As a writer, I sometimes worry about my depiction of what’s right and good within my story. I write fiction, and more specifically, I write for entertainment purposes. But even so, what we read influences our opinions of the world – what we read changes what we think and how we think. So as a writer, I feel that I need to be conscious of what I write and how I write it, because it could change what someone thinks, and I would rather change someone for the better than for the worse.
For example, when I was young I loved the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. As a result, I was influenced to believe very simply that killing bad people is perfectly okay. Now, however, as an adult, my morality has changed. Taking the life of another person is a very serious matter, and not something to be taken lightly, no matter how bad a bad guy the person is. Now the Redwall books were always careful not to glorify killing and war, but even so, warriors who killed bad guys are held up as flawless heroes. (It is possible that I am misremembering some of the details, but this is how I remember it and it’s definitely the impression I took away from the books.)
My first attempt at a novel had a main character who was an assassin (her name was Taj). Now I was quite taken with today’s glorification of BAMFs who go around killing bad guys, so I had no problems whatsoever with Taj killing more of said bad guys. Over time, however, my morality began to mature. I thought more about what I was writing, and I grew uncomfortable with Taj’s profession, and more than that, her cavalier attitude about the whole thing. The message I was sending my audience was that not only was killing okay, it was cool. And I no longer believed that any more.
It took many years and a philosophy degree before I came to realize that I don’t believe that killing is ever truly right. I realize that sometimes it is, in a sense, necessary, for example when chosen as the lesser of two evils, but it is not right. Killing is not good, and should be avoided if at all possible. I know many think me naive for holding this view, but believe it I do. And this presents a particular challenge.
Writing an action/adventure story that does not condone killing is challenging. I still have killing happen in my story – I just have to make sure that when it happens, I don’t portray it as an unequivocally good thing. What makes this harder is that I also, as someone who desires to be a good writer, don’t want to resort to deus ex machina to save my characters (a popular device, at times, to save a character when the author doesn’t want them to have blood on their hands). However, I have every intention of rising to that challenge.
Well, that’s all for this post, although I intend to write another related post on opinions and religion and writing. As always, I welcome any and all feedback, comments, and questions in the comments!
Let me know what you think! How does your morality influence your writing? Is this something you’ve thought about or struggled with? How did you deal with it?