Different Values
Last week, I was riding my mountain bike and stopped to ask a fellow bike rider if he needed help. The innertube had blown, and he was replacing it. So, I balanced the bike as he completed the repair. After pumping it up, he tossed the old tube far into the brush (plants), thanked me, and rode off.
I thought, “What the heck? Don’t litter, you jerk!” But, of course, my calm attitude prevented me from verbalizing such brash statements. Yet, this attitude did not inspire me to trudge into the bush, pick up the old tube, and properly dispose of it.
The guy seemed nice and probably had outstanding qualities, but a flaw in his values makes littering acceptable. Does this make him good, bad, or equal to the other people who litter? Hard to say. Alright, truth. I think he is a bad person because we all know that littering is wrong.
Our society comprises all kinds of people with values that span the rainbow. When we encounter people who contradict our moral code, it’s challenging to interact with them. Often, the law gets involved. After all, we make laws to uphold the general values we all agree on. Littering is one such law.
Of course, my four regular blog readers know this and are now wondering what this has to do with writing. Wow, this is really turning into a common theme. My topic of the day is about creating characters. The bad guy always has poor values, and the good guy has outstanding values.
Yet… What if my “good values” are not that great? I have read several books where the author’s values differ from mine. A good example is when an author uses uncomplimentary descriptions (like racial slurs) or excessive profanity.
What do I do about such material? Simple, I stop reading. Readers gravitate to the books they like, and this choice relates to their values. Yet, sometimes an author will hook us, and we accept the poor character values.
However, I have a dilemma, and I suspect other authors have this same issue. It is challenging to create characters with values that are outside their own. For example, “Sam threw his trash on the street.” I hated writing this sentence because it required me to break my moral code. What about an anti-hero who is good but litters? Yeah… No. As a result, my characters have a limited range. This is a problem because I can only take the story too far. How about a deep dive into a character addicted to heroin? That is not going to happen.
I suppose it is good to push our boundaries, and perhaps the best writers can put their morals far aside. However, I am not there yet, and setting aside my morals is a low priority. Maybe that is a good problem? At least I keep my blogs clean. I mean, they are not full of litter.

You’re the best -Bill
December 21, 2022
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