Changing the World Through Fiction: Introducing altruism into your writing without using soapbox rhetoric (or putting your reader to sleep.)
As a fiction writer, I create an engaging and entertaining story; as an animal rescue advocate, I raise awareness of our companion animals and the ways we can help them. By introducing characters and situations involved with animal welfare into my cozy cat mysteries, my readers come away with something more than a pleasant read.
Whether it’s LGBT rights, saving the whales, or the beauty of the state of Alaska, if you are passionate about it, you will – and should – show it in your writing. A cause can give your character a more profound persona. Belief is inherent in all of us, and unless you plumb the depths of your characters’ convictions, they may come off as more two-dimensional than you would like.
The hero of my Crazy Cat Lady series, Lynley Cannon, is, like me, a grateful cat shelter volunteer. Through her, I can enlighten, promote, and advise without getting up on a soap box to do it. That’s the trick. Inserting a long commentary about the immorality of declawing or the evil of animal abuse would make my audience disappear faster than a feral cat. A one-sentence thought or insight through the eyes of Lynley is all that is needed to get the point across.
My readers are cat people and often tell me how much they appreciate the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter. These are stand-alone notes or tips on cat behavior, health, and lore that impart something useful and interesting. In the same vein, a cooking mystery might be prefaced by favorite or nostalgic recipes, and a novel taking place in the wilds of the Yukon might use Robert Service’s poetry as epigraphs . Not all subjects lend themselves to this type of chapter prefacing, but for those that work, it’s a place to reach out to readers about a specific issue.
I like reading fiction books that get me thinking and help me learn something I didn’t know, but I don’t want it to seem like a lecture. Just the mention that your character is a communist, a hospice volunteer, a blood donor; that she marches in the Pride Parade or joins the beach clean-up every year; that he gives anonymously to the March of Dimes or hosts a fundraiser for his favorite independent candidate is enough to give new insight into a personality.
What do you love? What do you feel strongly about? What do you think would make the world a better place? Don’t be afraid to let a little of your own passion slip over into your fictional world. You may find it brings in a whole new group of readers, ones with similar sympathies to yours.
"Writing is a bit like lying - the closer you stick to the truth, the less likely you are to slip up."
Check out more blogs by Mollie Hunt at: