Politics, Religion, Social Media & How Great Writers Change the World

The Internet and social media offer us tremendous power and control over our author career, but with great power comes great responsibility. Sometimes we need to make tough decisions. We must remember that everything we say and do on-line serves as part of our brand. We are closing in on an election and it is tough to remain indifferent, but no one ever said the life of a professional author was easy.

When Are We Getting in the Danger Zone?

All of us have a faith and a political affiliation, but unless we are a religious or political writer we need to be VERY careful. We are counting on others in our social network to help us, to share, RT and tell people about our books.

If we hope to build a platform that will reach out and include readers, we need to remember that if we spend half our time calling them idiots, they probably won’t be terribly supportive. Additionally, if we have to hide other writers from our feeds because they make our blood pressure spike, then we can’t easily support them because we can’t SEE them.

What Brand are We After Anyway?

We must be aware that we can be friends with all kinds of people, and non-stop ranting and name-calling is uncool and a bad way to build a platform…unless our goal is to be known as a political-ranting-hater-jerk. If our goal is to be the next Howard Stern, Bill Maher or Rush Limbaugh then sally forth, but don’t send me a friend request. I have no time for people who cannot be respectful of others and their beliefs.

So if we are NOT political or religious writers, we need to be mindful that we aren’t bludgeoning part of our support network.

Are we running for office or wanting to sell books?

Beware–The Genie Doesn’t Go BACK in the Bottle On-Line

One of the biggest reasons we do have to be careful of everything we write on-line, is, once it is out there, we can’t control it. If we decide to blog about some politically hot topic because we need to get something off our chest, that is fine, but prepare for some consequences. It very well might just be another of many blogs and life continues on as usual…or it could totally dismantle our platform and irreparably alter our brand. We don’t know who is going to read that post, and we can’t control where and how it is spread how it is twisted and…what if it goes viral?

What takes YEARS to build can take only minutes to destroy.

I was friends with a writer who had a decent little blog following. He suddenly decided to blog about a topic so volatile, it had sparked riots across the U.S. I suppose he thought his readers would be level-headed and rational when they read his post, but they were anything but. People were deeply hurt and divided, and this writer was inundated with long, emotional, angry e-mails.

His readers felt they could trust him for a certain kind of content and then he took a weird left turn that left them all feeling icky. This writer spent months repairing the damage, and I’m unsure if the harm could ever be completely undone. This writer had never expected this post to be a big deal, yet, once he hit Publish, the genie was out of the bottle and there was no putting it back.

The genie also has a way of landing collateral damage. There were very angry people who knew we were friends who made it their mission to also come after me. I spent days shutting down trolls and hate mail for a post I never even wrote and would never have, in a million years, approved of.

We need to remember WE ARE NOT ALONE. Our actions have consequences and sometimes they can inflict collateral damage. Not only did this writer’s platform and brand suffer, but friendships were damaged as well.

Social Media is a Giant Cocktail Party, Yet Not

If you like kittens then you are a moron!

Did that change your mind?

People who like dogs are idiots. Americans spend way too much money on stupid brainless pets when they could be spending it on rainbows.

Did that make you want to give up your pets and spend money other ways? No? What? You didn’t like being called names and told what you love and value is stupid?

Here is the thing, most of that hater junk floating around Facebook is not going to change hearts and minds. If that is what we want to do, win people over, then ranting and name-calling is a faulty plan that makes us look like insensitive jerks.

One of the main problems with social media, is that it is like a cocktail party…yet it isn’t. We have all the expectations of a cocktail party, but there is a computer between us. Most of us would not show up to a party and start ranting and name-calling and beating people up with our beliefs.

On social media, we tend to gravitate to people who love the same things we do—writing, books, kittens, dogs—but that does not naturally presume we are all homogenous on the political and religious front. At a cocktail party we would also gravitate to people who liked talking about the same things—writing, books, dogs, kittens—but we would have the benefit of body language to know when we were hurting others or treading into dangerous water with the conversation.

Remember social media is social, but we need to take extra care what we post. We don’t have the same social litmus tests on-line to know when we are alienating others. Often people won’t confront us directly. They will unfriend, unfollow or hide our feed, and that isn’t going to help us eventually sell books. Additionally, computers don’t afford the same social filters. Arguments can easily get completely out of control and become a Frankenstein that takes out our entire platform.

I remember an instance where some person commented on something political on Twitter and a popular rapper happened to see it and take offense. This rapper then mobilized his platform of millions against said tweeter and the poor woman had to get off Twitter and practically go into Witness Protection. Social media is like a loaded gun. Handle with extreme care.

