I’m an animal lover who believes in do no harm to my fellow human being or any creature that I come in contact with, but I write stories that contain violence against man and beast. In this world where darkness and light are a part of life, it would be unrealistic and unbelievable if I didn’t. The only way I could is if I stuck with the more innocent genres, which do not fit my thoughts or style. Some days I’m confounded by this moral dilemma, others I have clear plan for what I’m doing. Luckily, most are somewhere in between.
When I use violence, abuse, or other pain and cruelty in my stories, I’m not condoning or glorifying any of the practices. In fact there are quite a few I would condemn and fight against, if I had the money and power to do so. Like other happier, less repulsive things, they are the building blocks of my story and my vehicle in which I drive my characters down their path. I minimize the detail as much as I can, doing enough to make it real and leaving the rest for the imagination. That’s good storytelling.
Take this new novel I’m writing (more tidbits about it, a benefit of signing up for my bi-weekly newsletter). I’ve meant to write it for awhile, but couldn’t. Not because of its content, but because of its context. The original story would have explained the transformation of Jo Mason, the main narrator of the Stars of Heros series, into the shadow that appears in Spirit and Legend. Except I had set up the USMB as an organization who looked out for the welfare of humans and animals alike. Sure I hinted at its underlying darkness, but going full blown into that seemed a little forced. I still plan on writing that version of the story, but not as part of the core series.
The new story has no such restraint. It happens in a time where there is no organization with high moral standards. There was barely any structure at all except for the Roman Empire. Everyone lived by the code of an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. This gives me the freedom to be as barbaric as I want within the constraints of my moral compass.
The story needs to be told to add credibility to what came before it and what will came after it. That’s all that matters to me. If I tell it in a superficial way because I’m trying to avoid all the negativity, it will not have the impact I need.
Those who believe in the modern day law of attraction or older religions might think I’m bringing evil into my life with my thoughts. By writing them down, I must be creating an eternal cesspool of negativity for myself or damning my soul in the process, right? I respectfully disagree with both ideas. The law of attraction paralyzes me with its logic that our thoughts create our reality and I find too much hypocritism in the “love thy neighbor, but damn him if he does not believe as I do” philosophy that drives most modern day religions.
Writing has always been a cathartic for me, allowing me to explore and express emotions that I normally don’t. Travelling to the dark side isn’t meant to attract evil, but purge it from my system. Through my words, the anger, frustration, sadness, and other negativity I feel has a harmless vent. Without it, those things just sit and rot in my gut building up until I explode, verbally or internally. The verbal tirades are an embarrassment to me and if they are bad enough, create seismic shifts in my relationships.The attacks against myself tear the person I am to shreds and create a vicious feedback loop. Neither outcome is anything I want, need, or desire.
I wish I could write stories that were only filled with nothing but joy, love, and happiness. Maybe one day I can, but the world has to change first. Until it does, I will always have the burden of knowing what I write doesn’t always reflect what I believe and the fear that my readers won’t see it that way. Just look at the long-winded passionate rant I wrote on the same subject two years ago.
Readers, do you expect writers to stay within their own moral boundaries? Why or why not? Writers, how do you balance the needs of the story with what you believe? Leave a note below. I’d love to hear both sides of this story.