Friday, August 26, 2011

Writing more than just a story

Sometimes writers have an opportunity to expand their stories beyond that of the characters. The characters and the plot are, of course, what normally drives the interest of the reader. However the background in which the characters play out their parts can be important too.

For example Gulliver’s Travels had interesting characters and conflict in the tale, but was there also something more. Jonathan (Dean) Swift brought in political commentary and added philosophy within the framework of the story.

Robert Sawyer has written many outstanding science fiction stories. His trilogy Humanoids had great characters in it and an interesting conflict between the two human species (Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals). He also was able to include some political observations, religious beliefs (is there a God?) and a statement on environmental changes.

I may not be as far reaching in my stories as Robert Sawyer, but in a few of my stories I have added a background that goes beyond just the characters. In Haven, a science fiction story that takes place in the far future, I have a conflict of two civilizations. Haven is similar to our present world in terms of technology and beliefs. The Alliance Worlds are more advanced scientifically and abide to the Charter of Conduct. The Charter stipulates what is allowed and not allowed- covering every detail of human society. Haven was charged with various offences under the Charter laws; cutting down trees, eating meat, closing businesses on Sundays and polluting the environment (they burned wood as fuel). Haven’s excuse they needed to do those things to survive was not accepted. 

I had some fun imagining what else the Charter of Conduct could do to restrict what people wanted to do and did a spin off series called Praxton. The planet Praxton’s unique society believed women should be submissive to men and as a sign of their obedience wear a collar to show who their male guardian was. The Charter of Conduct and the Alliance worlds decided the women must be set free, whether they wanted to be or not. Besides the question of freedom of lifestyle choice, I had a change to write about women wearing restraints and skimpy clothing.  

Now I am not trying to change the world, but in Praxton I wanted to show a conflict between two sets of beliefs. I also wanted the reader to consider that perhaps both sides were right in what they wanted, or perhaps both were wrong. If the reader just enjoyed the story without thinking about the politics behind it that would be fine too. The Praxton series also gave me another interesting question. In the story people could purchase drugs that would physically change their looks (youth and better muscles). What type of future would we have if a sixty year old looked the same as a twenty year old? I don’t have an answer for that yet but I did have two characters discuss the problem in Book 3.

Anyway, the next time you read a story by your favourite author, check to see if there is an underlying message within it. He or she may be trying to tell you something else besides the obvious, maybe a hidden agenda to change the world.


Nick Howard- please visit my website,

Novels at Melange Books:
Praxton 1, Slaves of the Rogue World
Praxton 2, The Battle for Freedom
Praxton 3, The Proposal


Mila Ramos said...

Great job Nick! So do think this is it for the Praxton world?

JHWriter said...

No, it seems to have taken a life of its own (Praxton actually started as a short story). I'm working on Book 4, where women on Praxton have finally be given the right to vote and run for office. I have also started a kidnapping mystery where the planet Praxton is part of the story.
Thanks for letting me do a blog. You're the best.

Mila Ramos said...

You are so welcome Nick-love!!! :) :)

Jenny Twist said...

I think a lot of the books I enjoy have underlying messages. One of the best authors for doing this was John Wyndham. He considers whether our cultural beliefs hinder survival (Day of the Trffids), how would governments deal with immortality (Trouble with Lichen) could society exist without men (Consider Her Ways).

Mila Ramos said...

Oooh Jenny! I'm going to have to look into these books!!!!!!

Jenny Twist said...

I don't know how you have time to read! I think you must be more than one person! LOL. But seriously, if you haven't read John Wyndham, you must put him on your list. I've got everything he ever wrote and every single story is good.

JHWriter said...

You're right Jenny. There are reasons why some stories beg to be reread and others are published more than once. I read Wyndham long ago and maybe I should check out his works again.

Jenny Twist said...

I must have read all his books a dozen times. My son thinks I'm mad. Why read the same books over and over when there are more books in the world than you can read in a lifetime? But he listens to the same piece of music over and over again and doesn't think that's odd!