Know When It’s Controversial

You have this idea. It’s a great idea that you build a whole series around. Or maybe the idea that pulls the series together comes after the first few books are written. It doesn’t matter, because it’s such a great idea!

Wait. Stop. Think.

It is often the case that compelling ideas are controversial in some way or another. Before you really hone an idea and produce your story in full, you should be able to articulate the various shades of controversy that surround your idea and make at least a passing nod to the most salient of them.

Clearly, this concept isn’t a part of what most people mean when they say “marketing.” However, if you’ve followed along for long enough, then you’ll realize that when I say “marketing” I mean something a bit different than the general population. After all, I’m a professional marketer.

One thing professional marketers know that the general population doesn’t is that marketing starts when you’re first developing your product and carries through to the end of the sale. It’s a long process that ensures that you produce products and/or services that will actually sell.

And we all know that controversy sells.

BUT controversy, by its very nature, also pisses people off. If you don’t acknowledge the many complex and varied feelings different people will have about a controversy presented in your book, then a lot of people are going to turn against you, no matter how compelling your story is or how well it is executed.

Part of the thing that really bothered me about Veronica Roth’s Allegiant is that, when it came to Tris’s deviance of the norm, Roth did a really good job presenting the complex and varied feelings people have about conformity. But, when it came to eugenics, she dropped the ball. I felt like she didn’t even know what she was talking about.

I could list a hundred reasons why such a trite treatment of eugenics pisses me off. I could list a thousand! Instead, I will list three: Will, Alex, and Ben.

I am the mother of three children—Will, Alex, and Ben—who have disabilities and who are in danger of becoming the victims of eugenics. People who believe in eugenics, who believe that it’s a good idea, also believe that my children’s existence is a bad idea.

This danger is real, it’s present, and it pisses me off.

And Roth didn’t even give it a passing nod. As far as it was treated, eugenics is okay.

So, as much as I enjoyed Divergent and Insurgent and as much as the characters of Allegiant moved me and captivated me, the question remains: Will I ever trust Veronica Roth again?

Will I ever read another book or series she writes?

A compelling story isn’t enough when you’re touching on a controversial issue. You have to do the controversy justice if you expect your readers to trust you. And, if you want to build a long-term career, then you want readers to trust you.

About Stephanie Allen Crist

Stephanie created and produces in answer to a call from God to use her experiences and gifts to help others. Stephanie is also the author of and two books that can be found on that site. Stephanie strives to share her love, faith, and talents in an inclusive manner to help others who know spiritual pain and who know the bitter taste of the dregs of despair.
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