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Thread: Do you find yourself creating your villains first before the heroes?

  1. #11
    Mentor Megan Pearson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seigfried007 View Post
    Ooooooooohh guuuuurlllll... you just opened up a whole other can of worms there.


    It's easier to stick to "protagonist" and "antagonist" for a reason (and even those get screwed up a lot). People are shades of gray in moral terms. Nobody's really a hero--there's just "more heroic" and "less heroic." A hero isn't necessarily the viewpoint character or even the main character.

    Quite often the whole story hinges on the villain... which makes them the MC and protagonist (protagonist is literally the character who does the stuff, and antagonists work against protagonists). Thus, if the Emperor is masterminding the whole thing and setting everything in motion, he's the protagonist, and Luke Skywalker is actually the antagonist because he's working against the plans someone else set in motion. All depends on viewpoint, how the conflict is structures and how technical anyone wants to get.
    Based on this, then what you must be creating are shallow characters. (Hopefully, that is not the case.)

    Au contraire, quite often, the story hinges on the character who either struggles to make the best moral choices or are polemical in nature. (Ex: who's more memorable? STNG's LCdr Riker, or Worf? Or, and a little closer to home, why do we all love Luckyscars so much so? Because he picks a side and sticks with it. His choices are often polemical in nature.)

    If a character does not have a moral imperative, then what you have is a character as a prop without agency. Choices, and why those choices are made, are founded on what the choice-maker sees as right or wrong. Truth, then, also exists, and it does so as an objectively real, abstract object. The degree to which the choice-maker's truth lines up with truth in reality is the degree to which the choice-maker's truth corresponds to reality. Thus, some choices are better than others. Our MC's better be the kinds of people that make choices because books where MC's don't make choices tend not to sell very well...(ironically, heard that on a podcast today).

    You said, "people are shades of grey in moral terms." Then, how can you have two people do the same act and the courts determine two different motives? Easy. Exactly because people are not shades of grey in moral terms. Evil people do exist. Ask the Vietnamese boat people. Ask the survivors of the Khmer Rouge.

    Need an example on how courts determine motive? Two people are caught speeding. Both have made the choice to disobey the law. However, while one is arrested for evading the cop, the other is given a police escort to the hospital so his wife can deliver their baby. Their moral reasoning behind the choices they made in breaking the law are exactly what determines punishment or leniency.

    People are not shades of grey in moral terms unless you've deemed morality as something that cannot be known. If moral knowledge has been deemed as something that cannot be known, then what you have is moral depravity. In other words, it is a form of morality that is in denial of truth. For if truth exists in reality, then what we say about it doesn't change what it is -- either something is true or it is not true. Similarly, something either is, or is not, moral. Notice, I'm not talking about customs or traditions but that which exists objectively, independent of man's conventions. A morally depraved people who cannot know right from wrong cannot make choices and, frankly, are not the kind of people I would want to spend my valuable time reading about. If you want my lecture on why nihilism is logically inconsistent, I'd be happy to give it...

    To cite an old computer game, what you get when you remove morality from people are 'lemmings'...

    ***

    Final thought.
    It's a sad comentary on modern society that we do not recognize our heroes. They're out there. You try telling a childhood friend of mine that her father isn't a hero, and she'll tell you about the little boy he rescued from a rip tide. That little girl grew up without a father because he recognized he had a choice to make--a choice based on what was right to do--even though it cost him his life. She grew up knowing there are heroes, and that heroes make right choices based on knowing what is right or wrong, and that those choices positively affect the lives of others--especially when the hero has given his life for another.
    Last edited by Megan Pearson; August 17th, 2019 at 05:39 AM.
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  2. #12
    Mentor Megan Pearson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seigfried007 View Post
    Ooooooooohh guuuuurlllll... you just opened up a whole other can of worms there.


    It's easier to stick to "protagonist" and "antagonist" for a reason (and even those get screwed up a lot). People are shades of gray in moral terms. Nobody's really a hero--there's just "more heroic" and "less heroic." A hero isn't necessarily the viewpoint character or even the main character.