Great Writers Use Story to Change the World

Every time I blog about politics and social media, I hear the outcry about how writers have an obligation to change the world, how we should be doing more than writing about vampires that sparkle. I completely agree. But posting hateful Facebook cartoons are for regular people who are not gifted with the creative power of prose.

Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle to highlight the plight of the immigrant workers who were being exploited. He used story to highlight wage slavery, corruption and horrific practices (mainly) in the meatpacking industry. This book led to the formation of the FDA and was one of the vanguards for social programs for the poor and better treatment for workers.

To Kill a Mockingbird took on racism in the court system and paved the way for equal rights. Animal Farm was Orwell’s commentary on Stalin and he showed through story how the corruption of leadership was what would poison any revolution. Brave New World, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1984, Catcher in the Rye the list goes on. THIS is how real writers change the world.

Star Trek didn’t come on TV and rant about how all races should work together and women were more than secretaries. Star Trek showed that world. Gene Roddenberry put the world he envisioned in story form to change hearts and minds in a nonthreatening way, and he did it. Joss Whedon has dedicated his screenwriting career to busting apart stereotypes.

SHOW Don’t TELL

Story is very powerful because it harnesses empathy and it draws readers into being part of a narrative. Audiences/readers are part of something, not being attacked, so they are more likely to be convicted and have a change of heart. We see characters who shatter our preconceived ideas, we get attached and then BOOM! change.

Sorry, Charlie. This Angel’s gone rogue…

In my opinion, Terminator 2 did more to shatter stereotypes of weak females than a hundred angry protests. We saw Sarah Connor, were mesmerized by her strength, her power, how a mother had been utterly redefined. She didn’t wait on a man or wear lip gloss. She learned to use a freaking AR-15 to defend her son and the save world she loved.

AND WE LOVED IT!

Characters like Sarah Connor opened the door for strong female heroes, and the more society was exposed to these daring dames, the more we grew to love and accept them in these new roles. Now we see women in more and more professions that once were “Men Only.” We now see women on SWAT teams and flying fighter jets, and writers helped that happen.

Leave the misspelled Photoshop rants to amateurs and regular people. We are not like them. We are not mere mortals. We are writers, and, when we want to change the world, it changes.

Protect the Brand

Social media is a lot of fun and it has a lot of advantages, but as professionals we need to always remember that our brand is a cumulation of EVERYTHING we do on-line. So if we start Twitter fights and rant and name-call and blog about volatile topics, we take a risk. Even when we don’t rant, ANY political blog can be taken by the opposition as an attack. Why risk it?

I hope you guys DO change the world. Write books that change hearts and minds and make the world better then use social media to get people to read those books. We are people not robots, I get that. I know this is an uncomfortable topic, but it is part of my responsibility as the social media expert for writers to address it.

For those of you who want more instruction of how to blog and use your blog to build a supportive community for your work, my October blogging class is now open. It’s two months long and takes you from idea to launch and can be done at your own pace and on your own time.

So what are your thoughts? Concerns? What great works of literature do you feel did the most to change society? What are your favorites?

I LOVE hearing from you guys! And since we have a guest today, every comment counts DOUBLE in the contest.

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of September I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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  1. #1 by Madison Woods on September 21, 2012 - 10:00 am

    Great post. I just ‘unfriended’ a few people over the course of the last few days because I wanted to remove the temptation to comment on certain political and personal spews. Not because I agreed/disagreed with the political party/person being promoted/attacked but because it bothered me so much to see the way the opinions were being expressed, and I decided rather than engage, I’d rather not associate with people who use that technique to express themselves.

  2. #2 by Patrick Thunstrom on September 21, 2012 - 10:04 am

    I struggle with this because I LIKE talking about politics. It’s something that interests me and gives me drive to think and challenge my ideals. But I also know that my opinions are something I’ve tested deliberately and not everyone is like that. So I always worry about how to approach topics I care about. I think I finally discovered way to ‘talk politics’ without being too controversial about it, and that’s talking about the way the systems and subsystems work, and not about some of the ‘issues’ that have a charge behind them.

    • #3 by Author Kristen Lamb on September 21, 2012 - 10:10 am

      We can also join closed groups. There are political forums on Facbook where we can talk to out heart’s content without spewing that out on our general following. If I join a PETA group, I can talk about meatelss living and the advantages of wearing faux fur with people who share my beliefs. I can be plugged into REAL actions I can do to help end animal testing, etc without ranting to my following at large. It is the appropriate place for discourse.

      If I show to a Young Republicans party, no one bats an eye if I talk politics. But social media is like a general cocktail party and we are wise to respect that.

