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How to Create a Complex Moral Argument for Your Theme
May 27, 2016
On their surface, stories are nothing more than entertainment. They’re fun little ditties about cool people doing interesting things. But that’s not all stories are. Even the simplest of stories are saying something–they’re positing a moral argument about the world we live in.
Cool, right? Even when we don’t intend to share a “message” with readers, we are. The outcome of the story–the choices the protagonist makes–the way he is rewarded for some choices and punished for others–all of these things are presenting a moral world view, however subtly, for the readers’ consideration.
But it gets even cooler. Because if you can take conscious control of these elements, you can raise even the most entertainment-driven story to far greater heights of purpose, resonance, and meaning.
How Not to Create a Complex Moral Argument
Be ye warned, however. This is not a road for the faint-hearted or the flippant. Execute your story’s moral argument with something less than finesse and you might end up distancing readers by making them feel preached at (and this is so whether they agree with your “message” or not).
So what’s the secret to finessing a complex moral argument?
The key is the word “complex.” If your thematic premise comes across as too simplistic or one-sided, readers will inevitably feel like you’ve rigged the jury. You’re not presenting them all the facts, which means you’re not trusting them to make up their own minds, which means you’re representing yourself as smarter than they are, which means they’re not going to like you (or your story) very much.
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