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Morals and Literature

Cannwin, Since you enjoy writing and You just mentioned Twilight I have a question that I would like to know your thoughts on. Do you think your writing should be a reflection of your morals & values? For example Stephenie Meyer who wrote Twilight clearly does not portray in her books, in my opinion, Mormon values. i.e. Bella is constantly trying to seduce Edward. Bella does not care if they are married. etc.

I think God gave us talents and gifts to use wisely and do good with. I asked my brother-in-law, who enjoys writing, if he thinks his work should portray his values and he said no because it's fiction and fantasy. But look at all the good C.S. Lewis has done with his literature because he did incorporate his values in his work.

What are your thoughts. -Gr8Life
 I'm of two minds on this one. Firstly, I think it is the obligation of any writer to do their best. I think the power of fine writing far outweighs the power of 'good' writing (good as in morally).

A well written author is a well read author and a well read author has a far higher chance of having his background and philosophies investigated by the curious.

Besides that, if we are truly given our talents by God is it not our moral obligation to mold those talents to their greatest potential?

I think restricting one self to only writing books within the moral code that they live by is career-destructive and unrealistic.

No one person, except perhaps Prophets and Apostles and such, can honestly say that they continuously live by their ideologies without flaw. By creating characters that do live their lives without flaw, a writer is doing a great injustice to the reader.

However! I believe there is a balance to be found between the two. No one should forsake what they believe so that they can appeal to the masses.

But you sure as heck can mask it.

The Chronicles of Narnia are a great example of a writer showing what he believes without restricting himself by doing so. I believe that C.S. Lewis understood the balance. He not only understood that good people should make good choices, he understood that good people more often make bad choices.

Most writers who attempt to project their beliefs onto the reader miss this very, very important lesson.

Orson Scott Card said, "a writer should consider religion when building a world or a culture precisely so that does not end up turning all his stories into confessions of his faith."

I firmly believe that C.S. Lewis understood this. His writing shows a conscious attempt at melding his faith into his stories. Most writers who aspire to display their values fail to consciously map out how they are going to do that. The opposite is true as well.

So the choice becomes, do I write because I want to glorify God? Do I write because I want to bring people closer to God? Do I write because I enjoy writing and want others to enjoy my worlds?

Each one of those choices means you need to take a different approach to writing. Each one of them can still allow you to show your ideals and values,  but it's done in an entirely different manner.

For the first, those who want to glorify God--I would suggest writing a non-fiction book. The second of bringing people closer to God needs the time and energy of incorporating your beliefs into what you are writing, as C.S. Lewis did. The third means taking the time to evolve a set of moral standards within your creation to mask your own faith.

I think a great writer can show truth without burying the reader in doctrine.
"Time wears grief like a riverstone. The weight will always be there, but it'll stop scraping you raw at the slightest touch."

"Killing is a lot messier than you'd think, and the mess doesn't end with burying the corpses. I speak from experience."
To truly have a discussion about the ins and outs of morality in literature it's important to make the distinction between these three types.

I, myself, like all three types for their various reasons but am more inclined to be of the third. I like writing a good story from my imagination but I think it ought to not go so far as to be abhorrent and distasteful.

So, how that answers your question, I'm not sure... but that's how I feel about it. :)

What do you think? 


Ivy said…
I'm not a good or great writer but here is what I observe.

Writers show something of their own character in their works. I don't mean that because someone wrote about a murder means that they would murder someone. I mean that I think it shows the degree that they will let their imagination delve into that kind of thing.

You can read Agatha Christie and not feel dark forboding when you put it down. With other murder mysteries you do feel dark forboding and a sense of all the evil in the world.

I think that if I were a writer I would not have the lusty scenes portrayed in Twilight anymore than I would write scenes of violence and hate that leave you feeling the wieght of the evil in the world. It's not my character to go there in my imagination.
Gr8Life said…
Thank You for answering my question. It was well thought out.
I think you are right when you said "No one should forsake what they believe so that they can appeal to the masses". C.S. Lewis is a fine example of someone who cultivated & developed his gift far beyond which most are willing to do. He really did know where the balance was, a truly remarkable gift. I admit I enjoy reading nonsense as well as the next I don't have to get some great moral out of the story but I don't think that just because you are writing about fantasy and fiction it gives you carte blanche to write what you want & throw caution to the wind and not be responsible for your writings.
So it did disturb me when my brother-in-law said that it was "fiction & fantasy" so he could write what he wanted It sounded very irresponsible.
Polly Scott said…
Very interesting. I am a humor writer. I have a strong testimony, and I take my religion seriously; thus, I don't write professionally about my testimony or about my Savior. I know that my sense of humor is a gift from God, so I feel happy knowing that I'm bringing other people joy while writing things that hopefully don't offend the spirit.
NatureGirl said…
Well said. I do think we have to be careful with everything we put out into the world. I comes back to us.
Rachel Sue said…
Found you on MMB. I think this is a great explanation. I remember a couple of years ago a big controversy with Deseret Book. They wouldn't publish a book because a girl had premarital sex as kind of a youthful digression, but I believe (I never read it) the book was about her conversion. And it always bothered me. Because no one, not even fictional characters are perfect. (Well, the ones who are, just aren't worth reading.)

If we can't read about someone who has made mistakes and then changed their ways, what's the point? Perfection is boring. It's the trials that make life worth living (and worth writing about.)

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