Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Intersection of Fiction-Writing and Social Change

Good Guys beat Bad Guys—thrilling, suspenseful, satisfying, right?

I enjoy an exciting story as much as the next person. However, as I read hundreds of bedtime stories/novels to my daughters when they were younger, I wished at least some stories featured just-as-gripping nonviolent tactics to save the day. Or explored the whole concept of “the Bad Guys” in all its complexity. Laudably, books on nonviolent social change abound in the nonfiction section. But on the fiction shelves they are as rare as a four-leaf clover.

At that same time, I was a volunteer state coordinator in the campaign for a U.S. Department of Peace (see http://www.thepeacealliance.org/ ) It was very inspiring work, and I loved it. Still I couldn’t help but notice that while I felt lucky to speak to 20 or 25 people about how to move toward a culture of peace, books and movies were easily drawing in thousands of people.

A light bulb went off—Why not get creative types to write novels and screenplays highlighting not-violent, win/win victories? Let people see, through story, how nonviolence works and how valuable it can be. Interestingly, I discovered many others had that same idea. Probably with the turmoil in the world today, we’re all seeing the need to train the spotlight on alternatives to violence.

There is an intriguing intersection of fiction-writing and social change activism. Of course, the road to publication is long and difficult, but it’s a trip worth taking. And there is a whole writing community to help along the way. Now that’s what I call good luck.


  1. tell us more about this community! where? what stories are out there?
    i felt a sense of what power could come from a different ending to the movie, "avatar." not to be a spoiler for those that haven't seen it, but the way the peaceful tribe "won" in the end doesn't seem at all in line with how i think peace really wins. the peaceful way is to win the hearts, to hold the space so that the "enemy" can come around. THAT would have been a much more powerful ending in my eyes.

  2. Thanks, Mariposa. I agree the way to enduring peace is to win hearts,though I haven't seen Avatar yet.
    As far as the writing community I mentioned above, I was referring to the broad writing community that you meet online, at workshops, conferences and critique groups. Everyone is so supportive and willing to help.
    I am still trying to get a handle on the subgroup in the writing community, of writers that are consciously, though subtly, using story to promote peaceful, just and sustainable communities. There is the group I started on DoPeace.ning.com called Fiction Writers on Themes of Nonviolence (http://dopeace.ning.com/groups/group/show?id=3224759%3AGroup%3A7924&xg_source=msg_mes_group) for aspiring writers. Also perhaps through this blog I can find and connect that subgroup. Any tips or referrals are welcome!