How to Weave Controversial Issues into your Fiction's Storylines

Life is full of controversy and today's multi-genre fiction readers are clamoring for stories that take a human-centric approach. Readers crave relatability and connection. One way to ensure that your storyline connects is to weave in issues such as social injustice or economic challenges into your story.

Here are seven tips to achieving this objective.

1.         Research current issues or trends

With the Internet's help, one can find the top nine social issues in America in less than 30-seconds. This wealth of information can provide you a list of topics that might be suitable for your storyline. The trick is to select one issue that resonates with the overall theme of your story. The point that you choose must add value to your plot. Remember that the topic selected is not there for fluff. Its purpose is to bring depth to your story and to add, as mentioned previously, relatability and a connection to real-life.


2.         Don't confine yourself to the opinions of others

Research is critical when adding controversial flair into the threads of your stories. There is a word of caution that must be addressed—that is, confining yourself to others' opinions, or better yet, your own opinion about a matter. While your character can champion social injustice, how much better would it be for another character to challenge that fight by presenting another perceptive on the subject? Remember, your readers could exist on either side of the fence and your objective is to make a connection with both.


3.         Give readers the full picture

This is where you allow the emotions of your character to shine. This doesn't mean that you use your character's emotions to beat the reader up for disagreeing. Instead, it means that you show why and how; why your character feels a certain way and how they got to that point. Perhaps your character's way of thinking was groomed by society or maybe it was part of upbringing or culture. If possible, do the same for the opposing character.


4.         Be authentic

Walk into any bookstore and you will find an array of stories that deal with race, abuse and other controversial issues. The key is to be authentic and avoid clichés. You want your storyline to reflect your writing style. Give readers a new and fresh approach to the subject. After all, you're writing fiction and fiction is all about the imagination.


5.         The bow doesn't have to be tied neatly

When weaving controversial issues into your storyline remember that it will have real-life elements, and in real life people don't always see eye-to-eye at the end of a matter. Sometimes they agree to disagree. The same must go for your characters. While it's good to show how a character has come full-circle that doesn't mean that the journey results in a change in thinking; rather, it could mean that their thinking now respects others' journey and rights.


6.         Use humor

Humor is a way to weave a controversial issue into your storyline. This approach can work well for a character who never seems to take life seriously (we all know someone like that). Perhaps dealing with the controversial issue is a way to help the character in question finally take a stand for a cause or a mission.


7.         Find Inspiration

Of course you've read books based true stories so you know that real-life experiences allow controversial issues to be woven into them. For example, the story of a woman becoming the first African American Principal Ballet Dancer could spark a book about a young girl who struggles to become a Black ballet dancer in a small town that only gives such a prestigious position to people with white skin.

The story of a young boy with autism who wins a gold medal in a significant competitive sport could spark a book about a young boy with the same condition who fights to join the track team at what others view as a school for 'normal' children.


Don't be afraid to go back in history. Some of the best historical fiction was crafted from real events and dealt with slavery, discrimination against women and other current issues of the time. Weaving these real-life issues into your story is a way to add drama, spark, and human-centric elements that allow your readers to connect to your story long after the last page is read.

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