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Writing

How to Write Political Fiction

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Feb 11, 2020 • 3 min read

Political fiction is a powerful way to express political views or provide commentary on society. Good fiction writers can be inspirational with their political writing, possibly effecting change, bringing attention to a cause, or putting out a call to action.

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What Is Political Fiction?

Political fiction is literature that uses its narrative to provide commentary on political systems and theories. Political fiction can be based on past or current political events and set in a theorized future or alternate reality. Political intrigue stories can be metaphorical, satirical, or allegorical, and they usually carry an underlying message.

5 Examples of Political Fiction

Political fiction can offer a timeless commentary on society. Common themes in political fiction include civil war, government use of technology, and forms of oppression. Some of the best novels and most notable works of fiction of the twentieth century take place against a political backdrop. These include:

  1. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932). This novel highlights the dangers of what can happen to society when a government takes control of powerful technologies.
  2. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953). Set in a world plagued by both censorship and information overload, this story shows what can happen when a totalitarian government controls what people can know and learn.
  3. George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945). An allegorical look at Soviet communism and government power represented through personified farm animals who develop and change over time in order to survive the brewing harsh political atmosphere.
  4. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985). This story centers around the downfall of civilization and negation of the rights of women when a government usurps all control over the reproductive lives of its female civilians. Learn creative writing from Margaret Atwood here.
  5. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1954). When a group of young boys are stranded on an island, they try to form a healthy system of governance but devolve into their most primal and animalistic selves, free from the rules and laws that would normally be imposed upon them.
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5 Tips for Writing Political Fiction

Political fiction comes in many styles, but there are a few tips that can improve the skills of those who want to write political intrigue into their stories:

  1. Read more political fiction. Brush up on published political bestsellers. Pay attention to how political issues are woven into the storyline and subplots. Note how the main characters develop against the high stakes involved, how they react to their circumstances, and how their POVs change over time. Use these insights to inform how your own characters grow and develop.
  2. Build your world. Worldbuilding can help you figure out the structure of your political systems (or lack thereof). How do the inhabitants of your society live? You don’t need to include all of this information in your actual text, but it helps to be cognizant of all the little intricacies and pay-offs that will contribute to how your story unfolds.
  3. Figure out how politics influence your narrative. A humorous fantasy satire may only use bits of fictional political lore to enhance its comedy. A dark, dystopian science fiction novel may need to delve more into the political games of the government in order for the storyline to have the most impact. Figure out the relationship between your political landscape and your narrative. This can save you from having to explain things that won’t be necessary information later on.
  4. Go beyond politics. While you may have an important message for your readers regarding corruption and injustice, political fiction is about more than the actual politics themselves. Often, the narrative is about how people survive or succeed amidst the backdrop of a harrowing political climate. Bogging down your prose with technical terms or the minutiae of politics can lose your readers quickly, but weaving in elements that make your story about more than the world’s surface issues can infuse it with heart and create a connection with readers. Dig deep into the character arcs and emotional conflicts faced by those who live in this setting to paint a three-dimensional picture of your world.
  5. Fictionalize the news. Writing about real-life issues can be too literal and eliminate the feeling of escapism for the reader. Make the events and characters in your book or short story as different as you can from the news. This can both help you to create a work of fiction that is original, while also keeping your novel timeless.

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