Admin Note: This post is a rebloggable copy of our page on character morality. The page is being phased out, so from now on all updates will be made on this post and not on the page.
Is your character moral? This is a very complicated question. First of all, what is “moral”?
Moral (n): focused on the fundamental principles of right conduct rather than on legalities, enactment, or custom.
Okay, so moral characters are concerned with right-mindedness; they care about doing the right thing. Right? Notice that, by the definition, morality supersedes legality and customs, which are constraints imposed on people by society. These constraints may be immoral like the military draft which forces people into a situation where they may have to kill another person (killing is pretty much immoral, folks) or the common custom of the “little white lie”. And because these constraints may be immoral, a moral character may, on occasion (or all the time), ignore them.
What are the principles of moral behavior? How can you tell, basically, if a character is moral?
“If you ask anyone, ‘What is morality based on?’ these are the two factors that always come out: One is Reciprocity, and associated with it is a sense of justice and a sense of fairness, and the other one is Empathy and compassion. Human morality is more than this, but if you would remove these two pillars, there would be not much remaining, I think, and so they are absolutely essential.” - Frans de Waal
What do Reciprocity and Empathy mean?
Reciprocity (n): responding to a positive action with another positive action, rewarding kind action
Empathy (n): the ability to understand and share the feelings of another
If your character is moral, he or she will almost certainly have a sense of fairness and compassion. Both of these are considered part of the Seven High Virtues, with Empathy commonly referred to as “Love” or “Charity”, and Reciprocity most often called “Justice”. Very moral characters will, most likely, have either Love, Charity, or Justice as their peak virtue.
Moral characters are often good listeners. They care for other people, and they want to do right by them. They are willing to take action to create positive outcomes for others. They have little to no concern for themselves.
Don’t get us wrong, morality is a sliding scale. Many heroic characters are basically moral, though they may sometimes kill, lie, steal, or cheat depending on what life-threatening or otherwise difficult situation has arisen. But if you’re looking for straight-up a moral character, the most common indicator will always be cooperation.
Does your character play well with others?
Morality arises from the need for cooperation, and the understanding of cooperation as essential to human interaction. There is no need to be moral if you are, for example, the last human on Earth. Who is there to be moral with or to? Therefore, moral characters desire to interact with others in a positive way. Immoral characters don’t care about offending or harming others, so they are cool with interacting in a negative way.
Moral heroic characters are often great leaders because they are good at cooperating. Immoral heroic characters are often loners because they are awful at cooperating.
Alright, so if your character moral, they will (most likely):
It is worth noting that morality is different for different people in different places at different times in history. Generally, there are universal ideas of morality instilled within us from infancy (these are cooperation, justice, compassion, a sense of “rightness” and “wrongness”, etc). Deciding what you, as a writer, think of as “moral” is fundamental in determining the morality of the character in question. We can’t tell you what moral is for you in your story or for yourself, but once you decide that, you will be able to define your character’s morality.
If you are very interested in determining the morality of your character, you can take this quiz for yourself and/or for your character to help you decide. Be warned that some of the questions may not be truly applicable to your characters (for instance, whether or not stem cell research is wrong may not be an issue in your world because there is no stem cell research), but do your best to answer for your character in those situations.
For more on morality, check out our Videos about Morality post!
Writing can be great fun – and so it should be – but sometimes you will, alas, need just a little bit of discipline…
1. Go do your reading. The amount of people who don’t actually read the content they’re writing about pre-essay writing is ridiculous. If you’re struggling to sit down and do the essay, you’ve probably not down enough actual learning. Especially if you’re in high school, the main reason why you’ve been set an essay is to show that you’ve learnt the content. Reading just the bare minimum to write an essay A. equals awful essays & B, means you’ll probably fail whatever exam you’re working on. So, like I said, go read your course content.
2. Right, go REVISIT your course content. This should not be your first step, like I said in the previous point, if you are reading and learning with only the essay subject in mind, you will not learn very much or write a very good essay. So, revisit the course content, have a blank piece of paper with you (or an open Microsoft word document /etc.) and write down notes or headers that you think could be relevant. They can be in any order and in as much detail as you like, you might want to draft out entire paragraphs here or just buzz words. Just try to make sure that you get down a lot, more than you need, jot down ideas that you ‘know’ you won’t use, jot down ideas you already know you will use, jot it all down.
