I finished off last week's Writing Wisdom with the following:
The question with all of these techniques is when and how do we use them in our own writing? Should it always be purely what suits us at the moment or what will get the most sales or start the most conversations? I believe that after a story forms itself in our minds, the very next step we should take is to decide if it can fit within our moral framework. This is not to say that the world, characters, and storyline need to be set in Christian or Muslim setting. It is saying that if you believe in the importance of chastity, you won't be promoting infidelity and teen sex even if your characters may engage in it.Continuing on this path, after we decide if the story fits within our moral (or lack thereof) framework, we are then presented with the questions of how to write the story. 1st person limited, 1st person omniscient, dark and brooding, light and humorous, thoughtful, action packed, etc. The same story can be told in a myriad of ways. It could actually be quite the fun short story collection... hmmm...
Then, while writing the story, we will repeatedly encounter the question of what type of description we will use and how far we will take it. So how do our morals affect this decision?
One of the classic examples of how morals affect writing is The Twilight Saga from Stephenie Meyers. There is a lot romance and some violence events. The book series was wildly popular, especially in the Young Adult age group. And yet how many scenes used the technique of graphic realism to describe sex or violence. Did you read detailed descriptions of werewolves eviscerating their prey, the texture of their human prey's pulsing intestines while they were consumed and the victim's reactions to this? No, of course you didn't. And why was this? Certainly there were plenty of opportunities to do so!
The answer is that the morals which are held by Stephenie Meyers, both in what she would write and for what audience, precluded such descriptions. Instead, she used realism to create a mythos that felt plausible despite it's fantasy aspects. No graphic realism of blood, guts, and sex needed. Additionally, there was no hyper-fantasy. The world was real and relatable, so using it to describe the world was not needed.
Now, it has been argued by some that Mrs. Meyers did create an unrealistic emotional ideal, one that some have claimed is dangerous in setting the wrong expectations of what love feels like. Perhaps this is so, though many of the same people happen to hate Barbie, Cinderella, and other such characters who live enchanted lives (or have magically impossible proportions...). I would argue that love and a new element to your world may cause intense feelings, and the series doesn't deal with the marriage a hundred years later, it deals with being young and in love.
However, Twilight does use an element of graphic realism in the emotional side. This fit in fine with Meyer's personal moral boundaries, but for some it has been called emotional pornography. Think the teen version of a romance/bodice ripper. She does occasionally spend a lot of time on emotions and what Bella is feeling, perhaps more than is normal. It's hard for me to judge, because some women I have talked to said it was too much, others have said they analyze their emotions and put that much depth into them all the time. I'm a manly man, so hard for me to relate, but I think it's apparent it varies person to person.
I chose Twilight to apply these techniques because it fits multiple categories that began this whole series: it is a YA novel, geared toward the older YA. It is dark. It is paranormal. It is edgy. And it is by most standards clean and clearly does or does not use the descriptive techniques we have discussed over the last few weeks.
I am personally working on an political-action thriller. I have already had many opportunities to use hyper-fantasy and graphic realism. But I don't. It would make the setting and people unbelievable if I tried either in most of the novel, messing with pacing and believability. For my novel, that's important. I know it is less important in other genres. This is not to say it will not have dark moments, violence, and seedy underpinnings in part (though I don't see too much of that in this novel due to the setting). People will die. Already there are terrible scenes of women and children being shot and killed. A hundred million die across the globe and it highlights the human suffering of children, infants, and parents. There is corruption. There is betrayal. There may even be love.
And thus ends this mini-series on the Morals in Writing, part of the weekly Writing Wisdom feature on Wednesday. I am certain it will have a second mini-series later, but for now I hope it has helped some readers clarify how morals can affect their writing and what a few options are to describe what their characters are seeing and feeling.
A final question for the readers of this blog: How have morals affected your writing? Has it affected the story, how you describe events, or have you simply not cared?
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