What Trump and Hillary Have Taught Me About Writing

presidential-election-1336480_640When I take a step back from my reactions to the churning of this never-ending election season, I realize it is providing great fodder for my writing.

Here’s what I mean.

During the past few months, we have some revelation of some low-down dastardly dealings by one of the candidates. Opponents pounce, declaring him/her to be the Worst.Person.Ever.

Reactions from supporters, however, vary. Some will be somewhat intellectually honest and admit that yes, their candidate was wrong to say x or do y.

Others will twist themselves in knots that would make a sailor proud trying to explain away or even defend the offensive speech or behavior.

That intrigues the writer in me. Do these people really believe the words that are coming out of their mouths? Or do they so passionately want their candidate to win (or the other to lose) that they will say anything to try to help the cause?

What does all this have to do with writing?

I see two major lessons.

The first is people often don’t really say what they are thinking or believe. As in the case of those who are becoming human pretzels to defend Donald Trump’s choice of language on multiple occasions. Or those who try to defend Hillary Clinton’s laughter as she recounts getting a 41-year-old man off a charge of raping a twelve-year old girl when she knew he was guilty, and she won her case by destroying evidence and blaming the victim.

So if people don’t really say what they believe, or resort to verbal gyrations to defend an indefensible position, then that provides some guidance for writing great dialogue, dialogue that sounds true to life.

Especially when the reader knows the person is lying, and the other characters don’t.

There are many ways to have a character win an argument, especially if they don’t have facts or right on their side. Name calling, playing holier than thou, ignoring the other person’s argument, willfully misunderstanding and misquoting, all these tactics can work.

The other lesson is in creating villains. Donald Trump fits too many stereotypes. Billionaire, crude, bombastic, he’d be too easy to make a caricature of.

But Hillary. The grandma in a pantsuit, claiming to be the champion of the poor and downtrodden, while behind closed doors telling people she has public and private positions, and allegedly destroys those who get in her way.

She could be the basis for someone really interesting, like a fictional character with completely different public and private personas. Or someone who started out with high ideals, out to save the world, determined to succeed. The zeal for the cause corrupted her, and she became an obsessive monster.

I think there’s a start of a novel here.







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