3. Find a new source of information. This can be a website, a book, a documentary, anything. Find a new source and commit to adding at least one more thing to your list. Sometimes you’ll find a lot more, sometimes you’ll just be adding to a previous point. Take the time to look outside your school textbook/powerpoint/etc. It will make your essay a lot better, and should be done before you’ve started writing.
4. Get writing. From here on out I’m offering my own view of essay writing, what I really mean by this is that EVERYONE should do the first three steps no matter what you’re writing. It is universally applied, and will work for everyone, if it doesn’t work for you, you’re not doing it right. Anyway, onto step four: you should have a page of notes and headers at this point; from here you get a new piece of paper and write your official essay plan. The first ‘bullet’ should read ‘Intro’ the last ‘Conclusion’. Look at your notes and think about which ones you can use to build an argument, use what you think your conclusion will be to guide you. Write notes in the conclusion section to help you choose where you’re going. If you’re one of those people who say “drafts don’t work for me” you’re also one of those people who do not write good essays, really. Good marks thus far, in your life, have been down to you including good content, the higher up you go in education, the more it will become obvious that you have not planned the narrative of your essay. Learn now.
5. Edit what you’ve got. Now you should have a set of bullet points, depending on how you took notes earlier, these will either be single words or short paragraphs. Look at your bullet points, which ones will you find easy to talk about, and which ones will you have not much to say about. Smaller points that are dead ends should either be deleted or consumed into bigger paragraphs. Random one off paragraphs are not useful, and you’re always guiding yourself towards the bigger picture. And essay isn’t a list of things you know, it’s a compilation of discoveries that lead you to a concrete opinion.
6. Use this new direction to write more. Flesh out all your bullet points, write as much as a paragraph as you need. Have your text books open in front of you, write in note form or in full sentences. Get down content.
7. More evaluation of content, possible editing. Now you can re-evaluate what you’ve got, you might need to do some wider reading, you might need to go back to your list of ideas. You might need to change what you think your conclusion is. Ignore the intro for now, it’s not important.
8. Write your essay. Properly, either start a new piece of paper/document and work with your crazy bullet list as a guide, or write the essay inside your bullet points and delete what becomes unneeded as you go. Whatever works. You should be adding more and more notes to your ‘conclusion’ bullet point while you write the rest of the essay. This will allow you to, when you finally get to the conclusion, have a pretty good idea where your essay has been pointing. Your conclusion should 90% agree with what your essay says 10% be profound and ‘meta’. What I mean by that is, a sentence like ‘but we’ll never really know..’. This is A. shows a good narrative, and therefore suggests you have mastered the content of the essay and it’s allowed you to go beyond just spewing out facts. & B. you realise that this is just an essay, probably not even sourced, and that there’s a lot more to the argument.
9. Write the intro. Some people get really annoyed that I write the intro last, but the best way to write a good intro, is to pretty much just paraphrase the whole essay. Some people like to do the introduction first as it gives them some more direction, I don’t. What I do tend to do however, is explain the question. Many questions can be answered many ways, in my introductions I recognise this and then explain how I plan to answer the question and maybe why. Depends on the word count.
10. Proof reading. Proof read the work yourself, this should contain some major editing, if it doesn’t – you’re doing it wrong. Then let someone else do it. Then leave it for a while. Then proof read it again. And you’re done!
One of the most frequent questions I get as a writer is “where do you get your ideas from?” I’m always a bit baffled at first because sometimes I’m not really sure. It’s a difficult question to answer and I don’t think you can be a writer unless you have the ability to see and interpret the world around you in order to come up with your OWN ideas. There’s just something about it that’s hard to explain to other people.
Writers (or anyone creative) tend to notice things that other people don’t. It’s not that we’re better or smarter than other people, but we’re most likely much more introverted than the rest of the world. When you’re introverted, you spend a lot of time observing the world around you instead of directly participating in everything going on. You find solace in listening, watching, or hearing other people and their conversations. Ideas come from everywhere and we are more likely to notice them and turn them into something amazing.