  3. #4 by J.S. Colley on September 21, 2012 - 10:05 am

    Great post.

  4. #5 by Laura Dennis (@adoptedreality) on September 21, 2012 - 10:05 am

    What an apt and timely post, just when all my friends on Facebook are posting their political views, passing along half-truths and spreading assumptions.

    Twitter is like a cocktail party, and yet, we don’t always notice the consequences of our actions. In person, we can see the looks on people’s faces when we’ve put our foot in our mouths, feel the awkwardness pervade the room.

    There was one infographic on Facebook that I liked, it said something like: “All those political opinions you post have totally won me over to your point-of-view … Said no one ever.”

    I love your perspective, and the time and effort you take to educate us! Thanks …

    Laura Dennis
    http://www.laura-dennis.com

  5. #6 by Pamela Skjolsvik (@pamelaskjolsvik) on September 21, 2012 - 10:09 am

    I have been tempted to unfriend or block people whose beliefs I don’t share, but I like to keep my friends close and my enemies closer:) Not really, but I do realize that I am not going to agree with everything that everyone says and there are still things I like about that person. And what kind of world would it be if we all thought the same things? Kinda boring. I do write about a few controversial topics, but it’s part of my platform. I have been attacked by people who don’t share the same view, but I don’t let it get me down.
    Great post!

  6. #7 by Jane Bailey Bain ('LifeWorks') on September 21, 2012 - 10:12 am

    Stories create reality. The stories you tell inform other people; just as importantly, they tell you who you are. What are your values, your beliefs, your fears and hopes. Use stories wisely, for they will form your world. Great post, Kristen!!!

  7. #8 by Dawn on September 21, 2012 - 10:18 am

    Ah, Kristen, so well put! Of course I’m sharing this one :-)

  8. #9 by Madison Woods on September 21, 2012 - 10:21 am

    Continued from my comment above… Also meant to add, I enjoy controversial topics and love discussing the elephant in the room. The reason I unfriended those particular people is not because they brought up difficult topics but because the method they used to express themselves was very disrespectful to others who disagreed. Actual name-calling and hate-spewing directed at those who didn’t see things their way. Which encouraged a mini-riot of sorts from the like-mindeds.

  9. #10 by molly on September 21, 2012 - 10:25 am

    I completely agree about writers having the ability to change to world through story. But personally, I don’t think anyone should censor their beliefs in the name of selling books. There’s a polite (and more effective) way to express yourself than inflammatory or snarky comments. Everyone is entitled to share as much of themselves as they want. For me, politics is so personal that to shut down that part of my life would feel false. Common advice for writers using social media to be “genuine” and use your own “voice”, which can be counter to some of the advice in this post. I think people should reflect before they post or publish anything, but I don’t think shying away from controversial topics is the path for everyone—certainly not me.

    • #11 by Author Kristen Lamb on September 21, 2012 - 10:29 am

      I never said to shy away. I said ranting and name-calling are counterproductive. I can support PETA without ranting about people who wear leather shoes and calling them names. I can be a vegetarian without calling people who love bacon murderers. There is too much negativity and if writers can’t find a way to share their beliefs in a positive way, then I will unfriend, unfollow and will not support. Sorry. And there is a lot of this foaming at the mouth going on, and it is counterproductive. Writers have better tools to promote ideas, and they are wise to use them.

  10. #12 by James Loscombe on September 21, 2012 - 10:29 am

    I would be interested to know how this applies to other things that the writers you mentioned wrote. In particular George Orwell wrote a regular newspaper column in which he covered issues which were controversial at the time.

    I understand not wanting to negatively affect your image but surely we can talk about anything if we do it with tact and diplomacy? Also, if we are using topics like religion and politics in our fiction do we want to mislead readers by only discussing light hearted topics on social media?

    And a final thought: what about the use of controversy to sell?

  11. #13 by annerallen on September 21, 2012 - 10:35 am

    Thanks for this. So important in this election season. I just had a dear friend post a political sentiment on MY wall–and even though I agreed 100%, I had to take it down. I don’t want to appeal to only 1/2 of the population. And I’ve had to unfriend quite a few people whose feed consists mainly of incendiary stuff I really disagree with.

    Etiquette rules say you should never discuss politics or religion at a dinner party. I think that goes for virtual cocktail parties as well.

  12. #14 by Candilynn Fite (@Candilynnfite) on September 21, 2012 - 10:36 am

    I get on FB, Twitter and my blog, to connect with my writerly peeps. If I wanted religion talk or politics, I’d go to my in-law’s house for supper. I have not, nor will never comment on anything pertaining to those subjects on social media sites. There are groups for that sort of thing. There’s a time and a place. Well said Kristen.

