09 June, 2015

RWW Blog Hop: Social Issues in Novels

Every Tuesday, the members of Romance Writer's Weekly (RWW) get together for a blog hop. We are a terrific support group for fellow Romance Authors and love to share our experiences, give and receive help with our writing dilemmas, and promote one another's work.

Hello, and thank you for hopping over after visiting with Gay Kiser (writing as Tessa Gray).

This week, Ronnie Allen poses the question for us. But, today is also her birthday! Which she says is Perfect to celebrate here.

(Happy Birthday, Ronnie!) She's likely celebrating a birthday AND the release of her latest Sign Behind the Crime Series novel, Gemini.

And the topic: What is the theme in your novels, recurring or in one, that sends a message about an issue in society to help people? Was it developed by you intentionally, or did it evolve through the characters and plot?

While attending College the second time around, I took a class that focused on social issues in literature. It was one of those auditorium-style classes with 100+ students and the professor stomping his way left/right on the stage as he lectured.

At one point in the semester, we touched on children's classics that were ALL deemed to be socially inept, biased, or down-right prejudice in theme. Most were banned, actually, from any and all school libraries on account of their socially intolerant wording/theme.

Classics, mind you.

It was at this point in our 'lesson' that the idea of classics being irrelevant and not worth the read due to their lack of modern social connection with today's readers came into focus, and with most all of the students nodding in agreement with that statement.

I raised my hand, was called upon to speak, stood up, and asked: does this mean you also condone the practice of banning and burning books, then?

If 70 or 100 years from now people would consider doing the same thing with the books we're working on and reading today, then the whole idea of adding social issues to any body of work is pointless.

Drug abuse, physical abuse, alcoholism, rape, alternate sexuality, suppressed people, the down-trodden poor, and racism are not modern-day issues, and yet the way in which we deal with them would suggest otherwise. We may be an older-wiser generation of folk, but I never want to believe we are superior and therefore have all the answers.

I also don't tend to think the way that a majority of the world thinks, and have had my fair share of run-ins with those who disagree with my every opinion about every topic imaginable.

How many have 'un' friend-ed me on social media as a result of my opinion - or offering a counterpoint to theirs?

So-called modern-day social issues are what I avoid injecting into my writing for the simple fact that they are not my specialty. I'm no expert and don't intend to come off as one. But, I would hate for anyone who reads my work to believe that I don't care.

IF the novel's character comes right out of the gate championing a cause, that's one thing. If he/she is made to go through the ugly process chapter after chapter of getting hooked on drugs, whoring to sustain that hook, and then crashing before coming clean, then no, I am not likely to want to read or write about it.

And here's why . . .

After reading Blue-Eyed Devil (Lisa Kleypas), and yes, I liked it! But, when it was over, I needed a stiff drink. A few stiff drinks. But, I don't drink hard liquor, so I was out of luck and had to suffer sober in the debilitating aftermath of having to relive my own nightmares of boyfriend/spousal abuse and dealing (unsuccessfully) with narcissistic co-workers.

Having the life sucked right out of me as a result of having had to deal with a social issue in a novel is not my idea of reading pleasure, and I'd rather not inflict that type of a theme on my readers.

With my first publication, the social issues were why my characters behaved as they did and not the sole premise of the story. It didn't revolve around those issues but rather worked its way toward some form of mental conflict epiphany instead.

Currently, I'm working on a fantasy series set in another realm, and I'm at odds with the inability to incorporate modern-issue conflict without sounding like a flag-waving, card-carrying member of some hated society in line with the cause.

The trick with this series will be to deal with the environment, progress, technology, and even something as mundane as travel without beating my tree-hugger status over anyone's head.

It is draining me mentally to write it in a way that isn't pulpit-like and my-way-or-the-highway sounding. I'd rather it not be a running theme issue at all and just a part of the fantasy, if that will work out right.

I'm sure that by saying I like to read for the escape factor and don't want to get bogged down in a lot of depressing social conflict is a little naive/selfish, but there you have it.

When done right and refreshingly, socially-themed novels can be clever/cute and not at all wearisome. As for my trying it, I will have to give it more thought.

Romance and social issues don't much compute in my mind, so therein lies the problem. IS The Great Gatsby a romance novel or pure social commentary? I lean toward the latter, but I'll wager that most others won't agree.

Again, if she is big business and he is Occupy Wall Street, that's a neat concept for a romance novel, but it isn't likely that I would revolve the theme around their occupations or beliefs in order to tell the story.

I need to think about it some more. [wink]

My novels' themes grow outward organically.

I write romance with the idea of conflict resolution being the plot and not about the social issue.

I would rather not impose my own beliefs as a point of reference in my writing.

Self-actualization without going into elaborate or lengthy detail about a social issue.

Unraveling the cause-effect, the trial-error, or the accept-resolve of the matter while moving them toward the goal of falling in love.

Not happily-ever-after (as I'm discovering with The Curse), but an arrival point that hopefully makes sense even if it doesn't get ironed out and there is no light at the end of the tunnel for them.

Whipped cream, but no cherry on top.


Dealing with so-called modern-day social issues in novel form is a good thing if it provides a means to an end, but in my own writing and at this point in my effort, I don't feel it is necessary or wise to tackle any social issues, much less make them a theme the story then revolves around.

As always, I thank you for stopping by and reading my response. Now it's time to hop over and visit Veronica Forand and read her response to social issues as theme in any of her writing.


Romance Writer's Weekly (RWW) has a website with its own blog, and a newsletter. There is also a Facebook page, and the Twitter handle is @LoveChatWrite.


Latest WIP: The Curse (tentative)
Word Count: 95,831
Status: Complete, but in 3rd Edit Mode
Cover: still looking
Release Date: late June (?)


  1. I understand your reluctance to write socially-themed novels. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with a little escapism. Do what feels right for you. I do incorporate issues into my books but (hopefully) not in a heavy-handed, depressing way. I write diverse books, so to *not* mention certain things would seem really out of place, I think. Thanks for sharing your process! =)

  2. There are many books and many writers and many opinions and that is okay. I left my husband and his friend at the entrance to "Saving Private Ryan" and crossed the hall to see "Ever After." Do I not care about veterans? I actually care deeply, but I don't need to see them blown up in front of me to sympathize with the cause. (And yes, the irony is I blown people up in my books, which may be a great topic for a psych thesis). Good post.