The Moral Quandary: Ideals Drive Our World

I’ve seen stories use ideas in two main ways.  First is the idea pending resolution, such as a murder mystery.  Think JD Robb or Agatha Christie.  The second is the type of story focused on exploring the idea itself.  The Handmaid's Tale and Native Tongue are two examples in which the milieu and plot are shaped by the feminist ideas of the authors.  Ideas, especially those in fiction, have a tendency to take root and grow in the mind of the reader.  For a time, readers live in the minds of the protagonist, developing a sympathy for the character’s point of view and therefore their ideas. Why else have authors of “heretical works” been persecuted through history?

What do people frequently want after college?  To make money?  To find a husband or wife? To make a difference in the world?  These motivations, all come down to obtaining security.  In the first case, they want financial security, the ability to provide for themselves and those they choose to care for.  In the second case, they want emotional security in the form of affection and support.  In the third, they want societal security or to secure their place in history.  This need for realizing our ideas is prevalent on a species-wide scale as well.  Wars have been fought and peoples persecuted because of fundamental conflicts in belief.  So not only do we try to shape our own lives to match an ideal, but as a society, shape our world to match societal ideals.

This is the most terrifying responsibility as a writer to me.  Statistically, young adults are the largest market for speculative fiction, both now and historically.  This means that whatever I write will most likely end up under the eyes of individuals trying to determine their own identities and ideals.  My thoughts and ideas might take root and grow into the foundation of someone's life.  Am I arrogant enough to believe that this will happen frequently?  No, but I don't know where my books will end up, in whose hands.  As a professed bibliophile, I know that many of my beliefs have been shaped by what I have read.  What legacy will my words leave on another?

I've tried writing ideas and morality intentionally and quite frankly, I suck at it.  Perhaps it is because of my aversion to being preached at, but every time I try, I end up feeling my point of view is too heavy handed.  I cannot help but have my beliefs and thoughts come out through my writing, but I have had more success with ideas growing as a function of plot and character than as something planted to make a point.  Along with shorter attention spans, I believe that modern society has given us an aversion to overt morality tales.  Instead, ideas have been passed on through the beliefs of the characters and the choices they make as part of the plot.  Reader sympathy is a powerful tool.

Beginning the Discussion: What books have shaped your beliefs as an adult?


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