  13. #15 by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer on September 21, 2012 - 10:38 am

    Kristen, thank you. There are so many things I want to say about the upcoming election here, (USA) but have hesitated because I don’t want to lose any possible readers who don’t feel the same. But is there a way to do this under the brand? I’m not sure that I could pull it off…something to think about.
    Another thing I learned–I knew this I did!–politics are personal, really personal. You say one thing and someone writes back why they think like they do and bam! You get their reasoning but it doesn’t change your mind so you’re right you can’t change their’s either.
    Diana
    http://www.dianabrandmeyer.com

  14. #16 by Mother-Earth Book Series on September 21, 2012 - 10:41 am

    Couldn’t agree more. I cringe every time I see someone post politically charged material, regardless of whether they are an author or not. Even friends don’t tend to remain friends long if they are barraged with politics or religion. For me, it’s a simple corollary of the Golden Rule, if it makes me uncomfortable to see that stuff on others’ posts, I have to assume it will make others uncomfortable if I post something similar.

  15. #17 by Laura Ritchie on September 21, 2012 - 10:41 am

    This is so, so true. Whether they make you laugh out loud, or shake your fist in outrage, we have to keep our comments and “likes” to ourselves.

    Thanks for a great post, Kristen, and I am really looking forward to the blogging class next month! :)

  16. #18 by LauraDrake on September 21, 2012 - 10:42 am

    BOOYAH, Kristen!

    It’s not only politics (thought that’s the worst right now.) I get tired of all the snarkiness, and have been known to unfollow people of that bent. I enjoy a joke as much as anyone, but when did it become cool to be mean? All the time?

    I’m not saying all my Tweets blow flowers and air freshener up your skirt, but a little civility would go a long way to making Twitter a better place to be.

    Thanks for addressing this.

  17. #19 by Sheila Englehart on September 21, 2012 - 10:51 am

    Well said. I loathe people cramming their beliefs on anything down my throat. And it’s certainly inappropriate for writers if they have a prayer of keeping a universal audience.

  18. #20 by KM Huber on September 21, 2012 - 10:53 am

    As others have commented, this post is quite timely, and as you have noted, it is quite necessary. Of late, I have considered avoiding social media until the election is over but faith issues abound year round. That said, I do appreciate all posts/comments that are layered with wit.

    For me, the larger issue of your post is for all of us to begin to respect one another’s political/faith perspectives. In other words, let’s not begin where we clash but where we stand together, i.e. as writers. In my lifetime, there have never been such opportunities for writers; however, with opportunity comes responsibility. Integrity will out.

    Excellent post, Kristen.

    Karen

  19. #21 by Marcy Kennedy on September 21, 2012 - 10:54 am

    I haven’t had a struggle staying away from political debates. I stay informed about what I need to know, but it’s not a topic that gets me fired up enough to even consider posting about. Plus, I’m Canadian so my political system is different, and I don’t feel I really have a right to comment on the American system. I don’t understand it well enough. Don’t get my husband started though :) He is American and has strong opinions.

    I have to walk a finer line with my faith because it is so much a part of who I am. The decision I made is not to hide it (which I don’t feel would be right), but also not to write posts specifically about it on my blog because I’m not writing books for the Christian market, and it’s too easy for what we write to be misunderstood. If I’m going to talk about my faith with someone, which I’m happy to do, I’m going to do it one on one where we can make sure we both understand each other.

  20. #22 by Teresa Cypher on September 21, 2012 - 10:59 am

    Agree 100%, Kristen. I wrote a brief blog on this subject on September 9th. I expect it to get much worse in the next month and a half. It saddens me to see so many writers–and I know how hard they’ve worked to develop their followers, taking a big misstep by alienating them over a political rant. Excellent post. :-)

  21. #23 by Jennette Marie Powell on September 21, 2012 - 11:08 am

    Kristen, you must’ve read my mind! I am so fed up with all of the political crap on Facebook. Yes, I’ve had to hide some people’s posts, and sadly, at least one was a WANA. I don’t even like to look at my feed lately – I mostly hide out in the WANA group where we at least stick to writing, platform, and encouraging each other. Yet some political posts don’t bother me – the ones that are inflammatory are the ones with the tone that, “if you don’t agree with me, you’re an idiot.” I might be more sensitive to it, living in a swing state where I can’t turn on the TV or even the computer without being inundated with ads. Can’t wait until it all goes away in November!

