The First Principle is a young adult dystopian thriller that tackles some heavy topics. During the process of writing the novel, I wondered many times why I’d decided to deal with controversial issues such as government control versus personal liberty, pregnancy termination, and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
But these issues and beliefs are important to me, so it’s natural they worked their way into my novel. However, because of the divisive topics, one of my biggest challenges was making sure the story didn’t become preachy. Here are three rules I kept in mind.
- A good story is more important than teaching a lesson. When I wrote my novel, my goal was to tell a compelling, fast-paced story that would appeal to teen readers. To do this, I studied the craft of writing fiction and used various techniques to create tension and suspense. I didn’t worry about teaching a lesson because….
- The characters learn lessons through their struggles. My protagonist Vivica must comply with her country’s mandatory pregnancy termination law for underage girls or seek the help of a rebel group to save her unborn child. This is a gut-wrenching choice because she comes from a wealthy and influential family. The story’s themes emerge as Vivica wrestles with her choice in the sanctuary of a…
- Believable, yet fictional, story world. There’s an inherent level of safety in science fiction, and I used this to give my readers the sense that what they’re reading could happen without blaming any particular group or government that actually exists today. I created a futuristic society with a government that attempts to control the population and other areas of citizens’ lives. I even had some fun inventing government branches such as Population Management, Health Management, and Agricultural Management.
Tackling heavy topics in fiction isn’t easy, but I’m glad I did. Keeping these rules in mind helped me craft a story that entertains and deals with controversy.
Marissa Shrock is a middle school language arts teacher and the author of The First Principle, a young adult novel. Marissa’s writing has appeared in Evangel, Encounter, and Book Fun Magazine. She loves shopping for cute clothes, baking for family and friends, traveling to new places, and playing golf.