Stories, both personal memoirs and fictional stories, have the unique ability to bring about social change. However, unless you are writing a non-fiction book on the topic, it is best not to beat your reader over the head with the idea of social change.
Some subtle ways that stories can help bring about social change:
1. Your characters can be written as different and this can causes others to ostracise them or treat them unfairly. For example: In real life, we see people of different races, genders, ages and sexual preferences being treated unfairly in mainstream society. In stories, this can be shown using otherworldy creatures and alien beings. Do people fear your characters? Does the government want to regulate them? Are there laws that cause them problems because they are different? Examples of this in stories (books and movies), being "muggle" or "mudblood" in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter stories, being a "mutant" in Marvel's X-Men, being a vampire or werewolf in Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series.
2. Your character can defy the negative stereotypes. For example, if you have a female character, she can be strong, bold, determined and she doesn't need a male character to rescue her. Maybe she does the rescuing. Diversity in your stories is important, but you need to be careful not to create characters that fit the negative stereotypes that society might dictate. Let your readers see your diverse characters as multi-faceted human beings who can't be pinned to one single trait, and you will create characters that can change the world.
3. Have diverse characters in your stories. Don't whitewash the world you are creating on the page. The world we live in is made up of a large variety of people, people who are old, people who are young, people of all colours and races, male and female, gay and straight, transgender or cisgender. The world you create on the page, whether your story is set in the "real" world or in a fantasy world of your creation, should be just as diverse as the world we live in.
4. Your story can show current events and issues in a fictional light. For example, if you want your story to say something about climate change and pollution, your can write a dystopian novel set in a world that has to face the dire results of society's lack of willingness to change how it consumes energy. Or your story can be set in an alternate world that deals with something that can be a metaphor for climate change in this one. Maybe you want to address the pollution of our oceans, so you create a character who lives in an underwater kingdom.
5. The important thing about writing these kinds of messages into your stories is not to let the message take over the story. If your too focussed on getting your message across, you might let the rest of the story fail, and, in doing so, you ruin your chances to reach people with your message. You have to have an intriguing plot that draws your reader in and you have to have characters that your readers will feel for. If your characters are nothing but creatures put into the story to represent a type, then they won't be multi-faceted enough to draw your reader into their world.
Write a good story. Use issues we face in today's world to enhance your story and make it stronger. Your readers won't even know you are sending them a message through your story, and THAT is how you influence people to change their thinking or to think about something more deeply than they had previously.
Today's give-away is Rory's Story Cubes. If you are a signed-up member of the challenge, all you have to do in order to enter to win these story cubes is leave a comment on this blog post. The winner will be selected by a random number generator on April 30th, 2015 at noon GMT and announced later that same day.