Alexandra Sokoloff’s blog often has interesting stuff on it. I don’t always agree, but it’s generally food for thought.
Case in point, the recent entry entitled “Write about what makes you angry“.
My take on it: what makes writing involving and meaningful, is that the author writes about things they feel deeply about. Anger is one way to feel deeply, but it’s far from the only way, so if you focus on anger, you’re limiting yourself.
Basically the same set of things make any decent person angry. As a result, certain topics — child sexual abuse, in particular — are seriously overdone. Anytime someone wants to depict a villain, the cause du jour springs to mind. The way you show they’re evil is that they’re a child abuser. A terrorist. A Nazi, if you go back far enough. I like my villains to be evil in complex and creative ways. If I see one more scheming CEO I think I’ll scream.
(My wife has learned that if she hears screams, she generally should respond, “It’s just a book, dear. Breathe.”)
A book that has a moral cause to champion, also is at serious risk of becoming a polemic. Rotten things happening to your characters is pretty essential, and they could be some of the things that make you angry. Getting out of or recovering from such a situation, or battling the people who caused it, could be an important part of the story. But if, in your mind, your enslaved protagonist a symbol for all slaves, you’re likely to lose some of that personal aspect of the story that brings it to life. They’re a person in a predicament. Their problems are their problems, not everybody else’s.
Write about what makes you angry. But also write about what you fear (actually they’re likely to be the same things, but fear is the truer emotion). Write about what puts you in awe, what you love, what you can’t make up your mind whether is good or bad.