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Grey morality becoming a trope

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Netardapope, Dec 2, 2015.

  1. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

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    I honestly find that finding a villain that is purely evil is no longer as cliche as we once thought. To me it seems that everyday people seem to mock black and white morality in books which I find to be quite limiting in the way an author writes (maybe I'm biased because I find post-modernism to be annoying as a movement) But I was just wondering if there was anyone else who felt the same. Is grey morality becoming as cliche as black and white morality was?

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  2. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    A cliché is not the same thing as a trope. To use TV Tropes' definition: "Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations. On the whole, tropes are not clichés. The word clichéd means 'stereotyped and trite.' In other words, dull and uninteresting." Tropes can be overused, yes, but that doesn't mean they're all boring. They're storytelling devices. You can use them straight, subvert them, invert them, or avert them as you please.

    So, no, I don't think grey morality is becoming a trope (or a cliché, for that matter). It's always been a trope, and it's just coming into focus more and more recently.
     
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  3. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

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    You're right in my misuse of the word trope but I can't say I agree with your posture on it just becoming more common. It seems more often than not that in media in general the idea of gray morality just seems more common. I guess I just find that black and white morality shouldn't be completely dismissed as trashy writing. I actually think there's still some hidden potential in the idea. But yeah I just have the he bad habit of using the terms interchangeably [emoji53]

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  4. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    I don't disagree with you. Black/white morality is every bit as valid a device as grey/grey morality. Or black/grey, white/grey, black/black... etc. :D
     
  5. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

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    Yeah, I guess the title of the thread should have been " Black and White Morality unjustly being scrutinized?"

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  6. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Who's saying black and white isn't a valid choice? It's still quite prevalent all over the place, from TV, to movies, to books. One of the biggest series of all and recent time Harry Potter, has black and white morality.
     
  7. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    One of the reasons I designed my worlds the way I did was to explore aspects of black, grey, and white personality types.

    I asked myself: suppose you had a type of wizard that was always evil, or at best dark grey. Could that be made to work? Hence the Darkborn, and their polar opposites, the Godborn, paragons of healing and protective magic. Then I asked could two such radically different types work together? What common bonds might they share? And that gave rise to Enrick the Godborn, and his half sister Edith the Darkborn. Then, because I was dabbling with Lovecraftian themes even then, I asked 'suppose there was a general campaign against demons and Lovecraftian abominations. Now, even though they were a nasty bunch, might not those leading the opposition to these beings try to make use of Darkborn? (as well as Godborn) Fight fire with fire, gain unique intelligence, and so on.

    The other thing which plagued me for a long time was the whole concept of experience points in AD&D and like games (my stories back then made heavy use of game mechanics.) A friend of mine came over one day and flipped through a few of the handbooks (he was more into the game than I was). He looked up 'Kobolds' in the Monster Manual, then the experience point tables for fighters and a couple other classes. 'Damn,' he said. 'Kobolds are worth seven XP each. To get to fourth or fifth level, you'd have to kill several tribes of kobolds.'

    That stuck with me, and highlighted something else that bugged me. In old style AD&D, XP came from pretty much just two things: killing monsters and treasure - which much of the time belonged to somebody else. Characters didn't receive XP for other things. To me, it seemed reasonable a bard would gain XP for each performance or song learned, a priest for attracting converts, and mages for deciphering arcane lore. But that wasn't how things were set up (back then, might have changed since.)

    So I started to incorporate this into my writing. You have a character whose been through a lot: killed a bunch of people, seen people he cared about get killed, and more of the same in the future. How long before said character turned into a monster? Could he be redeemed? And such issues remain part of the core of my writing.
     
  8. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    I find that kids tend to relate more to black and white morality. Books that are written for kids or YA seem to do this more. Maybe it is a developmental thing? I've been reading a ton of books geared to 9-14 year olds lately and this is a pattern I have noticed. Percy Jackson, Harry Potter etc all are pretty black and white. As they get older things get more gray... Hunger Games, Maze Runner etc, and adults seem to like grey morality.