    Quite often the whole story hinges on the villain... which makes them the MC and protagonist (protagonist is literally the character who does the stuff, and antagonists work against protagonists). Thus, if the Emperor is masterminding the whole thing and setting everything in motion, he's the protagonist, and Luke Skywalker is actually the antagonist because he's working against the plans someone else set in motion. All depends on viewpoint, how the conflict is structures and how technical anyone wants to get.
    Mmm... also, just thought you should know, for your point of view it's actually logically inconsistent to say that what I said is a 'can of worms'.
    "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
    ~ John A. Shedd


  3. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Megan Pearson View Post
    Final thought.
    It's a sad comentary on modern society that we do not recognize our heroes. They're out there. You try telling a childhood friend of mine that her father isn't a hero, and she'll tell you about the little boy he rescued from a rip tide. That little girl grew up without a father because he recognized he had a choice to make--a choice based on what was right to do--even though it cost him his life. She grew up knowing there are heroes, and that heroes make right choices based on knowing what is right or wrong, and that those choices positively affect the lives of others--especially when the hero has given his life for another.
    Yes. I find it strange that the traditional hero and villain dichotomy is painted as "unrealistic" or "shallow" when there are real heroes and villains everywhere. Yes, villains might have good in them, but if they enact evil in the world, that's villainous. Every hero has bad in them, but in enacting good in the world, they're acting heroically. It's about your direction--spiritual orientation might be a good word for it. Is their life based on selfishness or love? Lies or truth?

    So, I find the hero and villain terms to be very useful, as distinct from protagonist and antagonist. Light Yagami is the protagonist of DeathNote, but he's clearly a villain. Going back to the original question, I generally create my protagonist first, whether that's a hero or a villain. Stories arise in my mind sort of organically, though, so sometimes it's a side character or a place or even an important object that comes first. . .
    "So long is the way to the unknown, long is the way we have come. . ." ~ Turisas, Five Hundred and One

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  4. #14
    Member Rojack79's Avatar
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    To answer the Op's question for me it depends on the story. One idea I had required that I create the villains first, then give them heroes to fight. Another story idea was the complete opposite.
    This might not be my best work but that just means there's room to improve.

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  5. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Megan Pearson View Post
    Based on this, then what you must be creating are shallow characters. (Hopefully, that is not the case.)

    Au contraire, quite often, the story hinges on the character who either struggles to make the best moral choices or are polemical in nature. (Ex: who's more memorable? STNG's LCdr Riker, or Worf? Or, and a little closer to home, why do we all love Luckyscars so much so? Because he picks a side and sticks with it. His choices are often polemical in nature.)

    If a character does not have a moral imperative, then what you have is a character as a prop without agency. Choices, and why those choices are made, are founded on what the choice-maker sees as right or wrong. Truth, then, also exists, and it does so as an objectively real, abstract object. The degree to which the choice-maker's truth lines up with truth in reality is the degree to which the choice-maker's truth corresponds to reality. Thus, some choices are better than others. Our MC's better be the kinds of people that make choices because books where MC's don't make choices tend not to sell very well...(ironically, heard that on a podcast today).

    You said, "people are shades of grey in moral terms." Then, how can you have two people do the same act and the courts determine two different motives? Easy. Exactly because people are not shades of grey in moral terms. Evil people do exist. Ask the Vietnamese boat people. Ask the survivors of the Khmer Rouge.

    Need an example on how courts determine motive? Two people are caught speeding. Both have made the choice to disobey the law. However, while one is arrested for evading the cop, the other is given a police escort to the hospital so his wife can deliver their baby. Their moral reasoning behind the choices they made in breaking the law are exactly what determines punishment or leniency.

