Lessons from a Reader: Keep Your Opinions Out Of It

I’ve been reading a lot lately. I’m currently on book number 18 of 2012. With all that reading there are some things I like and some things I can’t stand.

One thing I’ve always wished I was better at was taking lessons from what I read and applying that to what I write. Being a writer you’d think that would be obvious, but it never is. I’m the kind of reader that wants to know what’s going to happen next, so I usually fly through the text and don’t slow down enough to learn some lessons as a writer.

So I’m going to start posting these notes to myself, these lessons from a reader so maybe I can start saving some of this insight.

Keep Your Opinions Out Of It
When you’re writing fiction, I don’t care about your politics. In Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer the character’s mother (Who also happens to be a writer—oh my gosh, stop making your characters writers, it comes across as lazy! Research another career.) goes off on Fox News and the president encamped at a Texas ranch. Gee, which president could that be?

Obviously the author is not a fan of George W. Bush. But who cares? It doesn’t help the story. You just turned your character into a stereotype and needlessly annoyed half your audience. And for what? Nothing.

There are times when political opinions are necessary in fiction, but make them necessary. They should make the character three dimensional, adding intrigue and depth, not cardboard flatness.

2 thoughts on “Lessons from a Reader: Keep Your Opinions Out Of It”

  1. I don’t see how your example supports your lesson. It seems to me that this author really poorly shoe-horned some political views into a book in a way that disrupted your experience. That doesn’t mean that an author should (or even can!) keep their politics out of their fiction writing. This is especially so if we don’t understand politics in the narrow “who I voted for” sense but in the broader (and more common) “way of understanding the world” sense.

  2. Fine, then don’t shoe horn your opinions in there. ;-) I get that politics is going to seep in no matter what you do, I’m just saying you can’t allow it to disrupt the experience, as you put it (which is a good way to put it).

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