Archive for July, 2013

A BOLD Discussion on Morals

Posted: July 28, 2013 by Hannah Stewart in Uncategorized

The release date of Breaking Shadows: Bold is drawing near, my friends, and I’ve got some big surprises for you in the weeks to come. The final edits and revisions have passed the halfway mark, cover art is underway, and nervous anticipation is heavy in the air. But today, I have a more serious topic to discuss.

We’ve all seen the recent trend in today’s young adult literature, the many levels of dystopia sprawling out through the different branches of fantasy and paranormal fiction, all filled with love triangles, heroic female leads, widely attractive male counterparts, and protagonists broadcast as being nearly flawless. This is all well and good, and perhaps I’m just being picky, but there are some tendencies cropping up with this generation of storytelling that I find a cause for concern.

Bold (c) 2013

One thing that irks me about protagonists in dystopian literature today is their response to violence, bloodshed, and various other moral battles. This is, of course, in response to the gritty circumstances these characters live in, but the way many writers gloss over this fact is, in some ways, unsettling. I don’t wish to be accused of making blanket statements, and not every book and author is guilty of this. But in many cases, the reader is made to believe that crimes, from theft to murder, are just normal parts of life. There is no remorse, no lasting psychological affect. While it is certainly reasonable to have characters calloused to their harsh world, there must be some kind of middle ground. Heroes will often be called upon to take life for the sake of others, but what is there to separate our heroes from our psychotic serial killers besides reluctancy, and a heightened sense of morals?

All to often, I find characters that could be marvelous, were they not so ready to kill or steal. In some circumstances, our protagonists may be forced to do these things. But it is our responsibility as writers to show their internal battles in these times, not allow them to fall from grace. There must be shame and flaw, especially in a character set apart as one of virtue and high standing.

When I began writing Bold, I quickly discovered the difficulty of this task. The main characters, Ben and Jesse, live in the eat or be eaten world of Raven Falls, where they must wrestle with their longing to remain of stain-free conscience and the harsh reality of their position. While I don’t dwell on this for any length of time, I do allow my characters to take note of their flaws and show that their heads are in the right place periodically, like in this little excerpt from Chapter 1.

“The labored clopping of a burdened beast’s hooves echoes around me, and I smirk. A convenient pile of broken crates on the narrow roadside suffices as my cover, one of the few times I’m ever grateful for my small size. As it rumbles past, I snag two lightly wrinkled apples through the wooden slats, careful to avoid the tired, wary eyes of the farmer and leaching the least appealing of his produce. Ben and I have always been faithful to this practice, taking only what most likely won’t sell at market anyways. We may be reduced to a steal or starve lifestyle, but we take every precaution we can to avoid pinching another’s belly with our desperation.”

Bold (c) 2013

Now, if it were just the thievery that today’s main characters got away with, I could hold my tongue. It’s a flaw, but it’s a stomachable flaw. What I simply cannot stand in fiction, however, is the more recent inclination of authors to allow their heroes to kill without remorse. A merciless killer as a hero is possible – but only in the right scenarios. Is the character supposed to have questionable morals? Fine. Are his murderous leanings the character-building flaws, grey area, or obstacle to overcome? Works for me. But I cannot stand a protagonist marketed for his prestigious morals that does not feel shame and remorse at causing death. I don’t expect them to be crying every time they pull the trigger, and of course they’re going to go numb in the midst of battle. But the mental talk, the internal warfare of it all, must be addressed at some point, as Jesse reminds us in Chapter 11 in the midst of their greatest battle yet.

“There is absolutely nothing beautiful or satisfying in bloodshed and life lost. What we do is a loatheful and grotesque thing, a crime against creation. But I will do whatever it takes to prevent them from ruining another as they have destroyed me. They’ve broken my family and countless others in much the same way as I break them now. Though murder cannot be justified by any means, I pray there is a place in heaven for those who mar themselves with villainous blood to save souls of the innocent.”

Bold (c) 2013

Now, I don’t claim to be an expert on this, nor do I think myself perfect. Every writer is flawed, even more so than their characters. Where do you think their flaws come from, anyways? But I have done my best to avoid this common pitfall, grasshopper that I am, and hope this post may help my fellow writers see it too.

With that, I’ll have to conclude this little discussion, with its glance inside my mind and Jesse’s. Have anything to add? Leave me a comment! I’d love to hear your opinion on this matter.

Defeating the Block

Posted: July 8, 2013 by Hannah Stewart in Uncategorized