  22. #24 by Lanette Kauten on September 21, 2012 - 11:14 am

    “Leave the misspelled Photoshop rants to amateurs and regular people. We are not like them. We are not mere mortals. We are writers, and, when we want to change the world, it changes.”- Oh, heck yeah! I copied and pasted that statement onto my FB, with attribution of course.

  23. #25 by Darke Conteur on September 21, 2012 - 11:27 am

    This is why I’ve been sharing cute kitten pics the last few weeks.

    • #26 by Lanette Kauten on September 21, 2012 - 12:26 pm

      One of my friends has been doing that, too.

      • #27 by Darke Conteur on September 22, 2012 - 8:16 am

        It’s the only way I can think of, to negate all the negativity.

        • #28 by Author Kristen Lamb on September 22, 2012 - 10:22 am

          I know I’ve appreciated them :D.

          • #29 by Darke Conteur on September 23, 2012 - 8:39 am

            Thanks. :) You’ve posted some great ones yourself. :D

  24. #30 by Satin Sheet Diva on September 21, 2012 - 11:38 am

    My favorite post so far as it speaks so directly to what I’ve been feeling since the riots over that film and other just plain craziness I’ve seen as the election approaches. People use “freedom of speech” to justify saying some of the most asinine, hurtful, disrespectful things I’ve heard to date. I strive to infuse my writing with the power to touch others in positive ways.

  25. #31 by Tiffany Pitts on September 21, 2012 - 11:47 am

    Thank you for this! This is the exact idea that I was trying to convey in a recent argument. I posted a statement thanking all my friends and family for being kind and putting tolerance above their personal fears since 9/11. Most people liked it, many people shared the comment but one guy told me I was wrong, and he was offended because I was trying to shut down his free speech. The conversation ended with him comparing me to a Nazi sympathizer – all because I thanked people for being nice.

    (For the record, I refute the accusation that I was shutting down his freedom of speech – mainly because the guy never actually shut up)

    You never know when someone will read your statements wrong or if they have a chip on their shoulder and find your statement the perfect spring-board to open up a flame war. This person wasn’t random or faceless – he *was* a personal friend.

    It really is something to think about before you hit “post”.

  26. #32 by Kim on September 21, 2012 - 11:49 am

    Thank you for this post! I totally agree. I fly through my news feed these days because at least half of my friends posts obnoxious political stuff, and I just ignore it. I’ve hidden a few of the worst ones because of the political ranting. I don’t post political or religious topics on my FB page for the same reason I don’t put bumper stickers on my car–it’s my own private business and I don’t feel the need to share my views with the whole world.

  27. #33 by Ruth Hartman Berge on September 21, 2012 - 12:06 pm

    I thought long and hard before I posted something controversial on my blog. In the end, I decided that since it DID tie into the local history and memories I usually write about, it was workable. I was very careful in how I worded everything, but I definitely wanted it posted. It was one of my biggest hits as it was shared quite a bit on facebook. Postings like the one I did are not something I would want to make a habit of, but in this instance, it was worth it.

  28. #34 by MaLinda Johnson on September 21, 2012 - 12:10 pm

    I LOVE this!!! You are so right in that it is not hate speak that makes people think differently, but rather solid content that makes them change. I have seen this concept play out in the businesses I help run, time and again. :)

  29. #35 by chadcarver on September 21, 2012 - 12:29 pm

    Great post, Kristen :-) I write about religious stuff on my blog, but I don’t take sides, as much as I explore theological principles academically, and with a light heart.

  30. #36 by Gina Hepburn on September 21, 2012 - 12:43 pm

    Great blog post! I agree, it’s difficult to hear a person’s argument when they’re shoving it down your throat. I think you’re right – the only way we can make a change is by showing, not telling. It can’t be done by shouting the loudest or silencing those we disagree with. We need to encourage people to walk in each others shoes (love Harper Lee!). Tell them stories so they learn to listen before they speak. Writers can change the world by holding a mirror to it, teaching it, inspiring it. We should embrace this, not kill off our potential audience before they’ve opened our book.

  31. #37 by The Hook on September 21, 2012 - 1:15 pm

    ANY blog post that includes a shot of Linda Hamilton from T2, is all right with me!
    It took me some time to realize just how deeply how our words can resonate with our readership, but you’re absolutely right; a simple sentence can change EVERYTHING.

  32. #38 by Johanna Denton (@JohannaDenton) on September 21, 2012 - 1:17 pm

    THANK YOU! This is great, and you are right, as usual. ;) I’ve unfriended many people, not because their beliefs differ from mine, but because of meanness or hate-filled comments. There is no excuse for that. Thanks again.

