I’ve been on the writing Journey for a couple years now, and there is a major lesson I have learned. Knowing what to write is vastly different than knowing how to write it.
I typically have the plot mapped out, but when I get to certain scenes it is difficult to figure out how to write it. In those moments it is difficult to just crank out three hundred words in a day instead of my goal of one thousand. The responsibility of an author is to find the right words as well as paint a picture with words, and sometimes that task is difficult to overcome. The irony with this problem is the harder I think about a scene I’m stuck on, the more difficult it is to write it. The lesson I have taken from this is to just sit down and write, and try not to be concerned about the quantity of words I churn out.
I put a lot of pressure on myself to produce large quantity of words every day, but I’m slowly realizing that isn’t the point of writing. Sometimes, a writer must struggle with a scene or single sentence even. That is what’s important.
I discussed here evil and what it is and how villains in both fiction and reality see themselves as good. I briefly discussed this in that post, but feel that it needs to be further explored, would we recognize evil even if we saw it? Can a culture become so warped that it no longer knows evil when it infects it? History confirms without a shadow of doubt that it is very possible, look no further than Third Reich, or Russia during Stalin’s rule.
Those are just two small examples of long history when humanity has adopted a sort of reverse morality. This is a lesson to all of us, that we must be diligent. It doesn’t take much for evil to become popular and acceptable. Evil isn’t always a megalomaniac, it is often subtle, with seemingly harmless ideas. The difficulty of evil is that it doesn’t always look or feel evil or destructive. It seeps in and slowly poisons everything around it.
Fiction of all kinds address this very issue, and it should serve as a metaphor for what could happen in the real world. Real human history also shows us what happens when we allow toxic ideas to spread and infect until they are normal and they evolve into terrible atrocities. Other than being diligent ourselves how can we stand in the way of evil? The greatest way is to measure it against truth and to not be silent.
Often, we hear “don’t preach at me,” or “don’t lecture me,” when we share our perspectives on morality. Obviously, there is a way to share our thoughts in a way that is more receptive to someone else, but sometimes people simply don’t want to hear differing perspectives. Some folks are so married to their ideology that they cannot even listen to other views. This sort of attitude is never constructive for anyone and does nothing to help society. The thing is, we need to diligently keep an eye out for evil seeping into our lives and culture. Sometimes we need to be “preached” or “lectured” at. Surely no one would deny those saluting Hitler needed it. We see it in both fiction and history, an evil idea becomes popular and those who need to hear truth reject it out of pride and ultimately people suffer. Let us leave this sort of pride in fiction where it belongs.
What is evil? That is something wise men have discussed for ages. Some find it hard to define, or even deny its existence all together. Yet it is obvious that there is a measurable standard of what is evil, human history points to that, despite what some may say. Things such as murder, cannibalism, stealing, etc. have been condemned throughout most cultures. In fiction, like in the real world, those who are evil often see themselves as good, but making hard decisions for the greater good.Few people who are evil see themselves as evil, in fact the most monstrous people still carried on typical lives. Well I’m not sure about some such as Elizabeth Bathory, but I’ve seen videos of Nazi SS men talking with their families and having what looked like a normal day. These men of course took part in the holocaust, that is what’s so chilling. Evil can be subtle, not all monsters always appear to be monsters. In a time when morality is often seen as relative by the masses, how will they identify someone who is evil? Will the evil person be ignored by someone or something that is seen as a greater threat?
This is something that has been seen in fiction. One notable example, the rise of Palpatine to power in Star Wars. While everyone thought the Separatists were the main threat, all the while their own leader was plotting to seize power.
I have said before, good fiction mirrors reality and speaks deep truths, even harsh truths. It seems like so many people are married to ideology and incapable of empathizing with other perspectives. When things get to that point how will they recognize evil? In Star Wars they didn’t, the same goes for countless other works of speculative fiction. Maybe we need to be able to discuss things better, understand one another better, before fiction becomes reality. We don’t have to agree, but empathy breeds understanding. Without understanding we are opening the door for evil to come in unseen.
Let us learn from fiction.