The Manifestly Gross Desires of the Most Base Human Behavior
A cursory glance around the news on the Internet will tell you the world is troubled. Bad news is everywhere. In France, in America, in Africa, Canada, England, Boco Haram, the Middle East and even here in Australia. If ever there was a time the world needed positive stories it is now.
As writers and authors, we are in a unique position to tell stories which inspire, which uplift, which put the emphasis on goodness, mercy, love and family. But even here in the literary world, stories have become synonymous with everything that is wrong with human nature. We see it in many books which highlight the deep darkness innately intertwined deep within the human soul.
Whether it’s the evil of demons, vampires, crime, murder or any of the other gratuitous fascinations we have with darkness, the bad deeds of evil-doers in the world has been for far too long reflected in our art. I was looking for a film to watch on our TV (Via T-Box) and all I could see were drug references, murder, chaos and evil. Whilst evil itself can be a mechanism by which an author highlights the opposing goodness, bad behavior seems to be prevalent.
This is why, more than ever, as an author I lean towards traditional story telling, where black is black and white is white. Rarely do I spend too long dwelling on the evil in characters or the narrative, but rather the honesty, integrity and, dare I say it, righteousness of the hero(s). There was a time when the great writers fixed their attention on the good outcome of their stories. Now though, increasingly, authors are leaving their readers with a sour taste and like those candies which are both sweet and bitter, readers seem to love their pallet being left tasting sour. Is this a reflection of what we have become as humans?
I also believe that the time is ripe for good wholesome stories that return to the old fashioned way of delivering narrative. The purpose of literature should be more than to merely entertain and to whet the appetite for evil. No, literature is an opportunity to instruct, to delineate cautionary tales designed to teach the reader what can happen when a soul delves too deep into the craft of evil.
Nowhere is this more true than in children’s or young adult fiction.
If we as writers focus too much on gratuity, we miss the whole point of story telling. The tradition of the craft predates modern stories by thousands of years. In the oldest records of the early aural tradition, stories were always told to instruct. I do not see why this has to be different today. We are better than this, better than the desire for chaos, better too than the lust for badness.
If you look at the most famous stories from the early to late twentieth century, rarely do you see fiction which invests too much in the bad deeds of evil characters. Rarely do you see evil rewarded. Yet today, whether it is a young man who walks into a school and opens fire on his classmates, or a mass murder practically idolized by the readers, our lust for evil is pervasive.
We need to return to a more innocent form of writing, which balances evil with good and the flaws and bad deeds of antagonists against the honesty and righteousness of the protagonist. A search of Amazon reveals some startling facts about popular reading habits, where bestiality, substance abuse, self harm, incest, deviance, sadomasochism, predatory behavior, occultism, stalking and even rape are part of the “normal” and “accepted” voice of modern literature. Are these the types of behavior we really want to expose the next generation to, no matter what the overriding objective of the author might appear to be? How far do we need to really go to explore these dark facets of human behavior before it becomes too much?
I do understand that some subjects are too important to ignore and I am not talking about good literature which exposes these human traits for what they are. I’m talking here about the gratuitous (frequent and unnecessary) nature of some of these books (and films).
I get that authors want to write popular fiction, in whatever form that may take. But what does it tell you about a generation, a society, which places more emphasis on depravity than right living? Who controls this if not the authors themselves? You could just as easily argue that we should resist the temptation to satiate the manifestly gross desires of the most base of human behavior as you could argue that authors have a responsibility to say “enough is enough”, even if by doing so an author marginalizes his or her work, relegating it to the forgotten pile of “could have been great if only people had read it” books.
Am I saying that we should never have evil in our books? Of course not. I have evil characters and they sometimes do some bad things to innocent victims, as in real life, but the evil only exists in my stories to facilitate the good that the protagonist needs to do in order to overcome that evil. It’s time to return to more positive messages for our children and young people. It’s time to return to a more pure form of narrative story telling which compels us to rise above the evil in the world and not become subservient to it.