DON’T LET YOUR AGENDA GET IN THE WAY OF YOUR STORY
Whether you realize it or not, you have an agenda. Though I’ve covered this topic in degrees before, I want to address it specifically. The muse hit again!
Okay. You have this great fictional story about such and such. The muse is hot. Write while the inspiration and time allows. Whether you’re a seat-of-the-pants writer like me, or you like to outline every step, it’s time to sit down and get to work. The whole purpose of creating your story is to write about something you like, something (I hope) you have to write, something you hope other people will want to read. That being said, you want to make sure whatever your fantastic story will become, it doesn’t devolve into preaching an agenda.
Let’s face it. It’s hard not to let our personal feelings, experiences and prejudices color our work. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s when it becomes blatant that there’s a problem.
PEOPLE HAVE EXPECTATIONS
Everything has a label, a category, a place on the shelf, so to speak. If you write a murder mystery, people expect it to be a murder mystery. When a reader gets halfway through the story and gets the feeling the author is trying to convert them to the Catholic faith, or trying to make them vote either democratic or republican, there’s a problem, folks. If the story is a romance, and halfway through the story, the reader feels like they’re being told to go down and protest at an abortion clinic, we have a problem. In these cases, the truth isn’t in the advertising.
A LITTLE GOES A LONG WAY
We all subconsciously throw our beliefs into our work.
The key is to make sure that you edit out the heavy-handed preaching. The best writers leave their readers guessing which way their wind blows. A good writer will have readers either never even wondering about their religious, political or sexual leanings, or they’ll speculate and never come close to the truth.
I’ve felt that way about many authors until they spoiled it by going public. I never intend to do that. I have my own beliefs and biases, but since I don’t want to poison the pool and alienate any potential readers, I’ll keep my opinions private. Too many people out there feel so strongly about religion, politics and sex that they’ll refuse to read your work, no matter what, because you don’t believe the way they do. Or, if they do, they’ll be chasing shadows, looking for an agenda that isn’t there. I don’t want to have to worry about that.
If your agenda becomes too blatant, you’re taking a stance, placing yourself in a position where you’re going to potentially lose half your readers, maybe more, depending on where you stand on each issue.
WHAT ABOUT BLATANT AGENDAS?
There are certain authors, both fiction and especially non-fiction that have agendas. To them, that’s the whole point. They’re targeting a specific audience. There’s nothing wrong with that. Some of them cross over between fiction and non-fiction. They have their niche crowd but to everyone that knows them, they’re just as much avoided for their stances as sought out by those that agree with them. They’ve automatically lost half their audience.
An example is an author in our group that writes specifically for a gay audience. There’s nothing wrong with that. He writes in multiple genres, but with a gay element always present. That’s his agenda, but he makes no secret about it so everyone knows where he’s coming from. Of course, he caters to a specific audience. He’s potentially lost half his audience yet there are those straight people that aren’t disturbed by certain gay themes. Who knows?
HOW MUCH DO YOU WANT TO RESTRICT YOUR AUDIENCE?
This all boils down to how much do you want to present your agenda over how much of an audience do you want to reach? Are you interested in the widest reach, or are you out to preach to the choir? If you think you’re going to trick or convert people to your point of view, I’ve got news for you. Especially in fiction, I don’t think so. You’re just as likely to piss people off and lose half your audience. You’ll be known as that author.
The choice is yours.