This Is Me--2019 A to Z Theme

This blog is part of my life journey. I've got places to be and people to see along the way. Hope you'll join me and maybe join in the discussion...

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Alex J Cavanaugh on Morality in Writing

My Battle of the Band winners will be announced in my post of Monday September 23rd.  I will also have a bit of controversy related to this particular Battle of the Bands face-off.   

     Here's a blogger who needs no introduction so I'll just say "Hello Alex J. Cavanaugh--Tell us what's on your mind today."

Morality in Writing

       Big thanks to my long-time friend, Lee, for letting me invade his blog yet again. Not only did he agree to host me during the release week of CassaStorm, but he gave me free reign on the topic.

       Of course, knowing he likes topics that stir conversation with a bit of controversy, it took me a while to select one. Confrontation is not my thing. I finally decided to talk about morality in writing. And there are several considerations that come into play.

  •  Should an author’s moral compass be reflected in his writing?
  • Does it depend on the genre or does it depend on the author?
  • What about thrillers, crime novels, or horror, genres that require a dark center?
  • Does it matter to the reader?

      How much of an author’s own moral compass should appear in his writing? I think the answer to that lies in balance. If an author’s views are strong, he needs to be aware of that while writing. It would be easy to hit people over the head with prose that is preachy. To completely abandon it though would also be wrong. So it’s all about balance.

      Does it depend on the genre or the author? Certainly there are genres that would suffer from a heavy dose of morality. Of course, as the movie Legend stated so well, you cannot have light without darkness. Does it depend on the author then? How far he is willing to push the boundaries? That is something each writer must decide for himself.

      Without pushing the moral compass though, would we even have crime thrillers, horror, and similar genres? For many of those stories, somebody has to be morally twisted in order for it to work. Of course, most of those still boil down to good versus evil and with good winning.

      What about the reader? They approach the story with their own moral sense of right and wrong. Since authors have no idea what that might be, they must walk a fine line. We don’t want to offend and turn readers away. Nor do we want our work to seem soft or unrealistic.

      That’s a lot to consider. And we all approach it in a unique manner.

       Since I always end my posts with a few questions, and I would never ask anyone something I was not willing to answer, I will do that for you now.

       I read a variety of science fiction, fantasy, and thrillers. I don’t mind some vile characters and immoral behavior, but I do expect good to triumph in the end.

      I’m more strict on myself though. I’m a born-again Christian, and I wouldn’t write anything that I couldn’t share with my Christian friends or even my pastor. Sure I hint at fast women on Spaceport 89 and Byron’s willingness for a night in bed with Athee. I never show it though, and I don’t use language stronger than damn. Sure I could’ve written some really edgy books, but I wouldn’t have been proud of them. I do believe my books are a reflection on me. I also want anyone to be able to pick them up and enjoy, and that includes a ten-year-old, which is when I discovered the genre.

Now I ask you…
Should an author’s moral compass be reflected in his writing?
Does it depend on the genre or does it depend on the author?
What about thrillers, crime novels, or horror, genres that require a dark center?
Does it matter to the reader?

Thanks, Lee!

By Alex J Cavanaugh

From the Amazon Best Selling Series!

A storm gathers across the galaxy…

Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, Byron thought he’d put the days of battle behind him. As a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the desert planet, Byron’s ideal life is threatened and he’s caught between the Tgrens and the Cassans.

After enemy ships attack the desert planet, Byron discovers another battle within his own family. The declaration of war between all ten races triggers nightmares in his son, threatening to destroy the boy’s mind.

