The office of the President of the United States is arguably the most powerful, influential position in the world at this time in history. That makes whoever holds that office a pretty easy target for the authors of fiction.
But should you pluck this low-hanging fruit?
Last year, I read a dystopian book in which a fictitious US President with bad hair, a dislike for immigrants, and a narcissistic personality turns into an insane dictator. Gee…that sounds awfully like a caricature of a recent president, wouldn’t you say?
Now the book was good, and I enjoyed the story. Which is more than I can say for a book I read eight years ago that featured a fictitious black president whose message of hope and change was a false promise, and he instead installed an Islamic dictatorship. Hm, I wonder if people have accused a real president of such intentions about the time that book was written?
In case you couldn’t tell, I am sick to death of book villains being not-so-subtle caricatures of the current President.
For one, it’s just lazy. At least in my opinion. As I said above, being the most influential person in the entire world makes this an easy target. Too easy. It’s so easy it’s almost like a form of plagiarism, the greatest sin in the writing world.
You’re creating your own world, your own universe. Just create your own dastardly president, too.
And for another thing, it’s never as subtle as you think it is. You may not even want it to be subtle, but if there’s one thing I can’t stand in fiction it’s ham-fisted messages beating me about the head. No one says you can’t include a social commentary in your books. But please, don’t insult our intelligence by bludgeoning us with the commentary.
So should you use whoever’s backside currently sits in the Oval Office as the villain in your book? Well, I can’t tell you what to do. But I’d advise authors to avoid this road. It’s just predictable. There’s a tyrannical president in Her Name Was Abby, and I can assure you he is not based on the current president or any president still living. There’s no politics at all in my books; I didn’t want a political message to override my intended messages about PTSD and the ways people cope with trauma.
What do you think? Do you use real presidents, or enjoy seeing them in the books you read? Let me know in the comments!