Writing About Touchy Subjects: Politics

i voted sticker spool on white surface

In the last couple posts, I briefly talked about how to write about nudity and religion. In this final post in the trilogy, I shall talk about what is perhaps the most explosive topic of all in this day and age: politics. Now, I’ve covered a lot of this same ground in the last two posts and in my Reading Between the Lines post way back, so be sure to look those over first. However, there are a couple final points I’d like to make on this particular topic as well.

Now, like with any topic, you have to keep in mind your audience and what genre you are writing in. This will determine not only whether you broach the subject, but how you go about it. Writing on political subjects for young adults is something that must be approached delicately, for instance: for younger children, it might be best to avoid it altogether–unless it’s a simple nonpartisan look at a political system, of course.

When it comes to taking a definite stance, though, there are two things you need to keep in mind: research any statements you make very thoroughly and be prepared for backlash. This is true of any nonfiction you write to some extent, but especially of the nonfiction you write of a political nature. Research is important not only to back up your position, but because in the case of more inflammatory statements, there could potentially be legal consequences for getting your facts wrong. And of course, the more well researched your book or other work is, the better prepared you will be to take on critics when they come after you.

One way many writers get around this, of course, is to write about political issues in the form of fiction instead–particularly in the genres of allegory or satire. Doing this will not totally absolve you of responsibility for any outrageous claims made, nor will critics leave you alone entirely, but it is a strong shield against legal measures so long as you take proper precautions (using false names of people and places, issuing a disclaimer on your copyright page, etc.). It can also be a more fun or even light-hearted way to tackle serious issues, depending on how you utilize it. Satire, after all, has many shades, some of which can be quite hilarious even to people who may not agree with the point you’re making.

Because of these factors, fiction can actually reach a wider audience than non when it comes to address socio-political issues. Not only would a dystopian novel likely attract more readers than a dry essay about a particular issue, but it can also present the issue in a more subtle way that makes the message more palatable to audiences on the whole. Would an essay about the evils of book burning have been nearly as popular as a book about a dystopian society in which firemen started fires rather than put them out? Maybe, but most likely not.

That’s all I really have to say on this topic, though it’s nowhere near exhaustive. I have not had a lot of experience with this kind of writing myself, but I have read many examples of it over the years, and these are the things I have noticed. If you have any additional ideas on how to write about politics–or any other touchy subject, for that matter–I would be glad to receive your comments or e-mails anytime. Otherwise, I hope this series has been at least somewhat helpful, and I shall return in November!

Published by J. S. Allen

J. S. Allen is a writer, linguist, historian, and nature-lover from Kansas City, Missouri. He is the author of the young adult series Sauragia and Knights of Aralia, as well as the 'Woodland Tales' anthology for children. Several of his shorter works have also appeared in various print and online periodicals over the years. In between writing and publishing, he likes to draw, spend long hours outdoors, and read. His favorite authors include M. I. McAllister, Brian Jacques, and Alexandre Dumas.

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