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Election day has come and gone. I have mixed feelings about the results, but I’m feeling positive for Colorado overall. That’s about as political as I’m going to get here, at least as far as real-world politics go. However, it did get me to thinking about the concept of politics within fictional realms.

Some stories revolve almost entirely around political intrigue. George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is one of the most prominent examples of this today. With plot details inspired by The War of The Roses, among other things, ASOIAF is filled with characters who live for gain of power and wealth. They don’t care if they have to spy, steal, or murder to achieve it, and no one will stand in there way, neither kings nor innocent children.

Writers like Tom Clancy became famous for writing thrillers inspired by real-world political events, focusing on them in a modern setting. Drug wars, assassinations, and bids for the US presidency serve as the core for Clancy’s books. Events could easily be pulled from headlines and adapted to fit a plot, provided that it be done carefully.

How much sway should politics hold over your story? That’s really up to you. Do you want your piece to become an Author Tract, where it’s little more than a way to express your opinions via fictional characters? That’s okay, it can be done well. Do you want your piece to be critical of existing political systems in the real world? Or would you prefer to establish a new system as a thought experiment?

Frankly, I like the idea of trying all of them on for size, along with things that involve a complex world without getting into politics whatsoever. Developing a somewhat functional political system can be a fun part of world building, but be sure that you don’t let it overwhelm the story.

2 Comments

  1. My works have become more politically aware lately, not opinionated but aware of the different sides people can take things. I rarely instill a direct message of any kind in my work, political or otherwise. That sort of writing doesn’t interest me.
    I just find power to be interesting, and from that standpoint I can write about the poor rising up, the powerful making tough choices, and anything in between.

    • Well put. It’s not an easy thing to find balance in, but when you do, it’s well worth it.


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