Several recent posts and comments here on Writer Unboxed have referenced my workshop “Unboxed Writing” at this year’s Un-Conference in Salem, including this post by Julia Munroe Martin. On Monday, Jael McHenry also sparked a lively discussion about politics and authors expressing themselves on social media versus through their fiction.
For those who were not able to attend my workshop, a key point was determining the change you want your fiction to provoke. Lisa Cron’s opening workshop asked the question, “What is the point of your novel?” My closing workshop question was, “What is the purpose of your writing?” I asked, “How do you want your novel to change the world?”
Fiction changes the world. It has before. It will again. Do not doubt it. There are too many examples that have worked in too many ways for this point to be in dispute. Even pulp novels have caused us to define our times in fresh terms. From outrage to compassion to surrender to war, novels have moved us, incited us, and transformed us.
Our experience of immigrants, refugees and other cultures has opened our eyes in The Jungle, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Kite Runner. We see race in America differently thanks to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Invisible Man, To Kill a Mockingbird, Beloved, The Help. War became less glorious because of The Red Badge of Courage, All Quiet on the Western Front, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Catch 22. We see those who are ailing and dying as newly alive though Flowers for Algernon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, The Fault in Our Stars. Oppression, submission and the tyranny of utopia are brought home to us in Brave New World, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Hunger Games. Modern alienation and power of connection come through strongly in The Catcher in the Rye, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Road, A Man Called Ove. Heroism was redefined in Tarzan of the Apes, Riders of the Purple Sage, The Maltese Falcon. We have been uplifted and inspired to live better, more loving and spiritual lives through The Little Prince, Steppenwolf, The Alchemist, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
That’s just for starters. How do you want your novel to change the world? If you do not believe your fiction has that power, think again. However, I’m not here today to convince you that your novel will change the world. I already know that it can. I’m here to suggest how to put your purpose to work on the page. Let’s look at the actual methods of making the world better. (more…)
When I first started running more than 20 years ago, I was slow and couldn’t last for more than 5 or 10 minutes without taking walk breaks. I more or less kept at the same pattern (and same trail) day after day, not expecting much of myself. I didn’t feel like a runner, but I […]
Please welcome back Warren Adler, the acclaimed author of The War of the Roses, a masterpiece of macabre divorce adapted into the BAFTA and Golden Globe-nominated hit film starring Danny DeVito, Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. Adler has also optioned and sold film rights for a number of his works, including Random Hearts and Private Lies. […]
Friends, I have a question for you: If I told you that I wasn’t a practicing writer anymore, would you kick me out of this community? If I told you that my entire creative axis has shifted from verbal to visual, would you assume that I no longer had anything relevant to say to writers? […]
I have written a lot about the value of collaborators in your creative work. How there is a difference between creating art for the sake of your own personal experience, and in wanting to share it with the world. In working with hundreds and hundreds of writers, I often hear things like: “An agent said […]
Big thanks to Debbie Ohi for permission to use this comic. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 15+
I’ve often thought the most satisfying job in the world would have been Charles Kuralt’s On the Road. Head out, find an ordinary person in some ordinary place, get that story. Even as a young reporter, when all my friends were scrambling for places in hard news and political exposes, I leaned toward the interview. […]
Some light years ago, I was living with my best friend in a small apartment in Southern California, on my own for the first time. It was our first New Year’s Eve together as that eager, barely tolerable species: raffish apartment-dweller-type dudes, barely out of high school. We were going to celebrate that self-congratulatory state […]
There’s a one-mile circular route in my neighborhood that I’ve been walking for twenty-four years. I began by waddling its length when we moved into our home in my late third trimester and it was all I could manage in terms of exercise. After open-heart surgery for a faulty valve, I did the loop with […]
Can writers in the dominant culture be confident that they are speaking authentically, meaningfully, and vitally about this real America? In September at Bouchercon, Sisters in Crime held a workshop addressing the challenge of diversity. Panelists Frankie Y. Bailey, Cindy Brown, Greg Herren, and Linda Rodriguez join us at Writer Unboxed today to share some of the highlights and major takeaways, […]