November 30th, 2016

Fireworks Delight
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Writing Excuses 11.48: Elemental Issue Q&A, with DongWon Song

Writing Excuses 11.48: Elemental Issue Q&A, with DongWon Song


Q&A Summary
Q: Can only certain people tackle certain issues in their stories?
A: Yes. Imagination and empathy let you project yourself into someone's experience, imagine it, and render it. The farther away, the harder. No. Maybe you can, but should you? Consider the cost.
Q: Science fiction seems to excel in making issue stories engaging by changing the context a little bit. Why does this seem to work better?
A: Science fiction and fantasy, puppetry, anything that lets you look at the issue from one step outside the real world, from an angle, let's the audience look at things in a different way, see connections, and draw their own conclusions. Science fiction and fantasy lets you make a metaphor to attack an issue from a different direction. Without instant triggers, your audience can hear the whole discussion.
Q: Do you have any tools for handling these issues in the context of short fiction?
A: The same tools. Represent multiple points of view, let the character be wrong sometimes. Attach it to a different main driver. Don't answer the questions, let the reader think about them.
Q: How do you make sure you research the issue enough, while not paralyzing yourself with high expectations to do it justice?
A: Break your research into two parts. In part one, learn what you can to tell an honest story. In part two, get readers who know the issue to let you know what you need to fix.
Q: How do you avoid accidentally including an issue that you didn't notice in your writing?
A: You probably will accidentally include issues in your writing. Good alpha and beta readers, and learn to say I was wrong. Recognize that your first reaction is based on the culture you grew up in, while your second reaction is who you want to be. Consider hiring a sensitivity reader.
Q: How do I write a perspective I don't agree with convincingly, without convincing my readers that I'm not on the side of the argument?
A: Empathy and imagination let you embody that position in a person. That's not you, that's the character. Make sure there are people in the text calling them on it, and examples in the text of the problems with it. Hang a lantern on it.
Q: How do you write about an issue deeply personal to you without turning it into a look-at-me sob story? But still retaining accuracy and emotion behind the issue?
A: Show the positive aspects too. Gallows humor can help. Also, metaphor, to transform the situation.
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[Brandon] I think we are going to go ahead and call it there. Dan, you have some homework for us.
[Dan] Yes. So. We've been talking about issue for a month. Next month, we are going to talk about ensemble. So your homework this week is to kind of bridge those. You're going to take an issue and create an ensemble out of it. Take an issue that you haven't dealt with yet in any of the previous homework that we've given you. Gun rights. Or price gouging in pharmacology. Something that you haven't talked about yet. Then examine as many sides of that as you can. Create a cast of characters who each espouse a different viewpoint on that issue. So that you have a large ensemble cast. Next month, we'll talk about ensembles.
[Brandon] All right. Thank you, DongWon.
[DongWon] Thank you for having me.
[Brandon] Thank you, Writing Excuses cruise members.
[Applause. Whoo!]
[Brandon] This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses. Now go write.