Depicting Immorality vs. Amorality

Happy Labor Day everyone. Many of us might have a day off, but there’s nothing that says you can’t still make it a good writing day.

I came across this great article in the Deseret News not to long ago, and I’d like to share a snippet from it with all of you.  It concerns the difference between depicting Immorality in the media vs. depicting Amorality. It was written by Linda and Richard Eyre and though it is specifically talking about movies, I think what they says applies to literature as well.

Here is the problem: We are failing to distinguish betweensomething that depicts immorality and something that depicts amorality.Immorality means the breaking or violation of moral codes, of religiouscommandments and often of basic decency. Immorality, where it is accuratelyportrayed, complete with consequences, is a good literary device and anessential part of most stories. Scripture is filled with accurate,consequence-included depictions of immorality.

Amorality is something very different. It is theignoring of moral questions altogether. It is the complete disregard and thefailure to even acknowledge the question of right and wrong. It portrays thingsas “normal” even when they are not, and it ignores consequences orpretends they do not exist.

Whether dealing with issues of honesty, sexualmorality or character in general, attempts to portray real mistakes orcharacter flaws or any kind of indiscretion or bad judgment or moral violationaccurately and honestly can be great elements of movies or of any form ofstorytelling, particularly when those portrayals are done with discretion andtaste.

You can view the entire article here: 

This gave me serious food for thought. I think to have a good book, you need to depict someone or something showing immoral behavior.  Without a villain, most stories fall flat. You probably even need to even show most of your characters doing things that are wrong.  The clincher is that as a good writer, you need to depict truth.  If your characters mess up, it is your duty to depict realistic consequences. Even if you are writing fantasy or science fiction, readers still expect realistic consequences. 

I believe that depicting amorality is not only bad writing, but a dangerous precedent to set. Especially when writing fiction targeted at teens and young people, I feel the responsibly not to depict amorality. If you are what you eat, to some degree you are also what you read, watch, or otherwise consume.  I will not be the purveyor of moral junk food. 

What are your thoughts on the matter?  How do you see the difference between depicting immorality and amorality?  

Writing Update: 

I had a wonderful writing week.  I submitted my latest work “The Lost Barge” to an interested publisher and I’m crossing my fingers.  I wrote over 15,000 words, spread out between my two works in progress, one of which is the sequel to The Last Archangel and the other I would still like to keep under wraps for a bit.  I’m hoping for another great writing week. 

For a chance to win the Last Archangel, there is a giveaway on the Fire and Ice blog:

3 thoughts on “Depicting Immorality vs. Amorality

  1. I will not be the purveyor of moral junk food. LOVE THIS! I think that article (and you) gets it exactly right – there should be consequences for actions, for breaking moral codes. And I agree that goes double for kidlit. You could construct a character who thoroughly believes their (bad) choices are good, but there should always be consequences for that.This doesn't mean moralizing or cardboard characters – if anything it means the opposite. Struggling with moral choices is almost always the best story fodder. Great post!

  2. Great article. I agree with your thoughts. While stories often have a bad guy who disregards what is right and moral, there should be consequences for his or her actions and in good writing, there are. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s