Writing Politics Is A Game Of Wants Not A Game Of Thrones


The dreaded “P” word.

Now, I wanted to talk about writing politics because for one, it’s a complex thing that has to be handled delicately, and two, when I try to search for it I just keep getting unhelpful variants on how to write a political essay, how to write politics for news, and other random things that makes me wonder if google is high today. (Seriously, how you get how to write boring police reports from how to write politics? Same general letters? Idk.)

But politics… Here are somethings to keep in mind

1. Be Careful Before You Just Decide To Make Your Villains “Corrupt” Politicians

“Corrupt politician/government” is something that gets thrown around often, so often that we associate politics with evil and stupidity. And I’m not saying that they’re not, or that politicians are angels, or anything of the like.

I’m just saying that they’re people.

And people have wants.

I’m saying this because the last thing you want to do is wind up with a stock, cardboard copy of a story character because a reader doesn’t understand what’s driving them. Yes, a person who does X/Y/Z is evil, but a person who does X/Y/Z because A/B/C is forcing them to act that way, makes for a better, more cohesive story.

But also, no one is born out of their mother “corrupt” or evil (except for maybe that thing that came out of the Red Woman). Stuff like cheating others, and turning a blind eye to real issues is something that a person learns later on.

This in my opinion, is what Game of Thrones so fascinating to me. So many people want something, and they want it bad enough that some king and lord-weaves are going to get snatched.

In the realm of more modern politics, this tends to be more along the lines of lobbyists waving money and resources in a politicians face to influence them, and this is what tends to breed the corruption we all look down on. But this can still apply to more ancient systems too.

2. Unless You’ve Got Some Crazy Totalitarian-like Government Going On There Probably Should Be Checks And Balances Somewhere

You might be writing about kings, wolf hierarchy (which is different than what most people think it is), a dictatorship, but in reality, a system where a government can casually do anything to you at any time without consequences is a scary government to live under.

Which is why people with rational minds rebel against that kind of system, unless you’re in North Korea and three generations of your family would be punished for what you did. But if your characters aren’t living in North Korea, there should be some kind of balance system in place so that laws can be made and that people’s rights don’t get stepped on.

Otherwise readers ask: why do people stay here if it’s terrible?

3. The Bigger The Political System, The Slower And More Complicated The Problems Get, And The More A Formal System Is Needed

Think about it. When you’re at club meeting and something needs to get decided, you can do it in a flash. You probably don’t even need any paper work or anything official.

But when you get to the official local/regional/state/national / international levels, organized processes are a must. This is especially important if characters are establishing their own government from scratch.

If people can just fling law proposals at legislators without a way to actually decide what can be turned into a law/ policy/ what-have-you, nothing will ever get done, which can be a source of frustration, and frustration can in turn lead to arguments, underhanded shenanigans, rebellion, and just an overall lack of cooperation.

But also consider things like who gets to be a politician in the first place. Do they have terms? How do they get voted in? Is there even voting in the first place?

4. Political Rulers Don’t Like Looking Weak To Other Countries

“Hey, I’m small and weak. Invade me please.” Said no sovereign state ever.

Especially when a state is struggling, the last thing a ruler would want is for every other state at the cocktail party to know that they are weak. And to offset this, the usual response is to try to project the appearance of being powerful and in control.

Remember this: No one ever minds having a bigger territory, more resources, and more power, but everyone will lose their shit if they have to give up their state against their will.

A state on the brink of collapse internally is an easy target for a more aggressive neighbor to take over. This is something that you might want to keep in mind if your novel deals with internal political discord. Just because politics are falling apart on the inside doesn’t mean that your story kingdom/nation/state is invisible to the world around them.

They might be watched more closely by others. 😉

Hopefully this is some help to you. If someone out there know a good book on politics for novelists, let me know in the comments because google sure ain’t showing it to me. >.<


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