Morality In Books

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”

–Oscar Wilde

When I read Stephen King’s book, On Writing, I was struck by his down to earth statement that a writer has to be true to his or her characters. One cannot sanitize just because ones’ audience might object to something a character says or does.

I liked the feeling of freedom I got from this. I had noticed my own writing going flat when I forced my characters into or out of situations just because it was “right”. But it was a frightening thing. How is any writer supposed to just ignore public opinion?

My first brush with this came during my third NaNo novel when one of my main characters swore. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I wasn’t sure how my friends would feel if they knew. It was mild; I think he said, “Hell.”

But then, in my fourth NaNo novel, my protagonist found herself seeking answers in the company of a psychic–something I didn’t agree with and certainly couldn’t excuse to my friends and family. I had to let it go and let my character make her own way through the novel. Regardless of how I felt about it, it made perfect sense for her to be doing what she was doing.

Categorizing a book (or a character) as “good” or “bad” misses the point, I think. It’s not about whether one morally agrees with the book, the writer, the plot, or the characters. It’s about what what learns through it.

What book do you treasure but feel reluctant to recommend, whether it’s because others might not understand, or because it reveals more about you than you like to admit? (For me, it’s a number of books–but Stephen King’s On Writing comes to mind at the moment. 🙂 )