Meanwhile the ancient alien ship is transmitting a code that might signal the end of all life in the galaxy. And the mysterious probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago could return. As his world begins to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…

“CassaStorM is a touching and mesmerizing space opera full of action and emotion with strong characters and a cosmic mystery.” – Edi’s Book Lighhouse

“…the racial conflicts propelled much of the plot in this story, driving home a message that's relevant to our own world and giving the book an interesting texture.” 
- C. Lee. McKenzie, author of Alligators Overhead

“Cavanaugh has created wonderfully moving moments of great poignancy… CassaStorm could have been a dark story full of hardship and angst, but instead it's a cleverly balanced story about hope and triumph.”
- Lynda R. Young, author of Make Believe

$16.95 USA, 6x9 Trade paperback, 268 pages, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
Science fiction/adventure and science fiction/space opera
Print ISBN 9781939844002 eBook ISBN 9781939844019
$4.99 EBook available in all formats

Find CassaStorm:


Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of the Amazon bestsellers, CassaStar and CassaFire, he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. Great post Lee from Alex, interesting to read and the many question asked.
    Guess it will take some time to answer.


  2. Thought provacative post. I have no clear cut answers to your questions Alex but I do agree a balance in morality for both reader and writer is important. Sometimes a sence of humor helps ride that thin line. Stephen King did a good job using humor in a horror genre to lighten the unmoral actions of his evil characters. Have a nice week-end Alex and Lee!

  3. Great questions to ponder, Alex.

    As you may know, I'm a Christian also and I've wondered about this. In real life, it's few and far between that I cuss (I just don't have the mouth for sounds odd coming from me), but when I do, it's the benign ones. But I have very much been around the block...seen and heard much of the world. Experienced much. In other words, I'm not a saint, nor do I profess to be. I think God uses that to His advantage!

    I've tried my hands at being edgier, throwing some slang out there that I personally wouldn't use, but even went back and changed it after posting.

    Some church family follow me on FB and my blog, and much of my extended family is also religious.

    Good will always triumph in my stories as it does in real life (whether we're around to see it or not).

    My thoughts after all the experimentation: Be true to God and to yourself.

    Great post!

    M.L. Swift, Writer

  4. Great post, Alex :-) I'm also a Christian and so have considered these questions many times myself.
    I DO believe that my writing reflects who I am, and I want that to be evident. There isn't any sex in my novels and I don't use strong language. And, while there is darkness, the darkness only serves to brighten the light. In my opinion, good should always triumph over evil in the end!

  5. As far as I'm cocnerned, if you can't clearly discern the author's voice, then the book is a failure. That's the whole point of writing. This includes their perspective on things like morality. You run the risk of alienating readers. But you also have the chance to find an audience.

  6. Great thought provoking questions!

    The author is who the author is.
    Does it make C.S. Lewis, or J.R.R Tolkien's books any less enjoyable having a moral compass.
    As a writer you put yourself into your work otherwise what is the point.

  7. depends, depends, depends, and yes, depends Everyone is so different it's not an easy question to answer.

  8. Definitely a thought-provoking post! I think the author needs to stay within his/her comfortable boundaries. I know I could never be comfortable writing a racy sex scene. The author also needs to keep in mind who will be reading their book. We certainly don't want to offend our target audience!

  9. Very thoughtful post. I think it's about striking a balance like everything else. I'm not religious at all, however I do believe in leading a good life. I'm interested in exploring the darker side, but things would be pretty depressing if good didn't triumph in the end.

  10. Siv, humor helps.

    Mike, you said it well. And you understand my position.

    Rachel, Amen! We write similar.

    Tony, finding the audience is important.

    David, no they are probably more enjoyable because of it.

    Sherry, exactly! And I wanted my audience to include younger people.

    Nick, that would be a downer...

  11. I think most writers write with their own moral compass in the back of their mind. Should we? I can't say. It depends on the story and the writer I guess. Preachy. Never.

    I do think we shouldn't judge a fiction book or series of books by the writer's moral compass. It's not like the writer is trying to get readers to switch to the 'Dark Side' with an engaging story.

  12. It took me many years to realize that if I wrote a character that behaved differently than I would in real life, then that didn't necessarily mean I was missing some crucial moral component in my real life. Once I had that revelation I felt much better about having a bad guy actually be a bad person.

