Storytelling: morals

Welcome to another jumble of thoughts related to books and stories. The book I’m currently re-reading (review coming in the next few days) led me to think about morals and the impact on characters.

Obviously, it’s most often the protagonists who are limited by their morals. The bad guys usually have none or very twisted ones, bend so they strengthen their depravity or serve as a strange way to justify their actions.

The biggest impact is probably that by having any kind of morals can get a character in a bad situation. If you’d threaten a bad guy to kill his friend to give up, he’d probably laugh and kill you both without caring much. The typical good guy will be forced to find a solution that, first and foremost, lets those he or she cares for in as minimal danger as possible.

A character with low or none morals can get out of a sticky situation by killing anyone standing in his way. It might be spectacular (especially if it’s in a movie with countless sparky explosions) but offers little challenge.

A character with strong morals who won’t kill without there being a reason for it, especially not innocents, will need to think much harder about getting out of a bad situation. It’ll put several questions in front of it: when and how much violence is justified? Can you consider minions of bad guys as bad guys you can deal with in any way or not? At what point you can justify leaving an ally in peril even if it’s for your own preservation? When is capture (and jail) better or worse than killing a minion of an evil person on the spot, or than execution?

In addition to all of that, it also allows for a situation where a character reflects on what happened and dislikes how it went. It gives chances for regret and/or reflection that characters without morals could never face. It gives a chance for friends of such a character to help them overcome such a moment, to offer a shoulder to cry on – or just a different point of view.

Plus, a character’s experience can affect these decisions which can change over time, which can be another interesting part of character development. It’s really nice to see that when reading a book.

I guess that’s what I wanted to share on that matter, at least for this time.

One thought on “Storytelling: morals

  1. Pingback: Storytelling: hindering the hero | Tomas's blog and web

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