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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Talking Politics - - - in your writing that is

   
Author Topic: Talking Politics - - - in your writing that is
enigmaticuser
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So, my WIP involves an empress who has to deal with politicans (big surprise). And while the intrigue side of things isn't proving too challenging, certain aspects require (or seem to) covering actual C-SPAN type stuff.

And while I am having fun fantasizing about a political system that allows politicians to be replaced in literally days, I'm having difficulty not boring myself with the actual proceedings. Consequently, I'm not wanting to visit that very much.

Anyone have tips for dealing with this sort of thing? My aim, is to show two sides to the proceedings, the vaunted justification (the idealist intent) juxtoposed with the self serving political intent. For example, their dealing with deep space traffic management. On the one hand, travel can be dangerous and it is the government's responsibility (in my world at least) to maintain the space highways as it were, but the Empress is torn between preserving safety and at the same time realizing that this is yet another incursion both into her citizens pocket books and also encroaching on their freedom (the proposed bill is about safety, but in effect it means if you don't have XXX dollars you cannot afford to compete in the interstellar market).

So I'm trying to show the politician as well as they might trying to appear to make the idealist case (since the Empress has no advantage in it passing she has to be persuaded it is actually good), so by and by make the reader question the politicians' intent...

and all while making it entertaining enough that the reader doesn't close the book.

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BenM
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Having some external conflict might keep things moving while the characters wrestle with their internal conflicts.

I'm (slowly) reading Game of Thrones, and it's amusing how otherwise minor affairs of state get interesting when there's a character at the periphery holding a knife.

It's also notable that politics irrelevant to the plot tend to occur between scenes: If their effect is important, then the effect informs the beginning of the next scene, and I'm spared a lengthy and boring council meeting.

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extrinsic
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Sounds to me like the empress is besieged by lobbyists who have a surface want and, more importantly from a dramatic perspective, a hidden-agenda want. Playing up the hidden agenda for the empress to discover could carry the drama. The lobbyists give her a yes or no decision. She wisely negotiates a third outcome, for example.

Since it's courtly intrigues, also consider using courtly irony, which is damning with faint praise and praising with faint condemnation. No one at a royal court ever says what they mean or means what they say. Situational subtext in trumps. Subtext is the meat on the bones of dramatic plot.

Your lipstick is a pretty shade of purple. Isn't that the lastest mortuary fashion?

The wool gowns your ladies in waiting wear could warm half the kingdom if they weren't so petite and inviting.


[ March 20, 2012, 12:28 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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LDWriter2
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David Weber is great at this time of thing. Doesn't matter if it's out in space with star-warships hovering over head or a planet bound government with man-o-wars floating in a harbor just outside the window.

I think both Ben and extrinsic have good ideas. So is the Empress easily swayed by a certain type of flattery? Or is that just a rumor she started as way to check on what type of people those who want something from her are?

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MartinV
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I plan to use political unrest in my current WIP though I won't get into too many details. You can make politics simple (hereditary difficulties) or complex; you would have to read some well written thrillers. A few days ago I recommended Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress for a different reason, but that book works perfectly for what you can do with politics in a story. Just remember Heinlein was an expert so don't be dismayed by his eloquency.
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Natej11
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One thing you can do to spice up politics is inject a bit of cleverness and intrigue into the actions of the various members. Show them maneuvering, even in official settings.

Some of the best ways to do this are veiled insults and background feuds that color the political climate. Let every encounter between politicians be verbal sparring and subtle plots to increase wealth and power.

I've found that some of the most entertaining stories involve (pardon this) sex, violence, and intrigue. The unholy trio of titillation. Politics definitely falls into the third category, and if well done can turn a good story great.

Another way of making politics interesting is putting a bit of barbarity in an otherwise civilized proceeding. Think of the Roman senate that often devolved into shouting matches. In some ways like today's Senate [Smile] .

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Robert Nowall
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To misquote a well-worn phrase: politics is like sausage-making---most people don't want to see it done.

My political opinions don't seem to be reflected in my writing much, unless I turn out some non-fiction or commentary...mostly it's a matter of writing-from-a-point-of-view, my beliefs and observations being reflected in the story, but no fiction I've turned out (yet) has been overtly political...

About all I can come up with is that you should write about characters engaging in politics---the empress is a person and the politicians she's's talking to are also people.

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enigmaticuser
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Now that I think about it, I guess I've been seeing the politics as being sort of like setting. The main plot has more to do with an unseen contest between a secret organization and the Empress (who doesn't know about the contest--she wasn't supposed to be the sovereign, she the next in line when her brother was assasinated). It seemed logical since the politicians only have advising/proposing roles, final authority rests with the imperial.

But from the discussions above, I'm thinking that what is making it boring is that's its not personal. The Empress hasn't had any real interaction with the strict politicians (as opposed to her closest circle which are primarily military/executive personnel).

But it would definitely spice it up if there were actual characters personnally/directly reaching out to her. While at the same time offering a nice distracting subplot (something has to be engaging her attention until the real conflict is known to her). Also it would help further develop certain emotional problems that crop up in the sequel.

Good stuff!

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