    People are not shades of grey in moral terms unless you've deemed morality as something that cannot be known. If moral knowledge has been deemed as something that cannot be known, then what you have is moral depravity. In other words, it is a form of morality that is in denial of truth. For if truth exists in reality, then what we say about it doesn't change what it is -- either something is true or it is not true. Similarly, something either is, or is not, moral. Notice, I'm not talking about customs or traditions but that which exists objectively, independent of man's conventions. A morally depraved people who cannot know right from wrong cannot make choices and, frankly, are not the kind of people I would want to spend my valuable time reading about. If you want my lecture on why nihilism is logically inconsistent, I'd be happy to give it...

    To cite an old computer game, what you get when you remove morality from people are 'lemmings'...

    ***

    Final thought.
    It's a sad comentary on modern society that we do not recognize our heroes. They're out there. You try telling a childhood friend of mine that her father isn't a hero, and she'll tell you about the little boy he rescued from a rip tide. That little girl grew up without a father because he recognized he had a choice to make--a choice based on what was right to do--even though it cost him his life. She grew up knowing there are heroes, and that heroes make right choices based on knowing what is right or wrong, and that those choices positively affect the lives of others--especially when the hero has given his life for another.
    I like this post. I learned something!

    Look, I think the idea of people 'all being shades of gray' is something that often gets misused. It's definitely born of the same tree that births the myriad posts on here that all resort to some vomit-worthy version of 'there's no right or wrong answer' or 'it's a matter of opinion' or 'it depends on the situation'. In many respects, I quite loathe it too.

    But you can't really argue with appeals to subjectivity. That's why Descartes lost his shit, I imagine. It's so easy to give the benefit of the doubt to people. But it is seriously fucking pointless to think of things that way - I detest open-mindedness for the sake of open-mindedness. I detest that old hippie mentality of 'it's all cool man, all one wave'. Because there's no point in 'everything being a matter of opinion' if you then consistently refuse to both acquire an opinion and test it on the field of battle fiercely. Nowhere is this more true than with the subject of morality.

    On which note, while I do think all characters should consistent of shades of gray, Megan is right - that doesn't mean they should be all over the place in terms of their moral path. That doesn't mean, for example, that the actions or thoughts of a character should be doused in a cloak of moral vacillation. It doesn't mean there should be no hero, no villain.

    What it does mean is that the subject of villainy, for instance, should be approached in a way that actually reflects how real 'villains' think and feel. And villains, of course, usually don't think of themselves as such. The villain usually thinks he/she is the hero. Because of that, the villain in a story should probably not be portrayed sitting in a room stroking a white cat and plotting how many babies they're going to eat that day. The villain's imagined self-image is not that of satanic evil but godlike good. Good, that becomes evermore twisted by priorities that are incompatible with social norms and which they may not be able to control.

    A pedophile's sexual obsession with children is a problem because of the way it affects those who are victims of their abuse. We all agree that a pedophile is definitely a villain, definitely evil. But... if a pedophile's brain wiring does not permit them to have the empathy that most of us have -- or if it does but the obsession, the drive, nevertheless outweighs it -- I think it's correct to say their evil is not born of intent (they may sincerely believe the child loves them back) but rather because of their inability/unwillingness to properly contemplate and process the ramifications of their actions, and possibly some outlet they have found that excuses it (Socrates was a bit of a perv, so...). Which means that, yes, pedophilia is really fucking evil (let's definitely not equivocate on that!), but it's also usually quite complicated as a psychological condition. Psychopaths aside, most evil comes about by a deformed belief in goodness and a delusional sense of moral purity - as Nabukov's book illustrates quite well.

    The problem is, society really isn't comfortable thinking about this level of morality in any respect other than a binary. I was reminded of this just writing the last paragraph. It's funny, it literally made my skin crawl, the immediate sense that 'oh crap I might be inadvertently justifying pedophilia here...'. Which, of course, I am not doing. But all too often the idea of 'understanding something' or 'looking at it in a different way' becomes misconstrued as being sympathetic to it, which results in a strange form of no-platforming that takes place in our minds. If I wrote a story tomorrow that tried to show Adolf Hitler in anything other than as a total monster, that story would be a very hard sell, even if I still ultimately do portray him as evil, even if I'm still conclusive about it, we nevertheless want that evil to be fairly relentless. We certainly don't want it, or the full nature of it, queried too much.

