Reader Roundup 6-20-18. Using the Contact Hypothesis in Fiction.

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Several factors came together this week from my own experience, my writing, and from society at large. This post is going to be a bit more personal than usual, but it is a subject close to my heart.

Many authors of gay novels make use of the tension between gay and straight as a theme in their stories, as I myself am doing in my current series, Gladstone Shifters. Why? Despite a general increase in acceptance in recent years, the aforesaid tension remains an unfortunate reality in the lives of GSM (Gender and Sexual Minorities) folk everywhere. It’s been present in my life all the way back to grade school and remains an issue today. Mine is not a unique experience, as many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Much of the hostility out there is a result of ignorance and fear, along with a lack of personal connections which put a face on the issue. Incredibly, there are a multitude of straight folk who claim not to know one single GSM person, and yet have plenty to say concerning a subject they know nothing about! As we share our stories, there is a familiar thread which binds many of them together – a change in attitude and position came about only after personal relationships developed. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work this way, even among family members, but the concept has been around since the 1950’s.

The Contact Hypothesis, or Intergroup Contact Theory, is often credited to Gordon W. Allport (1954). The premise of Allport’s theory states that under appropriate conditions interpersonal contact is one of the most effective ways to reduce prejudice between majority and minority group members. If one has the opportunity to communicate with others, they are able to understand and appreciate different points of views involving their way of life. As a result of new appreciation and understanding, prejudice should diminish. Allport also claims that prejudice is a direct result of generalizations and oversimplifications made about an entire group of people based on incomplete or mistaken information.

In other words, (and as common sense would tell us), as we build relationships with each other the fear and misinformation can be replaced with acceptance and understanding. Unfortunately, it’s something of a catch-22 trying to overcome the barriers which prevent the relationships in the first place.

Many a gay person, myself included, has been rejected by a neighbor, co-worker, or family member after our orientation was discovered. Being burned this way makes us cautious and less likely to be honest about who we really are. Meanwhile the straight person has no idea they are rubbing elbows every day with GSM folks, and they continue on blindly with their prejudices based on what they already “know”. One remains in ignorance while the other hides in self-protection. We aren’t going to get anywhere this way!

Without mentioning the Contact Hypothesis directly, I will be using the concept in my current manuscript as part of the story. I want to show what is possible under the right circumstances from both perspectives. Is this pie-in-the-sky idealism? Perhaps, but it presents a positive option to the deadlock we often see in modern society, and I really don’t want to dwell on that any more than necessary! For the story, it will provide a bit of drama, solve an immediate problem, and perhaps plant a seed in the minds of my readers.

NOTE: I am not a trained psychologist or make any claims regarding the usefulness of the Intergroup Contact Theory. I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject because they are germane to the story I am working on and dovetail with my own observations and experiences. Take from it what you will!

For more information regarding the Intergroup Contact Theory, click HERE.

Update on Traitor’s Moon: working on chapter 2, word count: 14,000+, three new characters introduced, Jack and William make their reappearance,  Alaska becomes part of the story. I wish I could write faster, but even then it would not be enough for some of my readers! Good things come to those who wait…

Author: Alexander Elliott

Alexander grew up in the Midwest, was compelled to attend private school, and ended up with an eclectic career. He’s still trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life. When not working to pay the bills, he loves to read, watch Star Trek, and laugh at Calvin and Hobbs cartoons. He also enjoys long baths, country music, nature photography, cooking and keeping up with his large family. Until recently, his writing included unpublished stories, music, poetry and drama scripts. Writing his first novel in 2016 changed everything, and he struggles to balance a boatload of ideas with very little time. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, paranormal and romance. The author strives to create imaginative, generally upbeat stories with happy endings, making sure the bad guys get their comeuppance. He considers reading a chance to get away from it all and invites you to join him. If you enjoy Alexander’s work, he would love to hear from you. aelliottbooks@gmail.com

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