Can writing fiction change reality?

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Anger hurts. Anger reacts and retaliates. Anger consumes like fire among tinder.

Anger rages in so many parts of our world. Wars and political uprisings, invasions, murder and brutality spill from one country to another and onto our own city streets. An ostrich approach is tempting except we know anger won’t disappear just because we shield our eyes from it. In fact, if we’re not paying attention it can overtake us like a wildfire.

There is an ad for Amnesty International on television right now, showing three hooligans beating a young man. As they raise rifles to shoot him, they discover the eyes of the camera recording the incident and, conscious of being seen, lower their weapons and walk away. The caption suggests public awareness makes a difference. But does it make enough of a difference?

Awareness is a first step, but awareness that doesn’t result in action is ineffective. Without action there won’t be change.  And that completes the circle, because without change there is more frustration, more anger.

Like smoldering peat, creeping subsurface after a fire, the underlying causes of anger are hard to extinguish.

Helplessness is infuriating. Sometimes I wish for the days of ignorance, where television and newspapers didn’t invade my life with images and information reflecting hate. Did all the publicity perpetuate it, or has it always existed but without such widespread recognition?

Works of non-fiction document the truth that surrounds us. Fiction creates worlds where truth becomes whatever we want it to be. Sometimes I am asked why I choose to write fiction, and the only answer I can verbalize is that I want to create a happily ever after. I wish it for everyone but can only make it happen for my characters. That’s better than nothing.

What motivates the kind of stories you choose to write?

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14 thoughts on “Can writing fiction change reality?

  1. Wow, I don’t have a huge motivator like changing the world. I just want to tell a good story and bring people a little happiness.

    • I don’t think I’m aiming for ‘the whole world’, but it’s nice to create a happily-ever-after that at least some part of it can experience. Bringing happiness to people is a good thing, right?

  2. Reality is too often harsh. Fiction may be so, as written, but when I write it, the object of my story will be to uplift the reader and bring hope into focus. Blessings to you, Carol…

  3. joylene says:

    Good question, Carol. I suppose I want to change the narrow minded view some people have of the world. I want to move readers. Entertain them. I’m not totally convinced those are the only reasons I write. I think it’s part and parcel of who I am, so I don’t really have a choice. But changing someone’s mind is a primary reason. It’s another reason I’m promoting Blackstone is because I want people to understand that natives are just people like everyone else, good and bad.

    • Even when we write because we have to, “making a difference” is what you often hear mentioned as a drive behind the writing, whether it’s for entertainment or education reasons. Changing minds fits in with that, too.

      BTW, I didn’t get to see the entire Blackstone show this week but am planning to watch it again next week. But I have to say, I’ve never understood why, in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country such as we have, anyone would think natives aren’t the same as everyone else. It’s always bothered me that there is such an ‘us’ and ‘them’ division, but I don’t think it’s an entirely one-sided problem.

  4. Laura Best says:

    If I can make people look at the world in a slightly different way then I’m happy. If many of us would choose to look at the world with open minds and different viewpoints, realizing that there are many ways to answer one question, I think we would be more tolerant of one another, more loving, more accepting. I like to keep an open mind and know that my opinion is just my opinion and certainly nothing worth fighting over. Thank goodness for these difference I say!

    I think the things you mention have always existed but we are being made aware of them even more. I often choose not to watch the news. Bad things are happening in the world but I don’t need to see these images in order to make a positive difference in the world.

  5. dave ebright says:

    “What motivates the kind of stories you choose to write?”

    I just write the kind of stuff that I would have liked to have read as a kid. Can’t say there’s a motivation but I do make it a point to include particular character qualities such as courage, honesty, loyalty – blah blah blah. One criticism of BL, if you want to call it that, from one of the FWA reviewers was that my dialogue was realistic, but rather tame for these days (because I don’t include certain language). Well, maybe we need a little more “tame” in books for kids. In any case, I have no plans to change my approach.

    As for the world today – the attitudes, hatefulness, oppression, cruelty, etc have always been part of society but, as you noted, instant information via electronic media bombards us with the reports & pictures of events/atrocities & evil worldwide – sometimes as it happens. As we’re inundated with these reports, we tend, I think, to be less “shocked” by what we see & hear. I remember my grandparents, & later my parents, saying that my generation would inherit a difficult world in which to survive. I probably rolled my eyes. Now I find myself saying the same when it comes to my kids & grandkids, & wonder what’s going to be left for them.

    • That reviewer was wrong. What parents want for their kids isn’t reading material filled with worldliness, but the kind that models worthwhile values. I’m glad you don’t plan to change your approach.

  6. Jenn Hubbard says:

    “… conscious of being seen, lower their weapons and walk away. The caption suggests public awareness makes a difference. But does it make enough of a difference?”

    That was, in fact, the theme of the movie WITNESS, in which a community committed to nonviolence (the Amish) was set upon by men with guns. The critical question: is there anything to do against an armed person, other than taking up arms oneself?

    What I want my own fiction to do is to sound a bell of recognition, communion, and empathy. To make them say something like:
    “I know exactly how that feels.” “I’m not alone.” “Oh, I know that situation, but I never looked at it that way before!” “That hasn’t happened to me, but I can imagine it happening to me.” “Wow, if I were in that situation, I would make this choice instead of that one, because otherwise I see now what can go wrong.” “We’re all human.”

  7. ezzylanguzzi says:

    Racial intolerance has been a sensitive issue for me since I was a little girl growing up in Southern California. And although I never completely “understood” it, I learned to live with it, resigning myself to the fact that conflict based on differences, whether they be racial, religious, or political, would always be a part of life in this world, and that intolerance, like tolerance, is learned in the home.

    You asked about what “motivates” what we write … I took a step back from my two WIPs last year and found a common thread. Education.

    Thought-provoking post, Carol. ; )

    • Thanks for joining in the conversation. It’s unfortunate we think we have to “learn to live with it”, isn’t it? I want to believe we’re braver than that. If only we could see differences as enriching instead of separating.

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