What Should We Choose To Write About: Reality or Morality?

It's a common misconception in society and the writing circles that either you choose to write a stunning and gritty story about reality, or you write a story with a moral theme that reeks of sunshine and flowers and butterflies. So which do we choose?

I'm here to break the hard truth to you. A “realistic” story is only as real as the decisions made that determine which character is the hero and which is the villain. We judge who the hero is by the decisions that he makes, and if they are moral decisions then we assume that he is the “good guy”. But first we have to have a base foundation of what is good and what is evil, and that comes through the moral standards that God etched out in the Ten Commandments. Thus we cannot have realistic storytelling without morality.
So the reality is that you don't have to choose between writing about morality or reality. They come hand-in-hand. And since I have a burning desire to be useful, here are a couple of practical tips for writing realistically from a moral Christian perspective.
Realistic characters
Since humans aren't perfect, we will never be able to create perfect characters. Although it may seem like a weaknesses, it's actually the key to a realistic character. We've already got flawed behavior down to a science, the only thing we have to do is restrain from glorifying the flaws in our characters for the sake of of being realistic. This would look like painting insensitivity as a strength, arrogance as knowledge, and to an extreme, treating sadism as acceptable. (Personal experience with this one.) And the most realistic thing for your character to do is perform an excellent character arc: notice flaw, pretend there isn't a flaw, flaw damages character/other characters, character tries to defeat flaw. It's that amazing “enemy within ourselves” philosophy, and one of the most relatable stories out there. (Think Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the apostle Paul in the book of Romans, and Fiddler’s Green)
Realistic consequences
The effects of bad decisions can't be glossed over in real life like they are in sit-coms and romance novels. The truth is you have a 50% chance of getting an STD, hangovers are very real, and drugs are more dangerous than you think. Wanna write realistically? Include the impact of a character's decisions.
Realistic redemption
Let me be honest. I hate those sappy church scenes in Christian movies where the decrepit pastor is monologuing about the Gospel message. It isn't realistic. Jesus never sat in a pew orating. He lived. He lived realistically. And most importantly, He gave people real love. That's what our writing needs. An accurate portrayal of true gritty love is. And yes, loving requires our characters to sacrifice, yes it hurts our characters sometimes, but dying on a cross is not only the epitome of pain, it's also the ultimate picture of love and redemption. That's what our stories need, but actually what our lives need more.
All this to say, what everything really boils down to is the fact that reality needs morality to be real, and when both of them combine, we get real brokenness colliding with true love to create redemption.
Really, when you think about it, nothing else seems worth writing about. Or living for.
From my pen to yours,
Amaris

3 comments: