Today, we celebrate the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We remember him as a Baptist minister, a civil rights leader, an advocate for nonviolent assembly and change, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and a powerful orator.
I think sometimes, though, people forget he was a brilliant author.
Leah Dearborn of LitReactor Magazine wrote a compelling article called “Lessons from Martin Luther King Jr., The Writer” in which she outlines four things she learned from reading his work. Here they are. To be:
As writers of fiction, particularly genre fiction, we might think these lessons don’t apply. Nonfiction authors focus on research and references. Literary authors strive to write eloquent, compelling stories that go on to be studied and revered in literary analysis courses for years to come. But genre authors have reputations for being more concerned with marketability and sales than with intricately-crafted sentences and academic praise.
To me, it doesn’t matter what a writer writes. Nonfiction, fiction. Literary or genre. Poetry. Blog post… It’s all literature, and it all exists because an author had a message to share with the world. Why not publish that message, all messages, by being urgent, prolific, clear, and empathetic authors?
I’ll do you one better. Why not make your characters urgent, prolific, clear, and empathetic? In so doing, your work will naturally reflect those qualities.
We’ve all been warned about cookie-cutter characters, underdeveloped settings, and superficial plots. It doesn’t take much to avoid these pitfalls. A little planning, a little more effort. We can elevate our stories by keeping these points in mind.
All literature can be elevated by keeping these points in mind.
Dr. King’s words and ideas have not only lived on long after his passing, they’ve inspired new generations of communicators to rise to and above the challenges of the day. That’s what good writing—and good people—are ultimately all about. (click to tweet)
How do you plan on marking today? On commemorating such an important life? Are you being urgent, prolific, clear, and/or empathetic? Maybe something else entirely? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below, and let’s talk about it.