Thursday, February 2, 2017

Fiction and a More Loving World

Fiction is powerful. Magical, even. In 2014, Scientific American wrote an article reporting on a study linking reading—specifically Harry Potter—and the development of empathy in the reader. With all the hate reported in the U.S. in the last couple of years, empathy and love seem to be in desperate need. And authors have the power to encourage a more loving world. So how and in what ways?
  1. Create Characters that Honestly Portray a Marginalized Population. Authors provide the opportunity to crawl inside someone else’s skin. We show the emotions and the uniqueness and not-so-different-ness of people. Readers have the opportunity to connect with someone who is different from themselves, and yet not so different (we’re all just human, after all!), and that can change their perspectives about someone they may have ignored—or worse. 
  2. Don’t Consistently Reinforce Stereotypes. Personally, I’m not against a stereotypical minor character. I believe stereotypes exist because plenty of people fit. But we need to be wary of consistently allowing an entire group to always be villainous. Like police officers being the bad guys, parents being unreasonable, jocks being bullies. We have the opportunity to show authority figures can be relied on and the popular kid is kind and friendly. That’s power to stop fear.
  3. Don’t Include a “Type” Because You Should. This is basically me saying, ignore the first two suggestions if they don’t fit the story. Readers recognize fakes. If it’s not natural or you can’t pull off a certain ethnicity, don’t include that just to make your story diverse. Yes, we need to create a more diverse world in our stories because the world around us is diverse. But it has to be real. Better authentic characters than a token minority.
If used well, fiction can create a more loving world. Through reading, we learn that people, regardless of race, socio-economic status, religion, or whatever difference, share similar emotions, similar fears, similar love. Yes, a story needs a villain, and plenty of bad guys exist in real life too, but fiction can be the starting point for people to react with love and kindness instead fear toward someone who is different.

Sarah Tipton is a writer of Christian Young Adult fiction. Her debut novel, Betrayal of the Band, releases in August 2017.

No comments:

Post a Comment