    Great stuff today.

  13. Great post! I'm always glad to meet other writers willing to talk about this. Like Rachel, I don't include strong language or sex in my work. The darkness in my stories tends to flow from characters having emotionally raw experiences and having to learn through suffering what it means for God to be for them. The themes I explore come out of who I am. But there are plenty of Christian writers I respect who don't write as explicitly about faith issues, but their moral compass comes through just the same. Something that shapes how you view the world is pretty hard to turn off or ignore when you create.

  14. Totally agree with the not being preachy (ugh, which nobody likes in fiction, even those who have the same moral compass as the author). Still, if one has a moral compass at all it is difficult to keep it out of the writing. And I don't see that as a problem either, because part of the value of literature is introducing people to different viewpoints and attitudes.

  15. I've written about characters who make wrong choices when it comes to morals, but it always comes back to what is right. I think it's possible to put your own values in a story without hitting readers over the head.

  16. Since I've written a lot of horror, I've used a lot of nastier words than damn, and I've written vampire fiction where the sex is graphic. I certainly do not recommend those to folks younger than 18. On the other hand, I've written the Talera series, which I think would be perfectly fine for a twelve to thirteen year old to read. Just like with movies, some books are suitable for different ages. I like writing across a wide spectrum so some are very adult and some not.

  17. Christine, that would be funny if they were. Wait, Lucas already tried that...

    Rusty, Byron did things I never would do either.

    Laurel, well said! I can't turn it off - it's just who I am now.

    Karen, good point.

    Diane, I tried not to hit anyone.

    Charles, and you write an incredibly wide variety of genres. You just have to know your target audience.

  18. Interesting. I think if the genre is dark then you have to go dark and write it as it is. A reader knows what to expect from horror and similar genres. I dont believe the writer's own moral is necessarily reflected in dark writing. At least not in my case and I have written some seriously dark stuff.

  19. Great questions! I think as Christians it's natural for us to have our moral compass show - it's what we're supposed to do. However, I don't think that means we can't have badly behaving people in our work - they show the difference between right and wrong by their contrasting behavior. I don't mind a few bad words here and there, if it fits the character. I write sci-fi/thriller so there isn't really sex, but it is alluded to. My MC is one troubled chic...
    Tina @ Life is Good

  20. Yeah i dunno. I think there's something to be said about separating the artist from the art, you know?
    Obviously if you're not comfortable with descrptive sex or harsh laguage, that's completely your right as the artist. But! I will say that that story should come first. If you write a character who would be swearing left and right and all he says is "darn", well, that's a problem that the artist would have to solve.
    (not that i think this was a problem in CassaStorm. I think it was just right)

  21. Great questions, Alex and thanks for your honest answers! I think the number one most important thing to consider is the author. Like you said, if you had tried to write edgy books it wouldn't have been true to you and the writer would have known it. When we try to write with someone elses' voice we lose the purity of writing that makes readers love and admire authors- we readers tend to know when they're faking, I think.

    So it does all depend on the author- if your comforable exploring the darker side of human nature, go for it. If you love the joy of children then stick with children's books. Whatever it is, be true to yourself and your voice.

  22. Great questions Alex. Its about striking a balance. Some writers like to explore darker themes, write edgy characters and play fast and loose with the language. Each individual has their own moral compass to guide them.

  23. Difficult question. A perceptive reader can detect moralistic overtones in a story. It happens, since we are who we are and things that are important to us, will show in our writing.

    To me the two important factors I consider: what impression do I want to give my readers, and what works best for the story.

  24. Al, all depends on the genre.

    Tina, well said. And I bet your character would get along with mine...

    Sarah, that's good to know.

    Beverly, that is really sound advice!

    Rachna, and that's not me.

    DG, I just won't write a story that needs something very immoral then.

  25. I think this is really one of those things that depends on the audience you're writing for. So, for you, Alex, with your pastor as your audience (whether he reads your books or not), you are writing with the idea of keeping it acceptable to him (which begs the question: do you know what kinds of books he reads?).

