Hey Mythcreants, I’ve been working on a novel for some time – 13 months and 17 days, to be precise, and after many long nights staring at my computer, I’m finally getting in the final stages of the writing. And I realized that in my quest to create a nuanced, complex world, my Empire might be a little too sympathetic.
Anyway, my question is, How do I portray a functioning republic (albeit with a lot of oligarchical tendencies) as the oppressor, without coming across as anti-democracy?
Hey Evan, great to hear from you again!
Fortunately, I don’t think you’re in any danger of writing an anti-democracy story just because the bad guys are (nominally at least) a democracy. Democratic countries do shitty things all the time, including invasions and occupations. The US, UK, and France have all done such things while still being democracies.
The only way your story will seem anti-democratic is if you portray authoritarianism as the solution. Like, if your plot is about how you have to restore the republic’s monarchy so the king can end the occupation, that will seem pretty anti-democratic. But it doesn’t sound like you’re doing that, so I wouldn’t worry about it.
As to why people would fight for the empire, as long as it isn’t cartoonishly evil, this isn’t likely to be a problem either. People sign up to fight for their country and then serve in that country’s army even when it’s doing horrible things like bombing civilians or torturing prisoners. People will justify a whole lot in the name of patriotism, and that’s before you bring in all the propaganda tools that an expansionist government can use, like demonizing a racial enemy as subhuman.
For the empire being too sympathetic, that could happen if you focus too much on how imperial soldiers feel or what have you, since that can distract from the actual wrong being done. A lot of American war movies have this problem. But if you’re portraying an expansionist republic that invades other countries to acquire resources, that will just seem realistic, regardless of whether or not the invading soldiers are nice at a personal level.
Finally, I have a post that might be help: How to Realistically Depict Evil
Hope that answers your question, and good luck with your story!