The Moral Maze

Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.

Don’t forget to click the purple button to see what everyone else has to say on this week’s subject. It’s at the end of my post.

Does every book have to have a moral?

Back in the day, when oral tradition and storytelling was the most common way of educating about life’s dangers, the moral was a very important part of any story.  These days, while there’s still a place for it, maybe it’s not so important in the sort of fiction I write.

In my preparation for this post, I looked up examples of morality.

1) concerned with the principles of right and wrong behaviour.

“the moral dimensions of medical intervention”

2) holding or manifesting high principles for proper conduct.

“he prides himself on being a highly moral and ethical person”.

3) a lesson that can be derived from a story or experience.

“the moral of this story was that one must see the beauty in what one has”

4) standards of behaviour; principles of right and wrong.

“the corruption of public morals”

Whilst I think that every story needs a point, and very often it’s connected to one of those examples, it doesn’t need to preach or educate or reveal some great truth. It just needs to entertain. I’m not re-writing Aesop’s fables here, nor am I trying to convert you to my character’s way of living.

I guess that there’s a lot of morality inherent in storytelling, there’s the battle between good and evil, the good guys overcoming adversity because they’re…, right and so much more.

But life’s not always like that, the good guys don’t always win, and what society or religion might consider the moral way to behave is not always followed. People can be conflicted and find themselves entering a moral maze, where good things can result in bad outcomes and vice versa. Faced with an impossible choice, the concept of morality can become blurred and secondary to other priorities.

Therein lies the basis of fiction.

It’s not my job as a writer to do any more than show the conflict and the way that my characters resolve it. I don’t need to pass judgement or suggest that one thing or another that they might do was right. And if taking the moral high ground in some way produced a satisfactory outcome every time, stories would be pretty boring.

In fact, many of my characters might be described as having somewhat flexible morals. They lie, cheat, steal and occasionally perform acts of violence. They may not be the sort of people you would associate with, but I like to think that it doesn’t make them bad characters. In their worlds, they’re doing what they feel is right in the circumstances.

People often seem to find things in my work that suggest a deeper meaning, a lesson to be learned or a demonstration of some immutable truth. I have to say right now that it’s never been my intention to write that sort of stuff. I just tell a story.

It’s up to you how you interpret it.

Until next time.

Let me know what you think about this week’s subject.

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10 Responses

  1. Stevie Turner

    I’ve found though that readers don’t seem to like it if the bad guy gets away with whatever has made him a bad guy in the first place. I found that out when I wrote ‘Revenge’, and have stuck to a happy ending ever since.

    • Richard Dee

      I like to create ambiguous characters, so that although they may appear to be bad, you can sympathise with them. Even like them.

    • Richard Dee

      Absolutely. I love inventing people who could be either, depending on your P.O.V.

    • Richard Dee

      I think it’s good to introduce a sense of ambiguity in the characters and let the reader make their own judgement.

  2. Daryl Devore

    Totally agree.
    I tried to tweet but Twitter won’t let me in for some unknown reason.

    • Richard Dee

      Thanks, twitter and I have a colourful relationship.

  3. Snapdragon

    I think that if you focus on writing a good story the morels just fit into place. Weather you intend to have a morel in the story or not.

    • Richard Dee

      Even though my stories are mostly set in another time and place, I try to make them as realistic a slice of life as I can. Warts and all.

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