    When I wrote House, I wanted my kids to be able to read it (since I was writing it for them), so I kept it all pretty tame. Shadow Spinner is for a slightly older audience, a little less tame, but still suitable for kids. However, I have a murder mystery that I'm working on that is definitely not for kids and will be written that way. Through all of that, though, I hold to the idea of the characters and who they are. It's not my morality that's important but their's. Even in House, you can see the different centers of even the child characters: compare Tom (or Sam) to Danny. Danny in no way reflects my moral center, but he does reflect his own.

  26. Everyone has such a different idea on what is morally right. I'm not a born again Christian and I'm far, far from perfect but I do have a moral compass that rules my life. I grew up with my father saying JC-this and JC-that but he almost never said the F word. 52 years later, I say JC without thinking it's wrong (but almost never spout the F bomb because, to me, that's BAD). Recently, however, we moved next door to some wonderful people who are very, very religious. We get along great and love playing euchre together but I find I'm on my best behaviour around them, not wanting to say the JC word so as not to offend them. One night they asked me about my writing so I pulled out a short story that was published in the Friday Flash collection. I am very proud of that story. When I came to the part where my character said the JC word, which was entirely appropriate to that character, I felt a little uncomfortable but kept reading because I believed my neighbours would see that was the character talking and it was part of the story. When I was done reading, there was dead silence. "So," I asked, "What did you think?" He said, "It wasn't all bad." Wow. I felt like I had been slapped in the face. He couldn't see the moral story beyond the swearing; he couldn't see the love between a long married couple, or the unlikely heroism of a cursing oaf of a husband who is a hero nevertheless and a fine human being who loves his family. At first I felt terrible because he disliked my story. Then I realized it was HIS problem, not my problem. People swear. It's what they do. If I am to accurately write about these people, if I am to write human, imperfect characters, they might have to say bad words. Long story short, you need to write what's in your heart. For everyone, that's different. And I will respect your STORY if it's good, no matter if there's bad words in it or not.

  27. Sorry, Lee, that's a blog post. I should just copy and paste it.

    Congrats Alex!

  28. I don't think a story needs to reflect exactly how you feel about topics, characters should be able to express a range of feelings, but I think the writers view of the world will sneak in there somehow, and trying to write outside of that will feel forced. Unless you're really good at faking it!


  29. Andrew, I didn't write it for my pastor, but I did write a story I knew would be acceptable to everyone. (And yes, I've had a lot of discussions with my pastor about music and books and movies - we like the same stuff, which is very cool.) And the characters in my books have their moral flaws. It's not in the details as much as the overall theme for me - and does good triumph in the end?

    Cathy, doesn't bother me to read a bad word if it fits the character. I'm not that pure! People do swear. I swear sometimes. Sorry those neighbors missed a good story just because of one word.

  30. It's a great question. One I've struggled with recently. I usually go for clean stories, but recently my characters kept speaking to me with curse words here and there. I was trying to change them, and it didn't sound organic, so I had to go with it. But as always, less is more. I think in daily life we're all faced with moral judgment calls. And stories should reflect that--as long as it's balanced with consequences.

  31. No, I know you didn't write it -for- your pastor, but you had the question in your mind, "Would I want my pastor to read this," so your (fictional) intended audience formed your story. That's all I'm saying. You applied different self-censures than if you had started from the point of, "I don't want my pastor to read this." And that's okay. Because I have not let my kids read "The Evil That Men Do" even though it's related to Shadow Spinner. I'd let the 17-year-old read it, but I don't want the other two to read it. I cut them out of the audience and incorporated more mature content.

  32. I feel a lot like you do about morality in writing. I write for adults, however, so I don't keep my stories quite as sanitized. As I've said before, the moral context and overall tone matters more to me than the graphic wording or lack thereof. That said, I do keep the foul language to a minimum and avoid taking the Lord's name in vain.

