I’m sailing in uncharted waters, covering territory that is completely new to me.
And here be dragons.
Not the good kind, the warm and fuzzy Falkors of the world, no. The Smaug that threatens to devour you should you so much as set one foot wrong or show a peek of your vulnerable and squishy hobbit body. The kind that could set the Twitterverse aflame and spiral downward in a torrent of hate mail and death threats.
I kid, of course. Hardly anyone is aware of my work, so that kind of calamity is highly unlikely to occur, but at heart I’m a bit of a drama-queen. You know, the introverted one that seems outwardly composed but inside the monkeys are loose and the lion has eaten the tamer and the clown is crying incoherently.
For the first time ever, my main character is a person of colour. An African woman, to be exact, in a position of responsibility. During the course of the story, something goes terribly wrong (as does tend to happen in most stories), she reports back to her superior (as most people do) and there is a scene where she spends time with her family (also not unfamiliar ground).
However, these plot points have the potential to be a quagmire of disaster. Notably racism (and reverse-racism) and classism. I realise this story is a great opportunity to delve into these topics. I could discuss how a black woman experiences the world, how she is treated by her white boss, how she feels about white people in return, how her family treats her, and how a highly-educated woman engages with her rural and more traditional background.
I’m not going to.
Yes, there probably will be subtle shadows of these topics in my story, and if I were trying to write a literary masterpiece or chase writing awards, then certainly I would engage much deeper with these themes.
But I’m not.
I write escapism. I want my readers to sit down for an hour or two and be entertained, not struggle with moral dilemmas or confront entrenched worldviews. Yes, I do want my stories to make people think and perhaps reconsider their attitudes, but I do not want to force my perspective on anyone and I do not want to preach. I hate when that happens to me and I most certainly will not (knowingly) do that to anyone else.
So, I’m sailing carefully past reefs and whirlpools towards quieter currents.
Will this story be ground-breaking and garner much acclaim? No, probably not.
Will it be entertaining? You bet it will!
Do you enjoy books that tackle serious topics or do you steer clear of them?