Taking a stand invites conflict, and conflict sucks.
Creating conflict is a writer’s business. On a regular basis we blow things up, destroy marriages, incite revolutions and kick the good guy when she’s down. Conflict moves a story along, so writers are obligated to become as comfortable with conflict as we are with sitting down for long periods of time.
As we develop comfort and confidence, our own opinions will crop up in the manuscript. Our characters will rant, or deal with a problem the way we think everyone ought to. Hell, your entire story could be a manifesto. In any of these cases, there will be fallout.
As someone who hates arguing, I have to say it’s a lot easier to handle in fiction. I can tweak both sides until my hero wins. Real life isn’t like that.
Whether you’re defending a creative choice or your sociopolitical stance, you will come up against people who disagree. Here’s how to handle that situation.
1. Keep Your Cool
No matter how passionately you feel about the topic, keep your cool. Your words can and will be used against you—especially in the digital age. If you demonstrate that you’re emotionally invested, your opponents will seek to win by irritating you rather than discussing the matter at hand. Eloquence is a greater ally than anger. They’ll have to earn their victory if you…
2. Do Your Research
Opinions based on belief and passion will be important to you, but it’s hard to sell someone else on your ideas unless they have the same belief and passion. Whether you’re writing about something you haven’t personally experienced, or defending your position on abortion—read up on it. Support your arguments. In the same vein…
3. Be Gracious When You’re Wrong
Some arguments are based on emotion, and some are based on data. If you find that your argument isn’t up to snuff, find out why. The purpose of all conflict is to resolve an issue. If you’re not open to new ideas, it’s a lecture—not a discussion. Whenever you’re talking or writing about something sensitive…
4. Keep Your Aim in Mind
Are you trying to affect social change with your words? Are you trying to entertain, educate or eradicate? In short, is the conversation you’re having worth the fight it may become?
If the answer is yes, take that stand. You stand there and defend yourself with everything you’ve got. If you’re wrong, be gracious; but if you’re right, fight. If you believe something to the core of your being, it’ll be all over your work. You won’t be able to hide it, and you won’t be able to stop people from going after you. Don’t get caught flat-footed by saying something stupid.
If you manage to create peace, harmony and understanding by taking a stand, more power to you. When you review your manuscript for grammar and spelling, consider the content too. Be sure you understand the ramifications of where you’re standing. A level head, broad education, personal accountability and a clear path will help you bridge the gap between opposing sides. Be centered. Don’t look for a fight, but if it comes make sure you’re ready.
“If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.”
“One mark of a great soldier is that he fight on his own terms or fights not at all.”
― Sun Tzu