Themes: Ethics


Themes: Ethics

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

Ethics are an interesting subject to ponder when writing. What kind of morals are your characters going to have? Is the world driven by black and white systems of seeing the world? Or is it all grimdark like Warhammer 40k? Or perhaps it’s one of various morale levels much like Fallout? Who knows, as the writer it’s your job to assign moral systems to your characters. Sure, you can assign whatever morality you yourself have as a writer. If a character is based on myself I’ll tend to use my own sense of morality. Being honest, my morality is pretty flexible pending upon the situation and the foil involved.

Ethics are one of those concepts that are easily debatable, and quickly can turn into a debate based upon personal opinion. One thing I like to do as a writer is to construct the ethics of the world and the morality systems based on the world itself. Sure, I can easily just input what I think is right or wrong, but honestly, that’s just kind of boring to me. I think it’s easy to just create a black and white story without consideration to how things are. Sure, you need to provide a foil, but a villain without any sort of depth is just something to question. Sure, I can easily blame myself for doing this. In Rps and even my books, I’ve had to be careful about creating villains using flimsy reasons.

To just call my villain crazy or a psychopath is kind of a cop out (not to mention a tad bit ableist). Even Tyrion Lannister had a sense of what he could justify and what he could not. So when I step into a new world I start to think about the various rights and wrongs the people might have. To create a sense of grey you have to define the black and white views that exist. These allow you to then break the lines and create varying senses of good and evil.

Whoever has overthrown an existing law of custom has always first been accounted a bad man: but when, as did happen, the law could not afterwards be reinstated and this fact was accepted, the predicate gradually changed; – history treats almost exclusively of these bad men who subsequently became good men!

-Friedrich Nietzsche

Is evil defying tradition? Or perhaps it’s based on taking too much or not giving enough. Define what is right or wrong in your society. Consider what is taboo and what is not. Drive this further and create the evil in the eyes of your people. In Game of Thrones, the entire world is driven by the politics and the assumptions of the Houses. The smallfolk are trampled over and this in of itself breeds problems. The different religions themselves bring further issues and even then there are the Others sitting above them all as they bicker.

When you build a system of morality consider creating differences and counter points. This will create your plot and it will not necessarily require a Dark Lord or a pile of Death Eaters. On that same vain, however, by having mixed levels of what is good, superior, bad and inferior you can create layers of villainy and heroism. Or you can drop the notion of binary morality and focus on the different ways people see the world. Construct each group with their own agenda and figure out how they see it. Are the typical ends justifies the means type, or are they considering it in mediated bursts?

There are a lot of questions to ask and a lot of things to consider. When constructing concepts of good and evil or even right or wrong, consider what that actually means. Or if it matters at all!