Using Real Life Social Issues in Fiction
by Muriel Ellis Pritchett
Today’s social issues, which affect us in real life, are often addressed in fiction. But reading about a social issue in the morning paper or seeing it on the evening news is different than reading about it in a fiction novel. Usually, the social issue is not the main plot of the story and is brought up in such a way that it is not overwhelming. Yet, the author is able to get across how serious the issue is and leaves the reader something to think about.
Social issues often tackled by fiction authors include drug addiction, alcohol abuse, spousal abuse, political corruption, poverty, racial discrimination, bullying, unemployment, economic deprivation, immigration, and prostitution/sex trafficking.
In my YA paranormal, Not Myself Today, I address the social issue of sex trafficking, which is not just a problem in the United States, but is a worldwide problem. My protagonist, Lindsey Anderson, is an 18-year-old high school soccer star who kicks the winning goal for the state championship, drops dead on the field, and wakes up in the body of a 14-year-old sex trafficking victim.
I didn’t know anything about sex trafficking victims other than what I read in the Atlanta newspaper and saw on network news. I remembered reading stories in the AJC about 20 years ago written by investigative reporter Jane O. Hansen. I did a Google search and found her January 2001 series, “Selling Atlanta’s Children,” which documented child prostitution in Atlanta. I reread her series and found the facts as disturbing as I remembered.
One incident Hansen described involved a 10-year-old girl being escorted into the courtroom with shackles around her ankles. The young girl—dressed in flipflops and a jail-issued jumpsuit—had been in and out of an Atlanta jail for months. She quietly told the judge she wanted to go home and began to cry. I was horrified that a sex trafficking victim could be that young.
The average age of children who first become sex trafficking victims in the United States is 11-14 years old. Sex trafficking is not a social issue dominated by young Asian women brought to the United States and forced to pay back their transportation fees through sexual slavery. It is a homegrown problem where young American-born girls are forced to work the streets as prostitutes–controlled by men who house, feed, and clothe them, and then sell them to other men for sex.
Which girls are at risk of becoming a child sex trafficking victim? Runaways. Girls having issues and problems at home. Maybe their parents or guardians seem too strict or they are abusive. Or maybe the girls lack love and attention. Annabeth Shepard, the sex trafficking victim in Not Myself Today, runs away from her South Georgia home after her step-father abuses her. She is later found starving and begging in Atlanta by a drug-dealing pimp.
Today, social media is a common recruitment tool used by child sex traffickers. Here young girls can connect with men online. Men who convince them that they will love them and take care of them. Once a sex trafficker lures a girl away from home or “rescues” a runaway, she can be forced to become a sex slave.
Over the past twenty years, the sexual exploitation of children in the State of Georgia has only become worse. Statistics show that 3,600 kids become victims of sex trafficking each year. That’s enough children to fill 72 school buses. Not Myself Today is written with a dark, humorous bite, but child sex trafficking is a serious national problem. Make that a serious worldwide problem.
High school soccer star Lindsey Anderson was at the top of her game with graduation approaching and a full-ride soccer scholarship offer in her hand. Then she dropped dead on the soccer field, only to wake up in the body of a teenage sex-trafficking victim. No one believes who she really is. Not even her dad. Chased by her new body’s drug-dealing pimp and rabid parapsychologists out to dissect her, Lindsey searches to get her body and her life back before graduation day. Can her BFF and the high school nerdy boy she detests help save her life?
Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, Muriel Ellis Pritchett graduated from the University of Georgia and began her journalism career while living in Japan and Germany. Her journalism career included playwriting, editing and writing for magazines and newspapers, and working in public relations, university relations, and media relations.
After retiring, Muriel’s family doctor recommended she get a hobby. So, she began writing fun fiction about feisty older women who had been wronged and had to pull themselves up out of the muck. But her award-winning fourth book, Not Myself Today, is a change in genres—a YA paranormal thriller. It is scheduled for release September 24, 2020. Her first three “fruity” books, fun romance for older women, are Making Lemonade, Like Peaches and Pickles, and Rotten Bananas and the Emerald Dream. She is currently working on another “fruity” book, titled Sour Grapes and Balmy Knight.
When not writing, Muriel loves cruising all over the world, eating good Belgian chocolate, and spending time in any Disney park. Her favorite Disney attractions are SOARING at Disney World’s EPCOT in Florida, Alice’s Curious Labyrinth at Disneyland Paris, Journey to the Center of the Earth at DisneySeas in Tokyo, and Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland in California.
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