  33. #39 by Tamara LeBlanc on September 21, 2012 - 1:52 pm

    When you mentioned To Kill A Mockingbird, Brave New World, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1984 and Catcher in the Rye, I thought, hmm, those are outstanding books, all with important, powerful messages that affected readers in ways that really DID change the world.
    That paragraph made me think, “What have I done to change anything? I write romance, I write paranormal romance, I write sexy paranormal romance…who’ll get anything out of it, other than a sexual position or two they might want to try?
    But then the very next paragraph you wrote stopped the negativity swirling around my brain. You mentioned Star Trek and the way Gene Roddenberry changed the world WITH HIS WORLD in an enjoyable, non-threatening way.
    And you’re right, he did, and so did Joss Whedon.
    Your words made me realize that I don’t just write sex, not at all. I write strong characters that take matters into their own hands instead of simply reacting to everything. I craft supernatural worlds that test my character’s mettle. And in the process I bring my hero and heroine together emotionally and physically.
    I’m a talented writer, and more important than realizing that for myself is that by writing the best stories possible, maybe I’ll affect readers in positive ways.
    I may not be able to end rascism or sway political beliefs, but I can let a woman know that she can be her own hero even if she happens to have a guy on her arm.
    As always, Kristen, thank you for your wisdom.
    Have a wonderful weekend!
    Tamara

    • #40 by Author Kristen Lamb on September 21, 2012 - 1:54 pm

      Hey, Buffy the Vampire Slayer did a lot to change a lot of stereotypes. The really gifted writers entertain the hell out of people while they start the revolution ;).

  34. #41 by Mae Clair on September 21, 2012 - 2:04 pm

    This is so needed right now. I signed onto Facebook the other day for the first time in a long time (I’m not much of an FB person) and was shocked to see it had become a political battleground. What a shame!

  35. #42 by Miriam Joy on September 21, 2012 - 2:30 pm

    Great post! It’s amazing how quickly anger can spread, and yet positive responses are often overlooked. People get very worked up about small things, and yet a lot goes on that you’d think would be more controversial and it doesn’t get the same response.
    It says something about me that the closest I get to controversial is criticising recent episodes of Doctor Who…

  36. #43 by BenBlue on September 21, 2012 - 2:36 pm

    Such a frustrating topic, especially in today’s world and for the next couple months. In the film industry especially, I deal with a lot of idiots (no, I won’t shy away from calling them that), and it’s incredibly frustrating to have to hold my tongue…or fingers…

    Loved the comments about Roddenberry and Whedon, but Whedon has done something even more impactful than just tear down stereotypes. He USES ARCHETYPES to expand on that archetype and break apart the stereotype. Buffy tears down the stereotype of “blonde cheerleader” but only because Whedon uses the WARRIOR PRINCESS archetype in place of the CHEERLEADER archetype for the same character. Mal Reynolds breaks apart the “altruistic space opera captain” stereotype/archetype by using the western ROUGE WITH A HEART OF GOLD archetype in place of James Kirk. He uses Archetype, often unchanged, to break apart stereotype because archetypes have power.

    Also, I feel there is a danger when it comes to the “strong women” characters we’re seeing today. In developing a story with my writing partner, she made the excellent observation that all the “strong women” characters today are strong because they ACT LIKE MEN. We seem to have lost genuine FEMININE STRENGTH in our culture and have instead told women, “If you want to be strong, you have to act like a man.” And that is WRONG. There is a genuine strength in women that is not masculine, but we have buried it in favor of the Michelle Rodriguez-type heroine that tells a woman she must BURY her femininity. Dangerous.

    • #44 by Author Kristen Lamb on September 21, 2012 - 3:12 pm

      Brilliant comment and I totally agree. I think Sarah Connor was who broke the mold of the damsel in distress who always fell and sprained her ankle. We cheered, but then the pendulum swung too far over to the side of “the only bada$$ heroine is one who is just like a man.” But again, it will take talented writers to bring things back into balance. We create the future and the world catches up.

  37. #45 by Jennifer Ritchie on September 21, 2012 - 3:00 pm

    I enjoyed your comaprison of social media and a cocktail party – although I don’t get dressed up to sit down at my computer, I do sometimes bring a glass of wine! And social media runs hand in hand with good social skills, etiquette and generally being polite. I follow people because I like their work, and not because they ask me to. Great post, thank you!

  38. #46 by Samuel Solomon on September 21, 2012 - 3:52 pm

    I don’t know if my books will change the world, but they will definitely rattle some cages.

