Three Tips For Expressing Opinons In Fiction

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.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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One Easy Way To Make Your Characters’ Political Opinions More Realistic

2016 Artwork Political opinions and characters article sketch

Well, although I often (not not always) try to avoid discussing anything related to politics on this blog, I was in the mood for talking about politics and creativity again.

So, I thought that I’d look at how to handle political opinions in fiction today. Or, more precisely, I’ll be talking about an easy way to give your characters more nuanced and realistic opinions.

It’s a very easy thing to write a “liberal” or a “conservative” character. If you have a basic understanding of modern politics (in whichever country you are living in), then you’ll know that “liberals have these opinions” and “conservatives have those opinions”. It’s a very simplistic and binary thing, and it makes for very simplistic characters when used in fiction

But, as we all know, the real world doesn’t work like that. There are very few people who are “100% conservative” or “100% liberal”. If there were, elections would be ridiculously predictable things and democracy itself would probably end up unravelling after a while.

As you probably already know, many people have a mixture of opinions. They may be mostly conservative, or mostly liberal or somewhere in between, but very few people are firmly on one side or another. But, how can you portray this realistically in fiction?

Simple. Make your characters’ opinions issue-based, rather than politics-based.

What do I mean by this? Well, instead of deciding whether your character is “liberal” or “conservative”, just decide what their opinions about various issues are. If you’re not sure about this, then look at your character’s history, personality etc.. and ask yourself “If I met someone like that, what opinions would I expect them to have about this particular subject?

Once you’ve decided this, then you’ll probably have a character who has a more nuanced set of political opinions and is far more interesting to read than a character who rigidly follows either conservative or liberal orthodoxy.

If your characters follow their opinions about one subject (regardless of their opinions about other subjects), then you’ll end up with dramatically interesting situations where, for example, a mostly conservative character may agree with a liberal character about one issue, but disagrees with them about a lot of other things.

So, if you want to give your characters more interesting political views, then look at their views about individual issues, rather than their views about politics as a whole.

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