#4 Put STORY Before CAUSE

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Some might call me a bigot for discussing this rule. Oh well... it needs to be said!

Nobody cares that you’re gay. Nobody cares that you’re black or brown or disabled or morbidly obese. Nobody cares that you’re a feminist or a Christian or a proud democrat. Nobody cares that your dad died in a car accident or that your mom has cancer.

But tell a good story and they’ll read it.

Some people write novels to promote a cause. This is fantastic if you’re writing non-fiction, but prioritizing CAUSE before STORY can destroy your novel.

Christians read Christian books. The rest of the world laughs at them, not because they’re about Christian morals, but because they’re AWFUL. The writer’s goal was not to capture and entertain his readers, it was to promote a message. Not only does this make for a bad story, it significantly limits the book's potential audience.

Having said that, it is VITAL to draw from your unique background to add interesting elements to your characters and descriptions!

“Brokeback Mountain” is a great movie because it’s a great movie... not because it’s about gay cowboys. “Thelma and Louise” works because it’s exciting, not because it’s a statement about feminism. “Chariots of Fire” is about a group of Christians, but the action in the movie transcends Christian values.

You know the ironic part? When you push a cause to the background of your story, it’ll shine more brilliantly than if you made it the subject of the whole book. By keeping your readers hooked in a good plot and interesting characters, they will be moved by your hidden cause. And who knows, your exciting novel might attract people who oppose your stance!

(If your goal is to attract a niche market, then ignore this rule. There are plenty of novels that are successful in small communities, but more often than not, they read like boring propaganda and rarely expand to a mainstream audience.)

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