#SecondThoughts: Causes or Passions colouring your writing

In my experience, it’s virtually impossible to prevent bits of yourself leaching into your writing, so why wouldn’t your causes or passions colour it too? As I see it, you can choose to make them the driving force of your story, or to simply be one aspect of it, or to form a background against which it’s told.

Let me start with an example of shared passion which colours our co-authored WIP The November Deadline, that of gender equality. It might be obvious why this would be a cause close to my heart, but it’s David whose the passionate STEMinist – advocating for greater opportunities and a more welcoming environment for women in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It’s no surprise, therefore, that he was drawn to the Dvergar for their matriarchal structure and skills in this area. The obvious bonus being it provided us with a methodology to showcase non-typical – for the era – female characters in our WIP. The contrast between our Dvergar characters and those who do met the historical norms of the era, allowed this disparity to be heightened without any need for drum banging in our writing.


Moving on then to focus on how I’ve seen this done beautifully in my reading.

The Wayfarer’s series from Becky Chambers (which I highly commend to you by the way) comprises a quartet of books – The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet, A Closed and Common Orbit, Record of a Spaceborn Few and The Galaxy, and the Ground Within – and is an excellent series of space opera, where individuals from a wide range of planets are drawn together, to work, to love, and to live. It’s not an unrealistically utopian world for there are – of course – conflicts, some of the global type, but more of the inter-personal kind. What I’ve especially enjoyed is the depiction of variances in culture, belief systems, physical needs, attitudes to things such as parenting, and gender. In the final book of the quartet, we meet a mother and child from a people where it’s standard practice for children to be gender neutral until they reach a certain age, at which point they get to choose which gender path they will follow thereafter. With Trans issues being a rather combative subject at present, this gentle depiction of a different way of looking at gender identity was both interesting and enjoyable.

James Baldwin as both a black man and a gay man, has written passionately on both these subjects. His stories ring loud of authenticity, of pain and suffering, of wrongs being done to. But he does this by placing at the heart of his stories, characters – people – who you believe and are drawn to and care about, so that what they endure – and why – is drawn even more sharply into focus.

In a recent piece about queer literature, a blogger I follow highlighted a series they’d enjoyed reading, because there was a story and a plotline with gay characters, but that the sexual preference of the characters wasn’t the story. One of the commenters expressed his agreement, stating that this was a more accurate depiction of his own life experience, and therefore felt more authentic.

I’d like to close this musing with the following observations I ‘ve taken from an article I read in The Bookseller (do read the entire article as it’s both interesting and amusing). Penned by author and blogger Ellen Hawley, it explains that Hawley doesn’t limit herself to writing solely lesbian characters or storylines because “It’s a big world out there. I can’t write it all, but I won’t limit myself more than I have to.” But what most interested me was this statement: “I want my work to find its way into the lesbian community…. But it’s easier to reach into the community if I publish in the mainstream, than it is to reach the larger world by publishing within the community.” This aligns with my view that, if a cause is important to you, it needs to reach the widest community and not just those who agree with you – so using it to colour your story, rather than noisily banging away at a drum, could be the most effective method for an author to achieve that aim.


© Debra Carey, 2022 (for the blog & images)
© The Bookseller & Ellen Hawley (for the extracts)

Author: debscarey

Tweets @debsdespatches My personal blog is Debs Despatches, where I ramble on a variety of topics. I write fiction on co-hosted site Fiction Can Be Fun, where my #IWSG reflections can be found; and my Life Coaching business can be found on DebsCarey.com.

4 thoughts on “#SecondThoughts: Causes or Passions colouring your writing”

  1. I really enjoyed The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. I still have to read the rest of the series. If you’re looking for another Sci-Fi story that subverts gender norms, I’d recommend Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. The story is set in a society where gender is irrelevant and everybody goes by she/her pronouns.

    I have timidly started to explore gender and sexuality in my own science fiction. It’s not easy for me. I’m queer myself. I’m several different letters in the extended LGBT+ alphabet, actually. So on the one hand, writing LGBT characters feels very normal to me. On the other hand, some things feel a little too personal to me, and I’m not sure how much of that I want to share with my readers. I haven’t figured out my own comfort level yet, but I’m working on it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sorry James, I’ve only just seen the notification of your comment. Thanks so much for the recommendation. My TBR list is a bit out of hand, but it doesn’t contain much like Becky Chambers’s series.

      Brave of you to tip your toe into including aspects of your own gender and sexuality in your work. Not brave in a bad way, rather that I get finding a level which feels rights for you isn’t that easy to do.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks for sharing James – it’s a great compliment that you see this as a safe space. It wonder if short story format would be good for exploring boundaries? Have you read any Lois Bujold? Ethan of Athos is not the best of the Vorkosiverse stories but is interesting for the setting – a planet where the entire population is male. I’ve also just spotted that there is a new Dr Who spin off, an audio drama called Redacted. The main character is transgender, as is the writer. Might be good research?

      Liked by 2 people

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