reflects on the President wanting to build a wall between the two countries, and wonders if it was supposed to protect us from them, or them from us.

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    1. Your last sentence is food for thought. Politics, in one way or another, seeps into every story, whether a police procedural or a cozy mystery. What happens in the world happens in the lives of our characters, and it comes from the writer.

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  3. For the politicians who can read, I would highly recommend that they DO read dystopian novels! It would do them good. I'm still able to retreat into the world I'm writing at the time and escape, and hope that my readers will be able to use my books for that, too.

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    1. Good for you. My WIP IS the world we live in, and there's no escaping. Maybe I should write something totally different next, if I have any passion left.

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  4. I'm exhausted by it all. I think that's the intention. If we are that exhausted, then we'll stop paying attention, and "they" will be able to get away with their horrors. It's seeping into my writing, but the malaise is also keeping me from writing, mostly because I feel so helpless in the face of it all.

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    1. That's why, more than ever, we must make our voices heard in whatever way possible. The silent majority will lose.

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  5. I agree with everything you said, Polly. I started writing fiction only a couple of years ago, inspired by this quote from Richard Powers (The Overstory). "The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story." In my Letty Valdez Mysteries, characters regularly break the law when they provide humanitarian aid to migrants, yet never turn the migrants in to the Border Patrol. My themes are racism, poverty, immigrant rights, and care for returning military veterans. Writing helps me to reduce news-caused stress. Even so, my deepest concern is the climate crisis and I haven't figured out how to write about that yet. Re: Children of Men. Human male sperm count has dropped 50% since the 1950s which is thought to be caused by pesticides containing estrogen-analogs. Scientific fact, not science fiction.

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    1. CJ, I beginning to think there is no such thing as "science fiction" anymore. So much written in the past is coming to fruition. Not even sure if I would be surprised by an alien landing. Your subject matter is so important. Keep writing, keep telling the stories. They may not change any minds, but it might open up a few.

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  6. Between world news and all the self-publishing shenanigans with algorithms etc, I question daily whether this is something I wish to spend my time on. But then something I've written helps someone and I can't quite hit the kill switch.

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    1. I do believe Amazon has left self-publishers behind in favor of the authors of their imprints. That is indeed depressing. Yes, we're kind of spinning our wheels. Long for the days when I actually sold a lot of books. I feel so much better now.

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  7. Like Diana, I've thought about hitting the kill switch on writing, but for me it's about the pressure to never offend anyone. I guess that's how the thought police shut writers down and send them cowering to their knitting needles? Nah! Don't do that.

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    1. Ha, I've never thought about NOT offending anyone. I do think writing keeps my brain more active than if I didn't write, but the distractions seem to be getting to my thinking processes. I think it's important to know what's going on. I wish I didn't.

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  8. It's the same with me, Polly. The humor flowed as easily as the suspense in my last book, yet my current work keeps veering darker, which is not my intent. Sometimes I think I'm suffering from the whack-a-mole event cycle we're all exposed to these days. It's a struggle every day to remember that my first goal as a writer is to entertain, not preach!

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. My book is political, so I'm half in fiction, half in reality. I'm trying to present both sides of a situation that changes daily. Once I'm working in the book, I'm okay, but getting there is hard because of all the distractions. Hope you can get past this. Hope I can too.

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  9. This is a powerful post, Polly. You know, fiction is little more than fact wearing a different outfit. Readers will relate to your story and may even gain a different perspective. Keep up the good work! :-)

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    1. Thanks, Linda. I love the way you put that. "Fact wearing a different outfit." Perfect.

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  10. Ironically, or maybe serendipitously, I came over to see what was posted last here on the BRP blog because I was stuck. I was facing a blank screen on my blog, wondering what to write and coming up with nothing. That is so not like me. I got my start in newspaper work and could always come up with a column idea when it was time to write a column. Blogging is the same. But like you, Polly, and so many who have left comments, the current state of current affairs has immobilized my brain and sapped my energies. I do hope you finish your book. It sounds like one I'd like to read, even if some of the people who NEED to read it might not.

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    1. Maryanne, even if my blog doesn't inspire you to work on your writing, you know that you're not alone. I think if I stayed off social media I might get something done.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.