It’s no secret: one of the reasons I write fiction is because I want to inspire readers the same way I have been inspired all of my life! I want readers to dream, to think, to wonder, to be in awe, all because of something I wrote. It’s an amazing feeling when I succeed and hear from readers!
However, today I read a blog by Niina Paasikallio that helped me remember that, sometimes, inspiration can go far beyond just dreams of fantasy. Books have inspired social change, some so sweeping that entire countries have vanished, or been created, because of what someone wrote.
Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? When you start to think about it, about the implications, the what-ifs…what if my novel becomes so popular that people start to model their lives after one or more of my characters? It can be frightening to think like that.
On the other hand, what if that’s what you want to do? What if you want people to see how things happen in your novel, how characters act or treat others, and consider the good in those examples?
I agree with Niina, and many other writers – words have power. And we as writers do have a responsibility to create good examples. I know I’ve written about this in the past, and every time I write about a character doing something horrible, I wonder how others will view it, and what it will inspire…
However, something else came to mind while reading Niina’s blog – how do you write to inspire change?
Show, Don’t Tell
It’s something you’ll hear again and again in writer’s critique workshops and creative writing classes: show, don’t tell. Don’t tell us your character is brave, show us by having them do something brave, right?
The same goes for inspiring others. As Niina mentioned in her blog (I’m referring back to her article often today!) being preachy in your novels will probably not go over well. Nor will “throwing it in a reader’s face” as I’ve heard others call it.
So what does that mean, exactly? It means show the reader the world you want by writing your story in just such a world, or have your story be about a world becoming the kind of place you want ours to be. Do you want people to treat each other a certain way? Show that in your stories, and make sure the context shows that it is good.
I think it is all much more complex than simply ‘showing,’ because as a reader, I want complex worlds with diverse people, and diversity often includes people we don’t like, or situations in life we don’t like. But even these can be opportunities to both write a story and show how those are bad, and more importantly, how the bad can be overcome.
But I will give one warning about all of this: not everyone will agree with your point of view. No matter how subtle you are, no matter how many you inspire whether consciously or unconsciously, there will be those who flat our reject what you write, and they might not be nice about it. In fact you can bet someone somewhere won’t be.
Push through it. Write what you desire anyway. If it was worth writing in the first place, then don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
Your story is worth telling.