A way with worlds: 23 - The Persecution Rests
by Steven Savage of Seventh Sanctum
Page 1 of 2
Before I start, a note - Way
With Worlds is now archived at it's own
Way With Worlds
, including convenient subdivisions. I've also
registered it at Bitbooks
in the Writers Resource section.
And now, on with the column.
Crusades to destroy the different, the heretic, the unaccepted.
Nasty things that happen in the real world. Nasty things that may
happen in fiction - if you write them correctly. Otherwise they
just end up nasty writing.
It's easy to make a
persecuted hero or heroine, or an evil bigot villain. It's more
difficult to do it in a believable manner. In this column, I'll
be examining how to handle these issues and what pitfalls to
avoid. It may not be pleasant, but it may be informative, and it
will help with writing.
BEYOND THE CACKLING VILLAIN:
One of the worst things you can do in dealing with
discrimination, persecution, and bias in your story is to make
the discriminating persecuting bigot a cackling one-dimensional
character. It may seem simple to do, but it makes your story
shallow, your world shallow, and thus your work unbelievable.
People pick up their biases,
bigotries, and hatreds for reasons - be they cultural, due to
personal experiences, or for other reasons. A person does not
wake up in the morning and say "I think I'll hate this
particular religion" nor does a person say to themselves
"I need to be more evil, time to pick a race to hate."
Cultures themselves do not
just "become evil and hateful." There are reasons,
oftentimes complex and hard to spot - after all, in real life if
such situations were easy to spot, the world would be a nicer
place. Biases can be handed down for centuries, new fads can
consolidate old hatreds, good ideas can go bad.
In short, unjustified and
disgusting as biases and discriminations and crusades may be,
they happen for reasons (and reasons people often miss). Cultures
have their quirks, individuals have their leanings, and at times
events past and present produce nasty attitudes and hideous
actions. They don't just appear in the real world so people can
have epic battles of Good versus Evil - don't do that in your
Figure out why biases and
persecutions in your stories happened and why. Examine the
cultures you're using, borrowing, or creating. Ask questions and
figure out how things got to be the way they are, and don't be
surprised if your imagination leads to some startling or
While you're at it, examine
your own biases and why you have them. Would you seem to be a
bigot to someone else? Would they be justified? That may give you
an excellent perspective on writing issues like bias and
persecution in your stories.
This is even harder to write - the concept of a
group/religion/people not normally discriminated against (or
usually too powerful to be discriminated against) suffering
discrimination and/or persecution. It can be an interesting
concept to deal with, but it's quite difficult to implement.
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Steven Savage, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.