    I think there still is a place for black and white. I re-read Wizards First Rule this summer (don't judge me lol) and I still like it. Even though the evil guy is really, really evil and bent on world domination, and named Darken Rahl.... I still like it.

    I tend to prefer a really really bad guy in the books I read, or the shows I watch. I just can't imagine the aliens in Alien being sympathetic and allowing the hosts of their offspring to have assisted water births in dolphin pools....
     
  9. MineOwnKing

    MineOwnKing Maester

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    No.

    We have only just begun to explore Gray.

    In the states it's spelled with an a, not an e.

    Not sure where you hang your hat, just a friendly observation.
     
  10. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Something else that influenced my thinking, and to an extent my writing. Many years ago, when I could still be termed 'young,' I chanced across a pile of 'New Age' books dealing with reincarnation and spiritual development. Two concepts seemed core to the whole:

    1 - Types of souls (Seven - Artisan, Sage, Warrior, King, Slave, Priest, Scholar) each with their own root inclinations as to how they see the world and act within it.

    2 - Ages of souls, based on a rough total of incarnations and life lessons learned (Infant, baby, Young, Mature, Old, plus a couple of special cases) Rule of thumb was the younger souls tended towards rigid, structured outlooks, frequently including binary (black and white) thinking. The more mature souls tended to see things in shades of grey, getting to the true core issues. Younger souls were more 'me' oriented, which progressed to 'me making a mark' to the gradual realization of a sort of spiritual tapestry and acceptance of differing ways of doing things.
     
  11. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Thanks MineOwnKing,

    Grey is how we spell it in Canada.
     
  12. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    Gray morality better not be getting on people's nerves, because it's all I write. I never think of it as a good vs. evil or black vs. white. I think of it as flawed people trying to affect change in something (maybe their city, their kingdom, their family member's beliefs, whatever). The bottom line for me, is that no one's evil, just as no one's good. A character that one reader thinks is good, another will think is bad (yes, I really do mean that). I might see a devoted husband, and another reader sees a whipped sap. I see a naive girl who makes selfish decisions, someone else sees a condescending b*tch that turns their stomach. So much of characters can be polarizing, that I think gray morality is part of black vs. white morality. Every hero is allowed to make mistakes and still ride a white horse, isn't he? We don't punish him for his little splotches of gray, we love him for them!
     
  13. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    GRRM seems to have become a significant example of the grey morality implementation in fantasy. He's not the first obviously but the popularity of the TV show and his books has certainly put it at the forefront.

    Grey morality and black/white morality can both be implemented poorly.

    I'd hate to see books judged harshly because they aren't following the GRRM character design approach.

    Some characters may be flawed but do a very good job at hiding it, so their outward appearance might seem somewhat one dimensional. Obviously people have self-interests that can sometimes take precedent over a more ethical approach to living their lives, but not everyone is constantly shifting back and fourth between being self-serving and selfless.

    Someone that is portrayed as being perpetually stuck in a grey morality sounds boring to me. Heroic deeds and sacrifice are a part of fantasy.
     
  14. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

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    I've nothing against grey morality (thanks to those who corrected my spelling) I just find that people often ridicule villains whom are all "Pure Evil Satan - spawn etc." I find that the idea that all villains need to be a human in their reasoning (which I have heard from some) to be a bit dubious. Having villains who are humans in the sense that they are grey seems to be making people, in my opinion, forget the potential for villains who represent an ideology or more abstract evil. I'm sorry if I offended anyone who writes with grey morality (I do as well) I came of a little hostile in the beginning towards it so I apologize.

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  15. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    Gray/Grey Morality is just a lot more interesting for me. People and creatures in a grey morality world like ours can have good and bad aspects, they can do good things for bad reasons, they can think of themselves as good even though they're doing the worst things etcetera... In a black and white world it is too easy to have flat/boring characters.

    Mr McEvil is always evil and he thinks of himself as evil and he kicks puppies because he is so evil. On the other hand Sir Goodguy PrettyEyes always helps anyone who needs it, everyone loves him and rainbows spontaneously come into being wherever he goes.

    Black/White can only be done to a certain extent until it becomes incredibly boring in my opinion.
     
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