However, if you are a writer and you’re finding it difficult to come up with fresh ideas, there are ways for you to improve this. I suggest you try a few of these things—
• Sit in a crowded area for a while. If you’re stuck, try sitting in a mall or a coffee shop or even a train station. You’ll see things that might make good story ideas. People watching is one of the best ways to come up with ideas and it’ll make your writing more realistic.
• Keep a notebook next to your bed. I always do this just in case I have a dream that makes me think in some way. You shouldn’t wait until morning because you’ll most likely forget all the details. If you wake up in the middle of the night from a dream or nightmare, write down every little detail you can remember. It will help you come up with your own ideas (technically dreams are YOUR ideas to begin with).
• Watch how people interact with each other. This is sort of the same as people watching, but you’ll learn a lot about dialogue and character relationships. It might give you some structure for your own characters and help you shape them for your novel. You might notice things you’ve never thought of before.
• Think about what you like in your favorite books. Why do you like your favorite books? What about them caught your attention? Were there certain scenes that really stayed with you? There’s something about those books that struck you in some way or else they wouldn’t be your favorites. Think of the dynamics between certain characters or details about the plot you loved. Use these ideas and make them your own. BUT DON’T PLAGIARIZE.
• Find a writing partner to discuss ideas with. Sometimes talking to other people really helps you out. They’ll be able to tell you what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes I just shoot out ideas to my friends or family and they tell me if they like them of not. They might not be the most reliable source, but you should be able to get some feedback.
• Have a brainstorming session. Just taking a few moments to dig into your brain might make all the difference. The ideas might already be there, you just have to take some time to get them down on paper and organize them. The potential to write a great story is lingering around somewhere.
Whenever you receive harsh criticism, it can be hard to get yourself motivated again. The thing is—your writing is always going to be judged, either by people who want to help you or people who want to take you down a notch. I’ve talked before about distinguishing between the two, but the truth is ANY sort of criticism is hard to deal with. You have to start looking at it in a different way and you need to use it to make yourself better. Most of the time, that’s easier said than done.
There will always be someone who just doesn’t like what you write. There’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t change their mind and you shouldn’t try to. You don’t like everything, do you? You have opinions on different books or movies or art and so does everyone else. Just because someone doesn’t like something you’ve done doesn’t mean no one else will. Not everyone is going to connect with your writing the way you hoped they would. Some people will flat out hate it. Pick yourself back up again and move on. After a while, it will stop bothering you so much.
If you’re in the editing process and someone is helping you out, they might give you loads of corrections along with opinions about what you need to change. Your first reaction will probably be—“I don’t need to change this. They just don’t understand.” Obviously when you’ve written something and it means a lot to you, you can become very protective when someone wants to change it. The truth is if one person is confused right off the bat about something, everyone else will probably be confused too. This person helping you out isn’t trying to hurt you. If they are taking the time to help you fix your work, it’s because they believe you can be better, maybe even great. They already think your work has potential.
If you want to get better, you have to learn how to utilize what people are telling you. Don’t shut everyone out because you’re afraid you’re not good enough. AND if someone is constantly making you feel bad about yourself without offering anything constructive, tell them to SHUT UP.
Sagging middles especially result when there is no increase in tension as the plot progresses. In the move towards the climax, your characters should face increasingly bigger obstacles and challenges. Things should get more complicated – never less. Characters should have more at stake as events unfold. The emotions should run higher and deeper. And each event should leave the reader more concerned about what will happen next.
ADMIN NOTE: This post has been taken from an article originally created by NovelDoctor.com.
The things stated below were not written by me. A friend of mine had found this information and thought that it could be useful for writing. I do not know where the information originally originates from, but all credit goes to them. I’m just trying to make the information available to all who will find it useful.
Simplify Attributions – As much as possible, just use “said” and “asked” and their variations in dialogue scenes. Or use nothing at all when the context makes it unquestionably clear who’s talking. People who bark, spit, grunt, or burp their words need to see a doctor. Or a veterinarian. Clever attributions can divert attention from the dialogue to the attribution itself. You don’t want this to happen. “Trust me,” he puked.
Don’t Be a Puppet Master – In real life, people bring assumptions and prior knowledge to a conversation. This is also true for your fictional characters. Don’t force dialogue through your characters’ throats because you need to tell the reader something. If the information wouldn’t naturally be revealed in the context of the conversation, find another way to deliver it. Your characters aren’t puppets; they’re people. Treat them as such.