    We certainly don't want moral contradictions. We don't want to show a savage, Jew-killing dictator handing out Christmas presents at an orphanage for totally benevolent reasons. We don't want to show the man who just raped and murdered a toddler at a park to go home and be shown being a genuinely good father to his own children. Why not? Do we not believe these things happen in reality? Of course they happen! But we don't want them. We don't want them because, ultimately, we don't want morality in fiction to be too complicated. Not beyond a very limited degree, anyway. Our claim to enjoy moral ambiguity and antiheroes is just that...a claim. In fact, it has a very limited tolerance. It's a crock of shit. Because we are generally only okay with a 'morally ambiguous' character if they're on an arc where that ambiguity is fading. But we're not okay with morally ambiguous characters when they actually stay morally ambiguous from beginning to end and we cannot assign them into that binary-good or binary-evil camp at some point in the story. Which is how this usually goes That's Walter White. That's Dexter. That's Humbert Humbert. That's Abraham and Judas Iscariot. That's the entire cast of Game Of Thrones. In the end, we get our heroes and villains.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

  6. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Megan Pearson View Post
    Based on this, then what you must be creating are shallow characters. (Hopefully, that is not the case.)

    Au contraire, quite often, the story hinges on the character who either struggles to make the best moral choices or are polemical in nature. (Ex: who's more memorable? STNG's LCdr Riker, or Worf? Or, and a little closer to home, why do we all love Luckyscars so much so? Because he picks a side and sticks with it. His choices are often polemical in nature.)

    If a character does not have a moral imperative, then what you have is a character as a prop without agency. Choices, and why those choices are made, are founded on what the choice-maker sees as right or wrong. Truth, then, also exists, and it does so as an objectively real, abstract object. The degree to which the choice-maker's truth lines up with truth in reality is the degree to which the choice-maker's truth corresponds to reality. Thus, some choices are better than others. Our MC's better be the kinds of people that make choices because books where MC's don't make choices tend not to sell very well...(ironically, heard that on a podcast today).

    You said, "people are shades of grey in moral terms." Then, how can you have two people do the same act and the courts determine two different motives? Easy. Exactly because people are not shades of grey in moral terms. Evil people do exist. Ask the Vietnamese boat people. Ask the survivors of the Khmer Rouge.

    Need an example on how courts determine motive? Two people are caught speeding. Both have made the choice to disobey the law. However, while one is arrested for evading the cop, the other is given a police escort to the hospital so his wife can deliver their baby. Their moral reasoning behind the choices they made in breaking the law are exactly what determines punishment or leniency.

    People are not shades of grey in moral terms unless you've deemed morality as something that cannot be known. If moral knowledge has been deemed as something that cannot be known, then what you have is moral depravity. In other words, it is a form of morality that is in denial of truth. For if truth exists in reality, then what we say about it doesn't change what it is -- either something is true or it is not true. Similarly, something either is, or is not, moral. Notice, I'm not talking about customs or traditions but that which exists objectively, independent of man's conventions. A morally depraved people who cannot know right from wrong cannot make choices and, frankly, are not the kind of people I would want to spend my valuable time reading about. If you want my lecture on why nihilism is logically inconsistent, I'd be happy to give it...

    To cite an old computer game, what you get when you remove morality from people are 'lemmings'...

    ***

    Final thought.
    It's a sad comentary on modern society that we do not recognize our heroes. They're out there. You try telling a childhood friend of mine that her father isn't a hero, and she'll tell you about the little boy he rescued from a rip tide. That little girl grew up without a father because he recognized he had a choice to make--a choice based on what was right to do--even though it cost him his life. She grew up knowing there are heroes, and that heroes make right choices based on knowing what is right or wrong, and that those choices positively affect the lives of others--especially when the hero has given his life for another.
    I think we've got wires crossed. By "shades of gray", I was saying no human being is inherently and always "good" or "evil". Most decisions in life are totally neutral (what to eat for lunch, for instance). Everyone has done good things and bad things, done good things for bad reasons, and bad things for good reasons. No one starts out a hero, and heroes are still only human. They do make mistakes. Sometimes they only appear heroic while having less than heroic motives. It seems like you're defining heroes based on single actions--I'm talking about a lifetime commitment. 100% heroism throughout one's entire life is impossible for mere humans. Everyone has fallen short of the glory of God, so to speak.

