Characters are meant to be living entities in and of themselves. They can act in ways both better and worse than the writer crafting their stories.
A writer may not be for thievery but may write about a thief, and the same can be said about any sort of immoral or deviant behavior. The behavior of characters does not necessarily reflect the author’s own morality. We live in a world where there are evil, careless, and self-centered people, and people simply have bad days and do things they regret.
My books are generally “clean” and family oriented because that is my target audience. I also don’t believe in having over the top content for the sake of shock and awe. With that said, I do see adding contented for the sake of being true to the character that might be unsavory.
As a writer and an artist, I don’t believe in censorship and stand firm that the author should be true to the character’s personality. That may even include things that make the author or audience uncomfortable. That said, the creator should also place some boundaries, there are certain things that are best left out of entertainment. If there is a gory death, it is best to left it to the imagination instead, or implying it rather than directly giving an overly detailed description. I have read scenes in books or movie descriptions out of curiosity that were stomach churning, the author should limit him or herself because there are certain things that are unnecessary.
Now, with that painfully obvious disclaimer out of the way, author’s including immoral behavior in a story doesn’t reflect the writer’s personal beliefs, at least not in a well-crafted storyline. Within the context of being sensitive to our audience, a writer is obligated to be true to the character.
I discussed here evil and what it is and how villains in both fiction and reality see themselves as good. I briefly discussed this in that post, but feel that it needs to be further explored, would we recognize evil even if we saw it? Can a culture become so warped that it no longer knows evil when it infects it? History confirms without a shadow of doubt that it is very possible, look no further than Third Reich, or Russia during Stalin’s rule.
Those are just two small examples of long history when humanity has adopted a sort of reverse morality. This is a lesson to all of us, that we must be diligent. It doesn’t take much for evil to become popular and acceptable. Evil isn’t always a megalomaniac, it is often subtle, with seemingly harmless ideas. The difficulty of evil is that it doesn’t always look or feel evil or destructive. It seeps in and slowly poisons everything around it.
Fiction of all kinds address this very issue, and it should serve as a metaphor for what could happen in the real world. Real human history also shows us what happens when we allow toxic ideas to spread and infect until they are normal and they evolve into terrible atrocities. Other than being diligent ourselves how can we stand in the way of evil? The greatest way is to measure it against truth and to not be silent.
Often, we hear “don’t preach at me,” or “don’t lecture me,” when we share our perspectives on morality. Obviously, there is a way to share our thoughts in a way that is more receptive to someone else, but sometimes people simply don’t want to hear differing perspectives. Some folks are so married to their ideology that they cannot even listen to other views. This sort of attitude is never constructive for anyone and does nothing to help society. The thing is, we need to diligently keep an eye out for evil seeping into our lives and culture. Sometimes we need to be “preached” or “lectured” at. Surely no one would deny those saluting Hitler needed it. We see it in both fiction and history, an evil idea becomes popular and those who need to hear truth reject it out of pride and ultimately people suffer. Let us leave this sort of pride in fiction where it belongs.