In the mid-'80s, I briefly got into Amateur Radio. This hobby has many areas to explore, including building equipment, contests, distant communication, travel, and social interaction. My interest faded went I learned about computers, but I still go into the local Amateur Radio store once a year.
In one aisle, they have technical books and a surprisingly large number of Amateur Radio fiction books. A common theme is being stranded somewhere and building a radio to get rescued. There is even Amateur Radio romance. Who knew? A few weeks ago, I glanced at a few pages and read the book descriptions. To put it mildly, the material was dreadful. Why? The plots, characters, and circumstances were incredibly unrealistic because the author shoehorned in the topic of Amateur Radio.
I call this entertainment category "forced fiction." This is where a story element gets jammed into the plot as opposed to being integrated. We often see forced fiction in stories involving animals, cars, sports, religion, politics, and fan fiction. Essentially, the author "is in love with X and wrote a book with X in every chapter."
The classic example is a forced animal adventure. A person comes across a horse, and they instantly bond. A wild drama or adventure then unfolds where the two do everything together, strengthening their bond. This type of story is different from a western where the horse is a supporting character. Can the horse be a key figure? Of course, but their presence must be explainable. Using the same example, the cowboy had been riding horses for years and got a new horse. The new horse turns out to be excellent, and they form a lifelong partnership. The critical difference is the story is plausible.
Television is a sea of forced fiction. For example, the KITT car program in Night Rider. Were the plots remotely realistic? Not by a long shot. The only goal for the writer was to have the car appear at least once every ten minutes. This way, kids would buy KITT car toys. In a non-forced television environment, characters get into vehicles and drive them from point A to B. Sometimes the cars crash or get stolen, but the writers do not propel the vehicle into the center of attention for unrealistic reasons.
What if I wanted to read an Amateur Radio story? That's easy. I can search for books with great Amateur Radio scenes. The book Never Cry Wolf has a great one. Most importantly, the setting is appropriate, realistic, and supported by the rest of the book. Amateur Radio is not the focus, but it can be an essential story element.
I have many passions in my life, but I would never force them into a book. Electronics, for example. Having a fictional character solve problems with electronics would be fun to write but dreadful to read.
Should readers abandon this book category? I suppose people will buy/watch what they want. However, I caution writers. Readers and viewers are getting more sophisticated. Hmm. I probably have to get my act together
You’re the best -Bill
April 28, 2021
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