Corrupt Politicians in Fiction - A Modern Dilemma
The storylines in Cyber Seventy-Seven and Cyber Dead or Alive required corrupt politicians as counterpoints to our heroes and heroines. In the original drafts of the novels, the politicians were corrupt by the standards I’d grown to expect from democratically elected leaders. Violating oaths of office, lying, cheating, and infidelity on a small scale were the things I recognized as normal corruption and hence the stimulus for the first drafts of the KindleKat Series.
Imagine my surprise on reading through those early drafts while listening to the evening news. My fictional bad guys and gals were practically saints when compared to the real-world politicians in the headlines. And so, my corrupt politicians had to evolve, their crimes against democracy and humanity at large had to get bigger and bolder.
Instead of simple corruption, my bad guys needed to engage in international conspiracy or, pardon the phrase, collusion. Instead of firing a subordinate, the politicians in the story needed to eliminate them with prejudice. Rather than being satisfied with stealing millions, the Cyber Seventy-Seven evil doers opt for billions.
On the surface, this seems like a relatively minor problem, after all we are talking fiction here. As an author, it’s fun writing outrageous characters. The genuine challenge is for the reader. This became apparent to me one evening when one reader was mildly chastising me for suggesting a President of the United States would ever do something like that. Moments later another reader expressed their absolute certainty that President _____ (fill in the blank with your favorite) was likely guilty of the same that.
On the bright side, people were talking about the book. On the surprising side, at least for me, was the two diametrically opposing views of what a corrupt, fictional politician would entertain for the sake of money.
Hence, my dilemma and I suspect every other author’s dilemma these days. How do you create fictional bad guy/gal politicians that resonate with a broad reader base? Baby-Boomers and Gen-X’ers have inherently different expectations of the felonious behavior elected officials are likely to be up to. Mirroring real-world politicians is always tricky since you’re bound to offend someone. Leaving Presidents unnamed allows people to fill in the blanks with their preferred bad guy/gal but makes for awkward prose.
For the third novel in the KindleKat Series, Cyber Retribution, the dilemma is manageable, in that the corrupt politicians are all people from whom the reader already expects the deadliest of sins. But going forward, will I, or anyone, be able to keep our fictional politicians a step ahead of those in the actual world when it comes to corruption, crime, and the seven deadly sins?