Maintain Believable Pacing – Most conversations aren’t like a game of ping-pong, despite how convenient it would be to use ping-pong as a visual metaphor. Unlike ping-pong, the back and forth of conversation is uneven, sometimes dominated by one party, sometimes rapid-fire, sometimes languid. Context should always determine who’s talking and what they’re saying. There is a rhythm to good dialogue, but it’s rarely something you can set your metronome to. Don’t force characters to speak just because you’re uncomfortable with their silence. Always let the moment decide its own pacing.
Avoid Long Monologues - I know. One of your characters is a blowhard. He likes the sound of his voice and this is important to the character development or plot. Let him have his way. But don’t make a habit out of long speeches unless the story requires it. Dialogue usually requires two people. And while one may say little while the other says a lot (see pacing, above), giving characters pages of monological diatribes risks boring the reader. And in my experience, long-winded monologues are frequently evidence of a kind of laziness on the part of the writer. Rather than revealing important information contextually and through creative “show, don’t tell” opportunities, they make their characters dump it on the page for them (see puppet note above).
Kill (Most) Adverbs – Do I need to say it again? Only use adverbs when they actually add something to the dialogue. If it’s clear the character is upset and yelling, you don’t need to add that she’s yelling “loudly.” Yelling is, without further qualification, loud. That said, you might actually find use for adverbs in the dialogue itself. Real people use them in conversation (though not as much as you might think). That’s fine. Just don’t staple them willy-nilly to all your attributions.
Use Contractions – Unless you’re writing a period piece or a novel that otherwise demands the stiff-upper-lippedness of contraction-free speech, please use them without apology. They just sound more natural. This, by the way, holds true not only for dialogue, but also for the rest of your narrative. If you want to challenge this advice, that’s fine. Please have your well-thought-out reasoning notarized by at least three editors who agree with you before presenting it to me. Thanks.
Don’t Give Readers Whiplash – “A lot of newbie authors,” he began, turning to look her mascara-streaked face, “suffer from this malady.” He looked down. “They break up a single piece of dialogue,” he continued, “with so many little ‘asides’ that the reader gets whiplash.” He looked up into her eyes again. “Do you know what I mean?”
There’s a time and place for action in the middle of dialogue, and when done right, that action can greatly enhance a scene. A well-timed look or touch can speak volumes. Just don’t use action to distraction.
Use Dialects Sparingly – Some of the best novels ever written are packed with well-defined characters who speak with dialects that by their very nature reveal a certain level of education or perhaps a country (or region) of origin. Characters with unique or easily-recognizable dialects can add a great deal to a story. However, crafting believable characters with any sort of dialect is no easy task. In part, this is because the dialect you see with your eyes (on the page) has a much different “feel” than a dialect you hear with your ears. In some cases, dialect can detract rather than enhance a story. If your character’s speech is hard to understand (and this isn’t due to an intentional plot point), consider dialing back on dialect. And whenever you do use it, just be sure you’re consistent both to the way such a person would speak in real life, and from scene to scene in the story itself. Otherwise your characters will sound like Kevin Costner in…well…any movie where he attempts an accent.
Again, this article was originally created by NovelDoctor.com. You can read the whole article there.
- When it’s a scientific field. If you want to include lots of biology in your book, you’d better know more than ninth grade biology.
- When it’s another culture, or even your own culture in the past. If you rely on only prior knowledge and you get something laughably wrong, you can offend a lot of people.
- When you want to include the best item in a large category, such as dog breeds or guns, for a specific job.
- When you’re making an allusion to a book you haven’t read (not a good idea in the first place).
- When you’re talking about the human body in extreme conditions
you’d better know more than ninth grade biology.
you’d better know more than ninth grade biology.
you’d better know more than ninth grade biology.
The simple answer is no. The useful answer is no, but it should appear naturalistic.
Listen to people speaking in everyday situations. They don’t finish sentences, they stumble over their words, they backtrack and repeat themselves. In conversation people speak in a way that an outside observer wouldn’t know what they were talking about, they use in-jokes and slang particular to their family or group of friends.
It is these things that you want to filter out of your written dialogue (unless using it for a specific effect).
Let your dialogue appear naturalistic without being naturalistic.