Messages in Writing: Put Down the Hammer

I’m a big sci fi guy. I used to love Doctor Who, although lately I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy it. Meanwhile, I recently binged my way through The Orville, which I loved. Both shows are written by writers with similar politics, trying to explore political and philosophical issues through the lens of sci fi (as good sci fi generally does). So why was it that I enjoyed The Orville while being turned off by the recent season of Doctor Who?

The major difference between the two shows is how they explore their subjects. The Orville will raise an issue, explore it from both sides, tell you what each character thinks, and leave it to you to come to your own conclusions. It lets you think. Doctor Who on the other hand (I’ve noticed this with Supergirl as well) will show an issue, demonize anyone who holds an idea different from the writer/main character, hits you over the head with their ‘answer,’ telling you exactly what you should think. Even if you agree with everything they’re saying, its still patronizing.

The Orville is sci fi. Doctor Who is propaganda.

This realization made me realize what I hated about one of my shelved manuscripts. It was pushing a message, where my answer was the ONLY answer. And it just sucked. Rule of thumb, tell a good story before telling a good message, and second, don’t tell folks what they should think (or at least don’t make it so obvious), and instead let them come to the conclusion on their own. If you’re a talented enough writer, they’ll end up exactly where you want them anyway.

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