Peggy Bechko: Don’t Say It! – A Writer’s Guide to, well, Writing

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by Peggy Bechko

Have you ever noticed how many things we aren’t supposed to say, to talk about, to be ‘politically incorrect’ about these days in this society? Things that if you say them out loud not only will be real conversations starters but will probably have several people at your throat the minute the words come out?

Here’s the thing. You may not want to be a trouble maker at a party or a family reunion or at the office, but what better place to be one than in a novel, a short story, movie script or other attention-grabbing written material?

Think about it. What if you said you ~
• Don’t like babies – dogs – cats
• Don’t like Christmas
• Don’t like football or the Olympics
• Don’t like gay people and are against gay marriage and adoption
• Don’t like Republicans (or Democrats or Libertarians)
• Aren’t in favor of marriage for anybody
• Don’t’ like Dr. Who or Dancing With The Stars, or Survivor
• Firmly believe in the stereotype of one race or another, one culture or another

Any of that can get you in deep water in a hurry. Opinions that aren’t dared to be expressed aloud, ever. These are prickly subjects (and they’re just the tip of the iceberg – there are obviously many more). Most people keep their opinions to themselves.

But what’s to keep the writer from straying off the common ground, from veering away from acceptable thought? In fact, the writer darn well better stray into being pointed, obnoxious, irritating and intriguing or it isn’t likely that writer will crack the best seller market. Every day, run of the mill, acceptable ideas won’t get you there.

Those above may actually be your opinions, but even presuming they’re not, they’re great subjects to be turned into attention-getting, to-be-twittered-about stories. If a subject sparks debate it can (and no doubt will) spark a great story. Stray off the generally accepted track and veer into controversial territory.

Think about it this way.

1. You can’t stand Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, whatever. How about a murder mystery when only people of that persuasion are killed by a serial murderer? What gives the perpetrator away? Is he captured or killed? How does it all affect the people in that group; the ones being disturbingly murdered?

2. Babies aren’t your thing. What grist for a novel or a script with a society much like our own that goes even further, locking people in to a life of an Orwellian family structure of parents and children. And the rebels who choose a different way of life ~ and a violent way of ripping through that society to their own freedom.

3. You hate Christmas. Always room for another Santa serial killer or elves who go berserk or reindeer who longs for a different life.

4. You’ve heard the pros and cons of gay couples adopting. How about a gay couple who adopts several children – for nefarious purposes – What is the purpose? Grounded? Other worldly? How does it turn out? How does the fact that the couple is gay affect the outcome?

5. Someone hates a TV Show – what if the people involved with the show start having bizarre accidents? What if they’re not just boring or annoying but come from another dimension? What if an inter-dimensional war ensues?

Craft a story that takes a stand on a controversial topic (no matter what side of the topic you’re on) and you create suspense, action, and buzz. You’ll catch attention and create characters that are three-dimensional and ready to take on the world. Give them something controversial and difficult and they’ll grow. Examine a group or an issue or an accepted societal taboo and no doubt you’ll find you grow as well.

Go out there and write something no one dares to say.