Lately there’s been a bit of a dust-up on Twitter (no big surprise) about whether or not books should have an ulterior motive. More to the point, there are a few complaints out there stating that there’s been an uptick of them, and they bemoan that they’d rather have stories that aren’t all messagey or ‘political’.
Well, recent politics (and politicians) aside, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that kind of thing actually happens with alarming regularity. During wartime, during peacetime, during revolution and during calm, these sorts of stories pop up all the time. Either these people are oversensitive to this kind of story, or the supposed ‘agenda’ is right out front and impossible to ignore or pass over. Sometimes these agendas are there to make you feel uncomfortable.
If anything, I’m sure I have agendas in my novels. The trick to writing them is not to make them overtly obvious or overbearing. Novels with Very Obvious Metaphors or Thinly Veiled Critiques are hard to accept for some readers; it’s better to work with nuance instead. The trilogy’s agenda was all about Doing the Right Thing for Everyone, Not Just Yourself. I even came out and said that numerous times. Meet the Lidwells‘ agenda (if there was one) could be Don’t Be an Asshole to Everyone.
I’m well aware of those who see any kind of inclusion as political. So what if it is, though? The agenda there is simple, then: I’m Here, So Deal With It. I’m talking about novels that contain a minority main character or someone with some kind of disability; I’m talking about stories featuring these characters, doing what characters are supposed to do in the context of the story, nothing more.
Agendas are part and parcel of who people are. They make for good characters, and they make for good stories. And sometimes they’re fun to write, especially when you need to use it for story conflict. In the trilogy, the conflicts between Denni and Saisshalé were always a blast to write, because they pushed the limits. I kept pushing their agendas until it finally got to the point where they both had to stop and say ‘okay, this is getting seriously fucked up, we need to stop this.’ That’s when they both realized that their universe was bigger than just the two of them.
So yes! Don’t be worried that your novel might have a political underpinning to it. Chances are good it’s supposed to be there, and that’s a good thing.