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Virtue, and tests thereof

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Feo Takahari, Oct 24, 2012.

  1. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    This thread was inspired by a scene in a story I recently read (which I will not name here, because it was awful.) The heroine was led to believe that a certain antagonist had killed all her friends, and he approached her with what seemed to be killing intent. By seeming coincidence, just as he was about to strike the fatal blow, the ground under him crumbled, and he nearly fell down a precipice. Rather than save him, the heroine let him fall--but before I could shout "Woohoo!", I discovered that this was a hidden test of virtue, and that she'd failed.

    Naturally, I thought of this as a test of virtue done wrong, but that idea implies that there may be such a thing as a test of virtue done right. What do you think of tests of virtue? Do you use them in your stories? Why or why not?
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    I've never used a ToV - I think my characters are all a bit too pragmatic or just plain morally ambiguous... my last two MCs have both killed for their own ends - but one of them did feel bad about it afterwards and needed a priest/mentor to talk with...
    But there again I don't think I've ever thought of using them to highlight good from bad...
  3. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    Mine are a bit more subtle, like not really life or death.. but one I think i did really well. I'll summarize it for you:

    In their youth, Ren and Alayna were engaged, but as adults, she falls in love with Iminrick and they marry. right before they're married, Ren tells her about why he let her go, and is shocked to discover she never knew about the engagement. So she marries her love, and they have a baby, but due to Iminrick's weird background and an ongoing war.. they leave their daughter with Ren, a trusted close family friend, and he raises her up. In Ayleth's book (the next one) it comes out that during the war, Iminrick was injured, and weaponless, and Ren could have killed him, or even walked way and let him die. But he didn't, knowing it would pain Alayna when her love died. So he saved Iminrick and they're still married in the second book.

    For me, it was one of the few places I've made a character morally choose between life and death for selfish reasons. But, I love how it influenced the second book, because even after 15 years, Ren is still in love with Alayna, though he's been married and has a family. And he is still raising the child of the woman he loves, and her husband.

    In the second book (not finished yet), I'm thinking about killing Iminrick. Ayleth is going to avenge her father's death, and it's all for plot reasons, but here's the part I'm worried about. Should I have Ren and Alayna end up together in the end? I haven't decided, but I'm leaning that direction, because she has always had feelings for him too, despite the circumstances that surround their weird situation.

    I'm not sure that's a true test of virtue, but that's one of the ones I love, anyways.
    J. S. Elliot likes this.
  4. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

    Two boys, stranded on a snowy alp. They're alone and have hated each other for years. The one, a bully who long misused the other, his thrall, is unconcious. The second boy, who alone knows a way to escape from their predicament, draws his knifte to kill his master. But he doesn't. Partly because he thinks he would be hunted throughout the land if he did, and partly because it's a dishonorable thing to kill an unconcious opponent. For the same reason he doesn't flee and let his enemy rot, so in the end they escape together. There is more to it, but these are the bare bones. Would you call this a Test of Virtue? Then yes, I used one. But more out of a sense of drama than as a show of goodness, to be honest.
  5. Kit

    Kit Maester

    Virtue is subjective. Also, rarely black-and-white.
  6. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

    I'd say a Test of Virtue can only be held relative to the values of the society in the book. Or whatever group the test subject belongs to.
  7. dangit

    dangit Scribe

    I agree with this.

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