    One thing people need to realize, though, is that just because a character (good guy or villain) says something or holds to a certain belief, doesn't mean the author agrees or feels the same way. Authors and readers need to let characters be characters.

    Great post! :)

  33. Awesome, thanks for sharing these thoughts!

    I've written about this too, though more specifically about how a person's religion affects their writing. It's great to hear your perspective. I am all for a book operating by the author's moral code/inside their moral structures (I mean, why would we write things that work against what we stand for, anyway?), and I think authors should just stay away from making their books exist *primarily* as platforms for a moral message. Though if you can drive that message home without being preachy, my hat is off to you.


  34. Moody, I'm not good at faking it.

    PK, less is more, and with the right balance, you'll make it work.

    Andrew, remove that question from my mind, and all other restraints as to content... and I still would've written the same story. It was the joy of discovering science fiction when I was young and that essence is what I wanted to capture and express.

    Melissa, and that is true. My characters don't think like I do.

    Julie, religion isn't even mentioned in my books. I just let actions speak for themselves. Too preachy would be bad.

  35. Alex, I think you do a great job in both blogging and your books with showing the Golden Rule and a Christian viewpoint without being heavy-handed about it. There's no author intrusion in your books, which is one of many reasons they're successful. Interesting topic and thanks to Lee for hosting you.

  36. No matter how hard you try I believe that writing usually does end up at least being partially a reflection of the writer and his or her views on the world and maybe that's the way that it should be. I think that there's such thing as overkill though and it can turn other people off from reading which is also a point of view that I can empathise with as well.

  37. There are some things I wouldn't personally depict in a book, even if their occurrence forms an important part of a storyline or a character, like rape or child abuse. I'll have people discussing it after the fact, or show the prelude, etc., but wouldn't feel comfortable showing that actual scene.

    I now try to limit strong language in my books, though when it's merited, a well-chosen curse word can be very effective. In the old days, I had characters who cussed way too much, and now it just reads like embarrassing overkill, even though at the time it was meant as a satire on young people who really do "swear fluently," as I used to call it.

  38. My thought is, an author walks a tight line. You want to be true to yourself, but you don't want your characters to all be you. You might not even want the good guy to win in the end. Making sure your moral compass is clear is fine for a non-fiction work... for a novel, it's just a bit fuzzier...

  39. Elizabeth, thank you - that is the highest compliment!

    Yeamie, that's why I just let it flow naturally.

    Carrie-Anne, I saw the same thing in my younger writing.

    CW, that's why it depends so much on...everything.

  40. I think a writer's moral code has to be reflected in the work. And I always believe in happy endings!

    Thanks, Lee, for having Alex as your guest.

    Mary Montague Sikes

  41. My concept of always having happy endings was destroyed in college. That being said, most things I write have a happy ending or one that leaves things open for happiness. It's impossible to keep your personal morals out of what you write, but you're right about tempering it consciously so you don't sound preachy. Never treat your readers like they're stupid and let them draw their own conclusions.

  42. i totally believe in balance...

    As for me, I believe a story dictates the level. I am a very religious/spiritual person. I do always believe in the positive as everyone nows, but I am also a realist. I know the horrors of life and sadly had experienced several of them. Violence on many levels is present more and more each day.

    I am a quintessential lover of everything beautiful. I see beauty in everything. My writing reflects this. However in my second novel, I push the envelop. The story is raw, edgy, and real. Abuse is not pretty and it needs to be represented honestly for it to work.

    So I do believe in honest and real writing. Now one loves to create atmosphere and stunning details more than I, but sometimes darkness calls.

    Have a wonderful weekend Lee.... Thanks for hosting Alex today.

  43. That's a thought-provoking post. I agree with all that Alex says, though I go further than the word "damn" in my writing (and in real life). I think it depends upon the intended audience too.

    Thanks for the food-for-thought, Alex and Arlee.


