Monday, June 25, 2012

The Moral of the Story

Gentle reader, when I was very small, I remember being given a book of fairy tales.  I loved that book.  I can remember reading it over and over.  Puss in Boots was my favorite, and Jack the Giant Killer.  The more familiar tales, Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty, didn't do much for me. Mainly because, at the time, they were 'girl' stories.
Later, though, when I read the original versions of those stories, I found them a lot more interesting. In the earliest version of Little Red Riding Hood there is no woodsman to rescue Red and Granny.  There's just the wolf, who gobbles up the little girl and goes on his way.
The prince in the original version of Sleeping Beauty does considerably more than kiss the sleeping princess when he stumbles upon her bower.  She still doesn't wake until, months later, she gives birth to twins who draw the cursed spindle out of their mother while nursing at her breasts. 
Those stories, I think, are a lot more interesting than the saccharine sweet pap spoon fed to little children.  They're also a lot more ambiguous, morally, from the versions we know today.
So what am I getting at with this post? I'm getting at 'morality.' 
As writers, should our stories have morals?
I think it depends, entirely, upon the writer.  There are a lot of writers out there who write 'moral stories.'  Their characters lead lives of exemplary goodness or wickedness to illustrate a moral viewpoint.  Some of these stories are very well written, but most come across, in my opinion, as heavy handed and simplistic.
I don't set out to write 'moral' stories, but I think it's very important for your characters to have morals.  Characters need ideals and beliefs to make them three dimensional.  They may embrace the Golden Rule and do unto others as they would want done unto them, or their credo could be more along the lines of 'there's a sucker born every minute.' Their morality doesn't have to be nice or conventional, but I think it does needs to exist.

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