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The writers’ burden is learning how to make the world better through their writing. Jill S. Flateland is one such author supporting South Sudan’s reconstruction through fiction.

In a world grappling with a hundred thousand complexities, the question of how one can make a difference looms large. While activism and policy changes are often the basis for tangible solutions, there’s a powerful force that writers and creatives can take advantage of. And that is fiction. The stories we tell, and the worlds we create have the potential to do a lot of things. 

For a growing number of writers, fiction is not only a means to express one’s self and entertain readers but a tool for the social good.

Fiction Makes the World Better

Fiction, at its core, is about understanding. 

By creating narratives around diverse characters and experiences, writers transport readers into worlds vastly different from or deeply similar to their own. We witness the struggles of a refugee through a child’s eyes, feel the sting of discrimination alongside a marginalized community, or grapple with alienation through an everyday man. 

This ability to cultivate empathy is what allows fiction to bridge divides and challenge pre-existing biases.

Consider the impact of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Through the perspective of the innocent Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, as she navigates racial injustice in the American South, readers are forced to confront the ugliness of prejudice. It cannot be denied that the book sparked important conversations that continue to this day.

This is a testament to the enduring power of storytelling to foster understanding.

Fiction and Commentary

Fiction can often be the mirror that reflects the complexities of society.

Through fiction, authors can tackle pressing issues, such as climate change, social inequality, and political corruption. Through the lens of their created worlds, a safe space is created for readers to confront these challenges without feeling overwhelmed by the actual realities of things.

For example, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed explores themes of utopian ideals and anarchism through two contrasting societies. By presenting these contrasting models, Le Guin prompts readers to question what exactly it means to be in a just society, sparking discussions about social structures and political ideologies.

Fiction for Change

Beyond reflection, fiction can also be a turning point for change. 

Stories that portray social injustice and its consequences have ignited outrage and a desire to make a difference. Through the depiction of alternative realities, authors reveal the potential for a more just and equitable world. This inspires readers to actively work towards positive change in their own communities.

Much of Octavia Butler’s works, some of the best examples of visionary fiction, like Parable of the Sower, explores themes of social collapse and environmental degradation. However, her stories don’t wallow in dystopia. They depict characters actively building new communities and fighting for a better future. 

Fiction helps empower readers to imagine a more hopeful future and take action to create it.

Fiction as Inspiration

The world can be a harsh place, and fiction can offer a much-needed escape. But even in escapist stories, the potential for inspiration is there. 

Narratives that depict courage, resilience, and the triumph of the underdog can provide solace and a renewed sense of optimism for a lot of people.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic The Lord of the Rings exemplifies this notion best. Despite the darkness it portrays, the story ultimately celebrates the power of good over evil. The story of Frodo, Sam, and the rest of the Fellowship reminds us of the strength found in unity and perseverance. 

In a world filled with negativity, such fictional stories offer a beacon of hope. They encourage readers to hold onto their values and keep fighting for what they believe in.

The Writers’ Burden

Of course, writing with a purpose comes with its own set of challenges. Writers must be mindful of representation and avoid perpetuating harmful stereotypes. It’s also important to strike a balance between entertainment and social commentary.

However, the writers’ burden is not without its potential rewards. The possibilities are vast. 

Writers who choose to use their platform to address societal issues can play a vital role in fostering empathy, challenging inequalities, and, ultimately, inspiring positive change.

Jill S. Flateland is an author supporting South Sudan’s reconstruction through fiction. A great example of an individual embodying the writer’s burden, you can learn more about her efforts and her works on this website.

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