    We do indeed need to step carefully, lest we step on toes we wish we hadn’t. Discretion is the better part of valor, after all. Having said that, I would make the point that we also need to say *SOMETHING*, take a few positions enjoy some debates, etc. People like people who write with a spine, even though it might offend some. Even those who disagree will respect you if it is done right. And really, if you don’t write with courage, your attempts at authorship might not get far anyway.

    As for social media, be wise, be fun, and never petty.

  39. #47 by Roxanne R. on September 21, 2012 - 4:00 pm

    Excellent post. It’s important to give thought to what we say online. It lives on FOREVER and can have a devastating effect on our brand. I have definitely unfriended (or not followed) people, not because of their political affiliations, but because of the negative manner in which they support them or attack others. So it stands to reason others would do the same.

  40. #48 by Diana Beebe on September 21, 2012 - 5:52 pm

    My phone ate the comment I tried to post earlier today. Grrr. I’ll try to recapture the brilliance. ;-)

    These rules are true for the corporate world, too, not just cocktail parties. I’ve worked with people who had to be warned to take down political posters and to keep quiet about their views. You don’t talk about religion, politics, or salary in a corporate job, I think social media is the same. At least at a cocktail party, you can leave and possibly never see some of the other guests again. You won’t make any friends, either.

    I think Sarah Connor is a great example of a woman breaking down barriors to be tough. I don’t think that she had to act like a man to do what she did. I think she was acting like a momma bear–she was ready to do anything necessary to protect her son (and save the world–but John was always her priority). Is there anything more feminine than a mother protecting her child?

  41. #49 by Chihuahua Zero on September 21, 2012 - 6:04 pm

    I actually blogged about this about three to four weeks past: http://youngaspiringwriter.blogspot.com/2012/09/politics.html

    Basically, I said that writers should refrain from being political in a “public” space (since their own writing is a whole different issue), except in three cases: When it’s something everyone is on one side of, when it’s something that all writers would be on one side of, and when you have to make a stand, even if it means wrecking your audience.

    Because sometimes, when your way of life is threatened, it’s more important to protect your own life, house, marriage, family, etc.

    On the other hand, here’s a counter-argument from a fellow writer: http://vyctorian.deviantart.com/journal/Rant-incoming-9-11-Poltical-Megaman-326707203. Basically, she thinks that writers should be political, considering the state of America and politics.

    But yet again, Vyctorian doesn’t have a career on the line yet, along with me, so we lack the perspective and pressure that comes with already having a platform that can be razed in ten seconds.

  42. #50 by Kathleen Doyle on September 21, 2012 - 7:59 pm

    I decided long before I got serious about writing, that my online presence would never have political expression. I have my opinions, but the internet is such a volatile place, the only thing you accomplish in posting your opinion is -at the worst- mob mentality (as you mentioned with the rapper and his followers).
    Great advice here, Kristen. As always=)

  43. #51 by Melanie Marttila on September 21, 2012 - 8:22 pm

    Seriously loving your blog, Kristen. I agree with nearly everything you write! You’ve helped to inform my (still admittedly new) platform-building process. I’m not spam-botting my blog posts anymore :) I’m now consciously trying to control my online interactions and build community. It’s yielding lovely results!
    Though I’m in Dan Blank’s course now, I’ve been wooed by your wonderful words of advice. I’m going to buy WANA for my tablet and I’m always of a mind to learn new things. I’ll watch for a future offering of your course.
    Here’s my September 4 blog in which I mention you (among others):
    http://melaniemarttila.ca/2012/09/04/ch-ch-ch-ch-changes-rethinking-my-online-strategy/
    With respect to politics:
    In general, I stay away from politics. Besides, I’m Canadian, and we’re all just watching here with bated breath. As below (the border) so above. Or at least that’s how it seems.
    Thank you for taking me into your Twitter fold :)
    And thanks for writing and sharing amazing content.

  44. #52 by Maria Cisneros Toth on September 22, 2012 - 1:20 am

    Excellent post & comments. I’m easily turned off by the political comments on FB, so just skate right past them. Though, I must admit, a few weeks ago I came very close to letting loose my latina temper over one. So glad I didn’t. Not worth it. I prefer the happy stuff, the stuff that makes me smile like cute kittens and dogs and posts with encouraging words to lift people up and not down. Thanks for your words of wisdom. :-)

  45. #53 by Lani Wendt Young on September 22, 2012 - 6:14 am

    Great post and fascinating discussion thread as well. Wanted to add that its not “just” politics or religion that can alienate and offend. Recently, Jodi Picoult, an author that I have always greatly admired and ‘auto-buy’ every book she writes…started bashing another author’s success via Twitter. I found it disappointing that an author of her caliber would denigrate another in a public forum and I will never buy another one of Picoult’s books now. I believe that there is never a good reason for a writer to tear down another’s work in that way. If I dont like someone’s book/blog, I will complain about it privately to a friend etc but never go online and use my platform / social media networks to rip their work to shreds.

