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Saturday, August 02, 2014

THE ABC'S OF HOW 'NOT' to WRITE SPECULATIVE FICTION: S is for SOAPBOX

A SOAPBOX STORY IS A PAPER BULLY LOOKING FOR A FIGHT. The writer writes because she needs to vent. Soapbox writers want to enforce change, so they use their stories for voicing their beliefs, biases, or expectations. The primary focus of any good writer should be to tell his audience a compelling story. If a theme subtly wends its way through the prose, that’s fine, but character and plot need to be foremost.

We've seen the following soapbox plot lines (or something similar) at On Spec:
  1. A prostitute argues Christian ethics and ‘hypocrisy’ with her John, who is a pastor.
  2. Trees surround a camper and accuse him of his lack of environmental sensitivity. They end up killing him in order to stop forest fires.
  3. A butcher dreams of being served up on a platter in a restaurant to hungry cows. He awakens to find he isn't dreaming.
  4. After a mother loses her son in a terrorist attack, she quotes religious scripture for comfort.
  5. A trio of friends narrowly escape a ‘good old boy’ cult, where the crazy leader justifies his attempts at kidnapping with ‘end of the world’ religious rhetoric.
  6. Something ‘nasty’ crawls out of a lake, because cottagers (or big business industrialists) have been dumping sewage into the water for years.
Generally, soapbox stories are preachy. When sharing beliefs, a subtle approach works better.

2 comments:

  1. It's one thing to have an issue serve as the engine for your story, but it's another thing entirely to write story as a vehicle for your issue.

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    Replies
    1. Well said, Warren. You've captured it exactly.

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