Today's world needs stories about timeless things like love, family, friendship, and heroism.
What Kinds of Fiction are Needed Today?
The world has changed drastically and rapidly over the last several decades. Technology in common use would have seemed like science fiction within living memory.
As a result, older stories no longer seem relevant to many people. They don’t deal with the same issues we must deal with. They don’t express contemporary values, and can be offensive to our sensibilities. Their style may be archaic and difficult to read.
Older Fiction is Set in the Past
Much of the fiction from earlier ages is set in a world that no longer exists. Many classic stories are set in worlds without electricity or modern weapons. Even some heroic genres, such as epic fantasy, are set in worlds based off the premodern one.
Mankind has had centuries and millenia in which wars were fought with swords and spears, and in which people lived in strict social hierarchies that were often hereditary. We just don’t have such a long tradition of stories set in worlds of widespread democracy and modern weapons, let alone the internet.
Reading stories set in the past, or in a fantasy world based on it, can be enjoyable and beneficial. We can see into human cultures unlike our own, and gain perspective on our own times.
Past Worlds Can Make Fascinating Settings
Stories set in the past can appeal to us simply because the settings are exotic. A story set in the Viking era or Victorian London offers an escape from the familiar world of our own time. The unfamiliar setting adds interest to the story.
A person who think hereditary monarchies are an outdated absurdity in the real world can still thrill to see the rightful king take the throne in a fantasy novel. People who love wearing jeans can still enjoy characters who wear flowing robes and cloaks.
Of course, a story in a historic or fantasy setting still needs good characters and story structure. A great setting won’t save a weak story, but it strengthens a strong one.
Today’s World Brings New Challenges
However, today’s world brings new challenges to write about. Technology has done many good things. However, it has also enabled great evils and it has the potential to enable more.
To some, it may seem that heroism–the kind that really defeats evil, is impossible on a grand scale in the modern world. The existence of police and emergency services makes it unnecessary for ordinary citizens. And electronic surveillance and modern weaponry seem to have given totalitarian governments the power to destory any resistance.
For the fiction writer, exploring the potential for freedom and heroism in such a world could be very interesting. And if we choose to write fantasy or science fiction, we don’t have to be realistic.
It’s possible that our stories could even have some impact in the real world.
But are we really worse of than the multitudes of slaves and peasants and denizens of cruel and powerful empires throughout world history? Truth is, very few people have had the opportunity and the courage for this kind of heroic action. It’s the stuff of legends.
What we do have is time and freedom to write. It may be hard to find time for writing, but we aren’t slaves forced to work all the time. And the First Amendment gives us in the United States freedom to write what we want to, so we don’t need to worry about censorship. We have opportunities for writing few people in history have had.
Timeless Truths in Today’s Fiction
Even though our world may seem light-years removed from the worlds that inspired medieval fantasies or westerns. But there are still the timeless things–love, family, friendship, hope, and heroism. These things can be in your fiction no matter when and where you set your stories. And we need those things today–both in fiction and in real life.
Write What You Want to Write
You will write your best work by writing the story you need to tell. The story that tugs at your heart. Not by writing what you think needs to be written.
It may by historical fiction or fantasy that gives people a chance to escape. Or it may be a story set in today’s world. Just write the best story you can. Write about themes that are important to you. Learn how to write deep themes without being preachy.
Read old books. They will give you insight into other eras, and fresh perspectives on our own times.
Think for yourself. Don’t write stories that echo propaganda. They will be preachy.
Perhaps the stories we need most today are stories with strong universal themes like love, family, friendship and heroism. Stories about heroes who rise to defeat evil and return to enjoy being with their families. Stories about heroes who give their lives so others can enjoy normal life.
We also need more good wholesome stories about love, family, and friendship. And of course, we need some good adventures.
We just need good stories. Stories that give us an escape from our own lives–and give us hope in the process.