  46. #54 by keliwright on September 22, 2012 - 9:42 am

    Going with “apt and timely.” The negativity and anger I’ve experienced in this area has driven my change from someone who considered a Political Science major and law school to someone who avoids discussing politics even with those who have similar views. It’s ugly the way we treat people sometimes, with arrogance and brutality. This post shows (again) that while we are building our writer’s platform, we can also improve our interactions on a more personal level. Thanks.

  47. #55 by Julie Musil (@juliemusil) on September 22, 2012 - 1:13 pm

    This is awesome, and I totally agree. Right now we’re being inundated with political ads on TV. Do others really think we want to see that on our Facebook or Twitter stream? Do they really think calling others names will garner support for their cause? No! I don’t understand why people do it. Even when I disagree with someone, I respect their opinion. They are not bad people. I’ve unfollowed some people on Twitter because of this. Political rants are not why I’m on there. I want to share information and support, and receive information and support, and all of that is positive. No need to poison the well.

    Thanks so much for this timely post. If only everyone would listen!

  48. #56 by Jackie Vick on September 22, 2012 - 4:26 pm

    I sometimes forget to read your blog posts, and then I catch up and remember how brilliant you are. :)

    • #57 by Author Kristen Lamb on September 22, 2012 - 4:46 pm

      Awwww, please come back ANY TIME! :D

  49. #58 by Julie Glover on September 22, 2012 - 7:44 pm

    I agree entirely! I also think that there is a big difference between someone who espouses their opinion on a particular political or religious issue and someone who blatantaly insults others who disagree. I’ll continue to follow Person A, but not Person B.

  50. #59 by Ileandra Young on September 22, 2012 - 11:01 pm

    Kristen, I don’t know if anybody had mentioned previously but your lasy couple of entries still say that comments count double for your contest because of your guest.

    Just thought you’d want to know (unless that’s intended for the whole of September, in which case i’ll just shut up! O.o)

    • #60 by Author Kristen Lamb on September 23, 2012 - 7:58 am

      Oops. I guess since I put it there I will have to count it. That’s what I get for copy and paste :D. Thanks for letting me know.

  51. #61 by Piper Bayard on September 23, 2012 - 6:40 am

    You know, Kristen, one of the best ways to sell books is to run for office. Just think about it. :)

  52. #62 by Max Griffin on September 23, 2012 - 10:47 am

    I loved your example of Sarah Conner showing the world a strong female character in a heroic role. Thelma and Louise had the same liberating impact on the “buddy movie.”

    My novels feature gay protagonists. They aren’t about “being gay,” or “coming out” or other usual themes of “gay fiction.” Instead, they show people in same-gender relationships, living lives and struggling with challenges. I wanted to produce romantic thrillers like Koontz or Ludlum, but with gay protagonists. I wanted to show that gay people are more than victims. We’re human, too.

    I belong to a fantastic author’s circle. They help me in awesome ways. But one of my best and most discerning critics made a comment that gave me pause. He told me that I was giving up on being accepted by a mainstream publisher by choosing this path. He may be right, but I hope he’s not.

    I can’t write as well as Ludlum or even Koontz, but maybe my efforts will inspire someone who can. I couldn’t agree more with you that the power of fiction is exactly the ability to show real people and thus overpower stereotypes.

    Thank you so much for this wonderful blog. I’m so glad a fellow offered sent me here.

    Max

  53. #63 by 1 Story A Week on September 23, 2012 - 11:55 am

    “Great writers use story to change the world” That’s it. That is absolutely it.

  54. #64 by rodalena on September 24, 2012 - 10:17 pm

    Kristen, this is such good advice. Envisioning two people I love one who are polar political opposites helps me: the desire to not hurt them helps to (hopefully) keep my writing from being unintentionally caustic. I really appreciate your thoughts on this: writing about controversial subjects is tough: one can’t turn their passion into a temper-tantrum, but that line is so easy to cross.

    All the best,

    ~rodalena

  55. #65 by Eli@coachdaddy on October 1, 2012 - 7:38 pm

    Whoever said there’s no such thing as bad publicity never wrote a blog.

  56. #66 by E.b. Black on October 10, 2012 - 5:56 pm

    I would like it if someday you were to blog about including religion and politics in your writing. I don’t blog or twitter about religion or politics, but I do include those ideas in my writing and sometimes its scary to do so.

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