    The 'can of worms' was that you brought morality in at all. It was supposed to be humorous. Maybe "can of worms" means something different where you're from, but here it means "That a whole other matter/discussion." Stances on morality, while somewhat related to heroes/villains, isn't what the thread's about. We weren't here to debate morality on the Interwebs, but you brought it up, so it's "a whole other can of worms."

    Heroes and villains can be anything from 2D to 4D characters, like any others, so there will be morality plays of differing types and degrees. It's assumed that "villains" are "the bad guys," and "heroes" are "the good guys." Most writers preferred slightly grayer tones to reflect the reality of the human condition, hence, making characters more believable than always keeping your characters the "Butt-kicking Christ figure" and "Baby-eating Devil figure." People are incapable of being purely good or evil over their entire lifetimes, and so we are "shades of gray" on the black and white spectrum of morality.

    The term "shades of gray" still implies that "black and white" morality does exist because in order to get a gray spectrum, there have to be two total opposites: black and white (the absence of light, and the full spectrum of light). I'm not dealing with "blue and orange" morality. Implying "gray" doesn't mean I'm writing amoral characters, and it certainly doesn't mean I'm writing flat ones (quite the opposite).

    Gray characters still exist anywhere on that spectrum from angel to devil--they're just not 100% good or evil in every single circumstance throughout their entire lives. At some point, that "devil" helped an old lady across the street or opened the door for somebody; at some point, he had a hope in hell of being a decent person. At some point, that "angel" said something mean (even if it was "well-deserved"), told a lie, played hooky, thought he was a better person than someone else.
    Last edited by seigfried007; August 17th, 2019 at 12:56 PM.
    "Ammonia will disinfect sin."
    --adrianhayter

    "Art is life, just add bull****."
    --Chris Miller

  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Megan Pearson View Post
    Based on this, then what you must be creating are shallow characters. (Hopefully, that is not the case.)

    Au contraire, quite often, the story hinges on the character who either struggles to make the best moral choices or are polemical in nature. (Ex: who's more memorable? STNG's LCdr Riker, or Worf? Or, and a little closer to home, why do we all love Luckyscars so much so? Because he picks a side and sticks with it. His choices are often polemical in nature.)
    "The story hinging" issue is simple: who got the ball rolling? Who started the plot?

    If the bad guys started the plot, they're the protagonist(s) by some definitions. They're trying to do something (take over the world), and the heroes exist just to get in their way (antagonist). Without the bad guy's quest to take over the world, there is no story. The hero cannot have his "hero's journey" without a villain. Bad guys are quite often the whole reason for a story to happen because, for the most part, heroes just want to do their 9-5 and go home--they want a nice, peaceful, fulfilling life generally. Now, you can say that the hero's goal is "to be left alone and live in a perfect world," and that the villain is then what "gets in the way," but the agency is still the villain's and without the villain there's no story. Heroes have very boring stories without villains because--too often--they don't have the plan that sets anything in motion.

    By some other definitions, the protagonist is the POV character, so agency doesn't matter. Protagonist and antagonist are still terms which do not reflect morality. By this definition, the hero can be the protagonist even though the villain got the ball rolling, performed the actions, had the agency, took the initiative. Framed in this light and told from his perspective, the hero's journey of self-discovery and villain-slaying forms/frames "the story."

    But "the story"/plot is ultimately the same--villain tries to take over the world, and a hero thwarts them. Doesn't matter whose POV it's told in because the fundamental plot is still the same. The reading experience will vary, however, depending on issues of perspective, POV, etc. and this is why there are so dang many hero/villain stories that boil down to these bare bones and nevertheless manage to be vaguely entertaining.
    "Ammonia will disinfect sin."
    --adrianhayter

    "Art is life, just add bull****."
    --Chris Miller

  8. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    I like this post. I learned something!