  44. Hmm. Tough one. I know my own moral compass won't let me step beyond a certain point as a writer. Am I naive to think most others are feel same way? Probably.

  45. Mary, let's hear it for happy endings!

    Steven, exactly.

    Michael, I can only see you writing something amazing.

    Robyn, and that's fine!

    Liza, maybe, but I feel the same way.

  46. If the compass can fit into the story's them- I say go there! I too love to see good triumph over evil! Cheers for the moral compass!
    Mine only sways when it comes to driving ;D

  47. It's all about personal choice, and exploring the concepts of good and evil in writing is what writing is all about, from the fairy tale to non-fiction. It's overcoming the trials of life, the evil of the world or the universe.

    But I always prefer for good to defeat evil. Great discussion!

  48. I think we all have to be comfortable in our writing. I also need good to win out over evil in my books, ones I write and ones I read.

  49. I would never take something out or change my writing because of worry that it would offend readers -- not if it were something I wanted to write. There are plenty of books around to cater to everyone's individual tastes.

  50. I need good to triumph as well. I think our moral compasses almost always show whether we want them to or not ... as long as we're writing books from our hearts and not just for a market :)

  51. Greetings Mr. Alphabet Man and hello to the ninja dude, Alex.

    Firstly, Lee, nice to see Alex, one of my favourite humans touring and pondering on your site.

    Personally, my human and myself adhere to what we believe is a balanced form of writing. Sometimes, if it's conducive to the passion within the writing, my human has used profanity. There was a warning before one very curse-filled posting. And yet, not what person who commented took offence.

    My human's morals are something he is proud of. The main thing, we believe is that you write with honesty and integrity.

    As far as religion goes, my human stays well away from that and thinks the labels involved are not needed.

    Wishing you much success with your third book, my good human friend.

    And Lee, have a peaceful weekend.

    Pawsitive wishes,

    Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar!

  52. I think it's natural to assume the author's sense of morality would steer their story, but that's not say the actions or thoughts of the characters reflect those of the author. I write about some VERY dark situations & evil people as a way of exploring how these affect the choices the characters make & how they change as a matter of course. I work hard to keep it real & authentic. But in the end, there's always a message & that message is always based in morality. Sometimes exploring the darker shades of morality can show how much better the light really is. As I say in my first book, it's the darkest time that determines the character of the man.

  53. Should an author’s moral compass be reflected in his writing?

    I don't see how it can /not/ be reflected, unless a writer chooses to ignore the moral compass.

    Does it depend on the genre or does it depend on the author?

    Author. I am reminded of a scene from The Fall of the House of Usher where Vincent Price locks the woman in the iron maiden. You don't see spikes piercing her flesh. You don't see blood spewing from her body. But you know what it going on.

    What about thrillers, crime novels, or horror, genres that require a dark center?

    You don't have to step into the fire to know that it's hot.

    Does it matter to the reader?

    Of course. I choose what I read or view, just as I choose what words show up on the page. I have chosen for myself not to 'consume' something with gratuitous sex or violence. But I won't /not/ read something that has those elements in them.

    Congrats, again Alex and thanks Arlee for help him wrap up "release week".

  54. Hi Lee and Alex - interesting to read - and I think you've got it right ... however the boundaries will be pushed by some - and I could name a couple of authors ELJames and John Lock - I think those names are right .. whether it's right or wrong ... as did DH Lawrence 85 years ago ..

    But keeping faith with our own beliefs to my mind is important ..

    Cheers to you both - Hilary

  55. Ella, same here!!!

    Yolanda, yes, and well said.

    Jemi, not writing to market - good point.

    Penny, writing with integrity is important. I don't remember cursing in any posts, so obviously it didn't bother me.

    Nancy, and you handle that well. People go dark places sometimes. It's who they are on the other side that matters.

    LuAnn, good point about that movie - often it's what is implied that's the most powerful.

