Saturday, August 21, 2010

Poverty, Abuse, and the Like (Awkward Writing 4)

Welcome back for the 4rd installment of my Awkward Writing series, where we will be discussing social issues in writing.

As a reminder, anyone who comments on the series posts (previous or future) will be entered into a giveaway. The giveaway will be announced on the last series post. If you make multiple comments, you receive multiple entries. Max 5 entries via comments. But...

1) If you shout out the series (FB, Twitter, Blog, etc.), you get 1 entry. Please only 1 mention for the entire series. Please also supply the shout out link in your comment.

2) If you create a post linking back to my page, or one of the posts in the series, you receive 2 entries. Please supply the post link in your comment.

That is a total of 7 entries total you can have put in the pot. Don't forget to supply those links to your blogs or social media shout outs. You must supply them to be granted the point(s).

What am I currently doing? Answer: blogging, beta edits, itching to finish my next chapter and enjoying my day off.

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I think at some point, most writers will debate including a graphic scene in their WiP that might make readers shy away. Have your characters just entered a poverty stricken village? Are they glancing over the destruction of war? Do they see a pair of children screaming for their mother? These are social issues, along with a myriad of others, that can be difficult to write. It takes will power and courage to be able to think of the scene blow-by-blow so your reader will cherish it.

As a disclaimer, I do not condone sexual or physical abuse in any form, no matter your position in life. That said, most social issues that I have seen in writing comes in the form of sexual or physical abuse. It's harrowing to think about, let alone put on paper for the general public to read, but you're not only telling a story. You're spreading a message. How often do you, the writer, learn something from the characters? Granted, they are your creations, but you may not have thought of a solution had it not been filtered through the actions of your character.

Abuse is never just a simple travesty. It has long standing effects on the world. War and poverty, hunger and famine, abuse and murder. All have their atrocious reasons for being committed, but it is through your writing that we can begin to understand it. If your character has just barged into a bedroom to prevent an innocent child from being raped, you've done well. You've decided that your character has heart and he does not revel in pain. You've created something that readers can look up to, and then say, "Would I do the same thing?"

The same circumstance applies for all the listed social issues above. Would any of us do the same thing? If you can learn through the actions of your characters, why not? It began with you as a dormant feeling, untapped and unexplored, but now that you've been able to force it out onto paper, the effect of it all takes on a new meaning.

As difficult as the task might be to write about social issues, you're not only using them to move the story and build character relations. Use them to send a message. Take the time to invest all you have creatively into that one scene so it becomes something worth reading. If you just glance over it and get it done with, you're just writing another part of the story. Good moments of saving someone from evil takes time. It takes heart and soul. It takes cunning.

Difficult yes, but never impossible. To write it properly and with strength would be to teach someone how to avoid it. It may sound far-fetched, but words have great power to inspire and change the heart of someone. Will you be one of those writers?

Question to the Cohorts: Have you experimented in writing social complications? How did you get through the challenge and did you feel accomplished in the end?

Peace and Writing Love!



  1. I would think I already was one of those writers. Its very difficult to put abuse down on paper, even when you have experienced this, which means its not just showing someone what can be done about it, but what a person is capable of over coming. This is a good solid post. Thank you for putting it out there. I've had a lot of rejections because I write about abuse...

  2. @Summer Ross: You are very welcome, Summer. Please spread the word about the series and this post. I would love to have more comments like yours.

  3. I think that it has to be handled correctly. You can't write it where every detail is expounded upon. When you're dealing with abuse, you still have to entertain the reader. You don't want to destroy them. Books are a form of escapism afterall.

    I write about social issues, poverty and crime primarily, as a backdrop to my plot. I use my main character to add the spin necessary so readers don't get utterly depressed. Since I filter everything through her perspective, she adds a snarky, sarcastic bent. It makes the tough issues easier to grok.

    Hope that makes sense. :)

  4. I think the perceptions/feelings of the characters, and showing the aftermath of abuse or other social issues can be extremely powerful. And if you focus on how it affects the "humanity" of the character (if that makes sense) vs the act itself it might negate turning readers off. Especially if you're trying to bring awareness to something, you don't want the reader lost to the brutality of the story if the message is hope, resilience, sanctity of human rights, etc.

    The only example I can think of is "Shake Hands with the Devil," which is non-fiction and is a gruesome account of the genocide in Rwanda but right now I can't remember an isolated act of violence from it. But I do remember the social message and injustice, and the overarching agenda he was trying to bring awareness to.

  5. Great question: one of my WIPs visits sexual and physical abuse, and I used flashbacks of the male protag's past to (hopefully) explain the evolution of his humanity. Perhaps, considering all he's been through, one could forgive him for being an utter butthole.

    I also agree with Erica: there's a fine balance to strike between shocking the reader and relaying a social message.

  6. This was thoughtful and amazingly helpful. Thanks for all of the hard work you put into your posts. I learn a lot.

    By the way, there is an award for you on my blog today. Great job!

    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  7. I followed you here from Raquel's. Awesome blog here! So glad I discovered it. Will return for more :)



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I believe this as a philosophy, from a man who saw war and setback, and conquered all to bring us the greatest fantasy series that has ever been published. Leave your little comment and I'll get back to you.