    Look, I think the idea of people 'all being shades of gray' is something that often gets misused. It's definitely born of the same tree that births the myriad posts on here that all resort to some vomit-worthy version of 'there's no right or wrong answer' or 'it's a matter of opinion' or 'it depends on the situation'. In many respects, I quite loathe it too.

    But you can't really argue with appeals to subjectivity. That's why Descartes lost his shit, I imagine. It's so easy to give the benefit of the doubt to people. But it is seriously fucking pointless to think of things that way - I detest open-mindedness for the sake of open-mindedness. I detest that old hippie mentality of 'it's all cool man, all one wave'. Because there's no point in 'everything being a matter of opinion' if you then consistently refuse to both acquire an opinion and test it on the field of battle fiercely. Nowhere is this more true than with the subject of morality.

    On which note, while I do think all characters should consistent of shades of gray, Megan is right - that doesn't mean they should be all over the place in terms of their moral path. That doesn't mean, for example, that the actions or thoughts of a character should be doused in a cloak of moral vacillation. It doesn't mean there should be no hero, no villain.

    What it does mean is that the subject of villainy, for instance, should be approached in a way that actually reflects how real 'villains' think and feel. And villains, of course, usually don't think of themselves as such. The villain usually thinks he/she is the hero. Because of that, the villain in a story should probably not be portrayed sitting in a room stroking a white cat and plotting how many babies they're going to eat that day. The villain's imagined self-image is not that of satanic evil but godlike good. Good, that becomes evermore twisted by priorities that are incompatible with social norms and which they may not be able to control.
    To say "people are gray" doesn't mean that they can't be mostly-white or mostly-black on the moral spectrum--nor that they must vacillate perpetually between the two extremes. Most people are pretty consistent eventually, but people can change over time. The hero falls from grace, and the villain has his redemption arc.

    Villains are generally people on that "dark gray" side of the spectrum, and heroes are generally on that "light gray" side. Both can change or have different stances on different issues (Hitler was also an animal-lover, a dog person, a vegetarian, an artist, and these are all "good" traits with "good" motivations; there have been oodles of otherwise seemingly selfless priests who "give all the have to the poor" and then turn around and sanction murder or molest an altar boy).

    The problem is, society really isn't comfortable thinking about this level of morality in any respect other than a binary. I was reminded of this just writing the last paragraph. It's funny, it literally made my skin crawl, the immediate sense that 'oh crap I might be inadvertently justifying pedophilia here...'. Which, of course, I am not doing. But all too often the idea of 'understanding something' or 'looking at it in a different way' becomes misconstrued as being sympathetic to it, which results in a strange form of no-platforming that takes place in our minds. If I wrote a story tomorrow that tried to show Adolf Hitler in anything other than as a total monster, that story would be a very hard sell, even if I still ultimately do portray him as evil, even if I'm still conclusive about it, we nevertheless want that evil to be fairly relentless. We certainly don't want it, or the full nature of it, queried too much.

    We certainly don't want moral contradictions. We don't want to show a savage, Jew-killing dictator handing out Christmas presents at an orphanage for totally benevolent reasons. We don't want to show the man who just raped and murdered a toddler at a park to go home and be shown being a genuinely good father to his own children. Why not? Do we not believe these things happen in reality? Of course they happen! But we don't want them. We don't want them because, ultimately, we don't want morality in fiction to be too complicated. Not beyond a very limited degree, anyway. Our claim to enjoy moral ambiguity and antiheroes is just that...a claim. In fact, it has a very limited tolerance. It's a crock of shit. Because we are generally only okay with a 'morally ambiguous' character if they're on an arc where that ambiguity is fading. But we're not okay with morally ambiguous characters when they actually stay morally ambiguous from beginning to end and we cannot assign them into that binary-good or binary-evil camp at some point in the story. Which is how this usually goes That's Walter White. That's Dexter. That's Humbert Humbert. That's Abraham and Judas Iscariot. That's the entire cast of Game Of Thrones. In the end, we get our heroes and villains.