  56. Great post and a good question Alex-about the moral compass. Have you ever read Andrew Greeley? I used to be shocked at the way he could make an example of the things we shouldn't do without being preachy.

  57. This is a great post!
    If someone is writing honestly, I don't think it's really possible to separate the story from the moral foundation of the writer. In fact, writing from one's core will most likely avoid being preachy as well--because pure emotion always makes for a better story than standing on the sidelines and analyzing what 'should' happen.
    Personally, I'm always drawn to stories where good triumphs over evil!

    I'd love to read more from you on this topic. :)

  58. You wrote a very thought provoking post today Alex. I'm so glad Arlee had you over. Each writer has to decide what they are going to write and how they are willing to go with their story. If sex makes you sqeemish then erotica is not for you.If blood or violence you probably should stay away from certain genres including some thrillers. I think having a moral compass is great but putting it aside sometimes when writing can help especially if you're writing about a really dark character like a serial killer or sociopath.

  59. It's great that your books are enjoyed by people of all ages. I think many writers struggle with boundaries. It's wise that you established yours early on, and stayed true to them.

    Thanks Alex and Lee!


  60. Hilary, I think it is.

    Desert, no I haven't!

    Kristen, writing from one's core - I like that!

    Sheena-kay, you'd have to put it aside, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. (Unless the serial killer wins in the end...)

    Julie, I know what I am comfortable writing.

  61. As a reader (not a writer) I haven't really given much thought to how what is written within the pages reflects the author's moral compass. However, I can see how one's moral values would have impact upon what they feel comfortable writing. Like you said, I think one has to find the balance between the comforts of the author and the reader's interest.

  62. Alex, love this topic! I'm a reserved kind of goodie goodie, and I struggle when writing "bad things." But I have had my characters do and say things I normally wouldn't. I've written some curse words, then deleted them, then added them back in because it matched the character. You're right though, it's all about balance.

  63. Hey Arlee, I've just found your blog through a post on Alex's blog. I've been meaning to look into the April A-Z Challenge for a couple of years now, so I guess I should start following you! :)

    Great post from Alex! I think there are quite a few factors that contribute to whether or not the author's own moral compass should be clear in their writing, or how clear or obscure it should be. At the end of the day, I guess it's down to the digression of the writer. I like the idea of each individual piece having a different and unique voice and I think the moral reflection of the author should vary between pieces to help enhance those individual voices.

    Then you've also got stories where the central characters are the bad guys. I guess that's where the author's views would only become clear at the end, assuming good still conquers evil, like in DeathNote. Unless the author is evil too, but I think most people would go with the assumption that they're not. Hmm. Interesting post!

  64. Great guest post, Alex. Very thought provoking.

  65. I'm all for morals in a story without being too preachy. I want to see the good fight the bad, and I want to see the good win. I also want to see conscientious characters who do the right thing.

  66. I can truly appreciate Alex's stand on morality in writing in writing. Some people, like me just can't get away from it, but there has to be a balance to it. I would never write something I wouldn't want my family to read and I've, unfortunate, read a few things I wish I hadn't. As a reader, I make a point to read several synopsis and reviews before diving in. Not everything is for everyone, but it's good to have an open mind.

  67. Wanda, I know what I am comfortable writing.

    Julie, it is!

    Bonnee, let's hope there aren't too many evil authors out there.

    Medeia, and learn from doing the right thing.

    Eternal, that's true not everything will appeal.

  68. In my writing I avoid bad language only because, as you say, I want to be proud of my work and I want a great number of people to enjoy my work. When reading, however, I really don't care if bad language is in the story or not.

    In the case of dark characters doing evil things, I don't have a problem. I won't, however, share everything in graphic detail.

    Oh, at the same time, I try hard not to be preachy. Not a fan of preachy stories.

    Wonderful post! Thanks, Lee, for hosting Alex.

