Social Trends As A Novel
We all see the current social trends—the latest bit of news hitting the social media pages and going viral. As authors, we’re always telling ourselves this isn’t something we can touch on, it’ll be yesterday’s news within hours. One thing all of us know is that what’s old isn’t an appropriate theme for a book.
In my books, I’ve addressed underage drinking, school violence, bullying, texting and driving, and teen suicide. I’ve made those issues timeless by creating a story readers can relate to.
How does the author accomplish this?
First, you need to research your theme. Don’t just see a few memes regarding that social trend and decided that it’ll make a good book. You’ll soon find yourself stuttering as your plot falters. Your characters will fall flat. The story will fade away instead of making an impact.
Second, decide on the setting, make it appropriate to the situation. You can’t have a rural setting for a story that affects only those in the city. Nor can an urban setting do justice to what would work better in small towns or communities.
Connect with what’s happening now with the past. A lot of people believe that what’s going on currently has never happened before. The discontent and discord we’re living with in the present is new to many, but there is proof that we’ve endured these times in the past. With the advent of social media, and the impact it has on our lives, it’s too easy to forget things that occurred as little as a year ago, let alone events that shaped the world in previous decades and centuries.
Don’t necessarily start with the shocker. There are stories that will work better if you ease on into the big idea. Think real life. Big events don’t just happen. There are little things that lead to them. Many people ignore those small warnings, but as an author, you should be noticing them and making notes.
Once you have all of this gathered and are ready to start that novel, stop.
I can hear it now. Stop? But you’ve been telling us to go with social trends. Why stop?
Because you’re not ready to start just yet. Yes, you have your character, the setting, the issue all ready to go, but you’re missing a strong element…
Where is your sub-plot? The goal of your characters before they’re diverted by the “Big Event?”
The world is three-dimensional, and your book should be too. Yes, you need to concentrate on the main plot element, but you also have to create a story that seems real. To do that, you also have to add in distractions for your protagonist. Here are some ideas.
An explosion destroys the town’s main center of employment. Jen’s parents have worked at this place for years. She is set to graduate high school in just a few days, but now it looks like her dad has to leave town to find a new job. If he gets that job, he’ll be staying at the new town, to set up a new home and investigate schools. Now Jen has two major problems in her life. She’s valedictorian of her class and her dad was so proud of this accomplishment, but he won’t be at graduation. He might not be coming back. Even worse, the place where he went for the interview is across the country, in a place that’s totally foreign to her, and she’d planned to go to college not far from home. You now have a three-dimensional story, with characters driven by opposing goals, and an outcome that might not work for everyone. That’s how life works, and it’s how your story should work.
A riot occurs at the high school where Ben is a student. While he sympathizes with those revolting over the problem, he also has a lot of respect for the adults who created the problem. He’s bombarded by friends and family with conflicting demands. He can either be part of the student rebellion, or he can stand aside, walk away from what he knows could be a situation that eventually ruin his life. What’s he supposed to do? How will his friends treat him if they’re arrested and he’s continuing with his life as if nothing happened? Again, this is how life works. Not only is Ben facing decisions that could change his life, he also has to come to grips with who he is and if he really will run with the crowd.
These are huge situations, but they’re not the only thing our children face in real life. Focus on the small to adults but major to teens. Show how a young adult faces growing up while they still want to have fun.