    I like ambiguous characters. I don't stick them in every story, per se, but of course, "morally ambiguous" to some people just implies the character has flaws, so by that definition, I suppose everyone's ambiguous (but the baby!). A flawed good character is still "gray" even if he's "white" pretty much all the time.

    Part of the horror for me is realizing I may have something in common with a villain. We want villains to be entirely evil and have nothing in common with them--but that never really happens in real life.

    Specimens of human evil quite often do good things (if nothing else in an apology of sorts or as justification for doing bad things) and hold ideals that most people agree with. The murderer might never rob someone or lie or beat his kids, for instance. People do have lines they aren't willing to cross (even if the line shifts) throughout a character's moral journey.
    "Ammonia will disinfect sin."
    --adrianhayter

    "Art is life, just add bull****."
    --Chris Miller

  9. #19
    Perhaps the term 'morally grey' is the wrong description.

    Lemme throw out a popular example: Dexter
    This was a show about a serial killer...who hunted and killed other serial killers.
    So he was by no means grey. Really be was both black & white.
    Sure, he killed very bad people, but it was all just his way to focus his own urges to kill.
    After all, no one would mind if he indulged his deviant desires on the worst scum of the earth...right?


    I subscribe to the concept of grey morality. My protagonists are often people who do things that decent folks would find reprehensible.
    Alex Trujillo is a redneck stoner who kills rapists. He used to keep hookers on staff in his bunker (before the world ended) and had more vices than an NA meeting.
    But Alex also saved the lives of over a thousand people.
    So he is both black & white in his morality.
    He's an asshole, but he's the asshole who you want on your side in the apocalypse.

  10. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    Perhaps the term 'morally grey' is the wrong description.

    Lemme throw out a popular example: Dexter
    This was a show about a serial killer...who hunted and killed other serial killers.
    So he was by no means grey. Really be was both black & white.
    Sure, he killed very bad people, but it was all just his way to focus his own urges to kill.
    After all, no one would mind if he indulged his deviant desires on the worst scum of the earth...right?


    I subscribe to the concept of grey morality. My protagonists are often people who do things that decent folks would find reprehensible.
    Alex Trujillo is a redneck stoner who kills rapists. He used to keep hookers on staff in his bunker (before the world ended) and had more vices than an NA meeting.
    But Alex also saved the lives of over a thousand people.
    So he is both black & white in his morality.
    He's an asshole, but he's the asshole who you want on your side in the apocalypse.
    There are an infinite number of decisions and motives a person makes or has in a lifetime, and each could be graded as black or white (or a neutral gray). Gray in printing is achieved through tiny black dots on a white background, and this is much like a character's morality (even better in a way, if you use black and white charcoal sticks on a neutral background, or black and white paints on glass).

    Over the lifetime, they acquire dots of black and white on this background until their character is fleshed out, defined, until you can see them as people. Their morality is revealed through their actions and thoughts, just like dots and lines on paper. Some pictures are too dark to see any meaningful contrast and make the person out, and others are too washed out. That's not to say that a great character portrait can't be formed of nearly all black or white--it's about authorial and artist skill in the rendering of that portrait.

    If the character is entirely black or white, then they're basically a silhouette, and the power in using them is just like using silhouettes--as a contrast to the background. Morally black characters on a black background, or morally white characters on a white background will not be as visually distinct as black-on-white or white-on-black because this sets up a fascinating contrast that illuminates the borders of that character and gives the character a kind of resilience against his/her environment. They aren't being changed by the environment. They aren't being sullied by the black morality of their environment--or reformed by the white morality of it. Unless something starts to bleed--then the war's on, the environment may sully them, change them, force that hero's fall from grace or villain's redemption arc, maybe just cause some loss of naivete or a broader perspective--or they might change their environment.
    "Ammonia will disinfect sin."
    --adrianhayter

    "Art is life, just add bull****."
    --Chris Miller

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