  69. Writers write what they know. An author writing about the darker aspects in an authentic voice have probably experienced something of what they write, even if it was a very luke-warm version compared to what they wrote. Doesn't mean they are morally corrupt or that they are in some way demented. Writing can be cathartic, a way to work through issues one has experienced.
    I'm also a born again Christian, Alex, and my work has some very dark themes, but it isn't something I'd be ashamed of. Yeah, its very dramatized, but I write what I know to an extent. The people who would read it and judge me as being twisted, don't know me and don't matter.

  70. I've written a dark supernatural novel, though, the bones of the book rests in my Catholic beliefs. I consider myself moralistic. Good versus Evil is an intriguing genre. In my heart pure good always triumphs! To read or watch an evil character is enthralling, though, I expect the evil one to receive its just desserts in the end.

  71. This is an excellent post, Alex, and a topic I've struggled with. It's especially hard for me to pull back on language when writing from a bad guy POV when I know the character has no moral restraints and therefore would have a foul mouth and no limits on the crimes he'd commit. It's hard to know what to do.

  72. Good points, Alex. And I agree. During NANO in 2010, I wrote about a seriously dark character. He creeped me out. And one scene I had to go back and change because, though I went with his natural inclination, I felt uncomfortable with what I wrote. Staying true to my own beliefs and feelings is important. Part of being creative is conveying darkness without compromising those things. Fantastic post!

  73. Lynda, we write the same way.

    Sabrina, true it can help you work through the dark stuff. Guess I just haven't experienced much dark stuff.

    Cathrina, I agree!

    Patricia, we just have to know what our audience would expect.

    Words, without compromising - well said!

  74. I think our beliefs and our moral compass come out in our writing, even when we don't purposely add them into the storyline.

    I think you've hit a perfect balance in the Cassa books, with your moral compass shining through the main storyline and the characters' actions. Not every character in a book has to share an author's moral compass, but I think that it's natural that the end "sum" of the book shares the moral compass of the author.

    There are Christian horror writers, but when you read the "whole" of the story, you find their faith. The genre doesn't determine the overall moral compass.

    Great, thought-provoking questions and post!

  75. Great post!

    I always struggle with this because I was baptized at 14 but still have no problem writing a steamy scene. Would I show it to my Pastor? Ehhhh probably not. haha I wouldn't even show my mom, but I've shown her stories with strong curse words and ignored her "Oh my!"

    I've also always written with a slightly dark edge and like to portray real life when writing contemporary fiction. Do I condone the things that happen? Not really. It's such a gray subject sometimes.

  76. Tyrean, thanks! And good point about the Christian horror books - like This Present Darkness.

    Debra, it is a grey area.

  77. Really nice post & discussion. I totally agree with Tyrean that a writer's moral compass will come out in the writing naturally, whether or not we intend it. I'm like Diane in that my character don't always make good moral choices, but there are consequences to those choices, as in life.

    Romance is another genre that's not entirely friendly to a Christian world view, and I've definitely rubbed some readers the wrong way by reflecting my values in my books. Then again, I've also offended some solid Christian folk, so what can I say? Equal opportunity offender.

    P.S. Hi Lee!

  78. Great post Alex!
    I try to be true to my characters. But at the same time, I've never quite explored too deeply scenarios where my characters might be faced with struggles that I don't have personal experiences of, and where I might disagree with their moral choices.
    Interesting food for thought, all this.

  79. Nicki, go figure, huh? You can't please everyone. Just stick to your values and your guns.

    Deniz, I haven't either!


Go ahead and say something. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.
I normally try to respond to all comments in the comment section so please remember to check the "Email follow-up comments" box if you want to participate in the comment conversation.

For Battle of the Bands voting the "Anonymous" commenting option has been made available though this version is the least preferred. If voting using "anonymous" please include in your comment your name (first only is okay) and city you are voting from and the reason you chose the artist you did.

If you know me and want to comment but don't want to do it here, then you can send me an email @ jacksonlee51 at aol dot com.