Well, I thought that I’d talk about expressing opinions in fiction today. This is mostly because it is something that can easily go wrong if it isn’t handled well.
For example, I’ve read opinionated novels that I’ve disagreed with (eg: Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World“) and still considered them to be well worth reading, but I’ve found some opinionated novels to be quite off-putting (to the point where I’ve literally stopped reading them) because of the way their opinions are expressed.
So, I thought that I’d offer a few tips about expressing opinions in fiction. After all, everyone has opinions and, if you’re telling a story, then you’re probably going to be tempted to include some of them in your story.
1) Signposting and storytelling: Yes, the main appeal of some well-known novels (eg: George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” etc…) is that they express a strong opinion about a particular topic.
With these novels, readers usually know what to expect and therefore do not mind that the author’s opinion is the main part of the novel. So, the lesson here is that signposting via things like blurbs etc… are important for letting the reader know what to expect (so that they can make an informed decision about whether to buy and read the book).
However, if someone isn’t looking for a novel that expresses an opinion, then they probably want to enjoy a good story, to enjoy good writing, to visit somewhere interesting, to meet interesting characters etc…. So, these things should be your main focus.
In other words, you need to pay more attention to telling a good story. Not only will this make your novel more appealing to your readers, but it will also mean that – if you do add some of your opinions to the story- then readers who disagree with them will be more likely to forgive it and keep reading because they’re too interested in the story that they are reading.
2) Less is more: Readers are smart people. The fact that someone chooses to enjoy an active storytelling medium where they have to use the writer’s words to conjure up a vivid imagined world means that the reader of literally any novel (or short story collection) is a reasonably intelligent person.
In other words, your readers are smart enough to pick up on smaller things like hints, ironic moments, brief comments, slightly opinionated descriptions etc… So, stick to using these kinds of things and use them reasonably infrequently too.
The thing to remember about opinionated lectures or even more frequent (but subtle) opinions is that, even if your readers agree with you, they will probably still feel like they are being patronised.
So, remember that less is more. If your readers have the imagination and intelligence to enjoy a novel (however “high brow” or “low brow” it may be), they’re smart enough to know when they are being lectured at and/or manipulated. And, whilst an infrequent opinionated moment or two might make them laugh or think, they will usually be smart enough to recognise when something has crossed the line into being more of an editorial than a novel.
3) Humour: If you’re going to express opinions in your fiction, then humour is one of the best ways to do this. Yes, it might be tempting to use serious drama or even horror, but too much heavy melodrama will make readers who disagree either laugh at your fiction or just simply decide to read something else instead.
On the other hand, well-written humour can make even someone who disagrees with you laugh. It also reassures the reader that you aren’t some kind of stern, humourless bore who cares more about your opinions than their enjoyment too. So, be sure to use a bit of humour when you express your opinions in your story.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