I do wonder at one thing with all of this use of the term “good”. On what basis is the term “good” defined. By societal norms or by God’s eternal principles?
Excellent points! While writing this, I was assuming God’s principles and commandments, (in most cases. That wouldn’t work if the ‘hero’ was a villain) but I believe both will technically qualify for the hero archetype. I know, I know, but hear me out.
They should never be used interchangeably, but I believe that heroes who follow their own morals could have an interesting character arc as they realize that they’re not the final authority and it’s brought them close to villian-dom. (villianhood? Villianness?) (Might be hard to write properly, but it is an option.)
I completely agree with what you said here:
I do not want mankind’s definition because it makes one righteous in their own eyes, rather than actually expressing the virtue of it lovingly and sacrificially by God’s terms. The Ten Commandments were given to show us God’s standard of good. Terms like “good person” or “good people” can mean just about anything. Criminals and psychopaths can see themselves as good and virtuous while committing the most heinous acts.
I believe that you shouldn’t use mankind’s definition unless you explicitly point out that it is not equal to God’s and either use it for villains or have the hero realize they’re wrong. Also, it needs to have negative consequences.
As you said:
Morals are also defined by God. They have to be, otherwise, they become arbitrary, self-defined, and subject to the vicissitudes of popular opinions.
You could use it for a character arc where the “hero” finds out that they were wrong/evil because they were defining their own morals. Or you could use it for the fallen hero I mentioned above. If the hero was holding themselves to God’s standard of goodness, that (probably) wouldn’t happen.
I think it would be especially interesting to contrast a hero who holds himself to God’s given commandments and morals with a villain who sees himself as heroic because he’s following his own set of morals. It would be hard to write and require a lot of tact to make it very clear what the difference between the two is, but I think it could be interesting because of the contrast.
I also thought this was particularly interesting:
This is what I read in Scripture, and it informs my worldview that permeated even my fictive worldviews.
Because I’ve noticed the exact same thing, especially in works I’ve read. When I read a work by an author I don’t know, I can tell whether the author is a Christian or not. Even when the character’s beliefs are never mentioned, it’s easy to tell the difference. I’ve noticed atheist/agnostic authors’ characters might have a disregard for human life.
And the most telling factor, the characters’ morals are all over the place. They twist and turn as occasion and plot require. They’ll simultaneously condemn the villains for doing something and then do it themselves with no qualms without the narrative pointing out that it’s wrong. It yanks me out of the book faster than anything else. I’ll completely disconnect from the characters, especially when I realize that if the narrative was switched so the villains were the main characters, I’d despise the heroes.
Not to say that Christian authors never fall into the trap, but I’ve noticed that the author’s moral compass leaks into the characters’ subconsciously.
That seems to be something some writers do, but I only think it appeals to me if they are loners because they are the only ones who will take the moral stand in the midst of collective cowardice. I think every hero needs a support system, and some mentorship to affirm them, but failing that, they need to have a faith foundation and a relationship that encourages them towards the “good”.
Entirely correct! It’s often glorified, while self-isolation is a response to trauma and an unhealthy coping mechanism. It does happen, but it shouldn’t be painted as a good thing unless it is the hero standing alone because of moral issues. People need human connection. (As we’ve all realized in the past year and a half)
Ah yes. I’ve seen this one used many times. Seems like Marvel and DC Comics movies do this a lot. The villain indicates to the hero that they are just a side-step away from each other, walking on the opposite side of an arbitrary line of justice.
I didn’t realize it had been done so often. (Possibly because superhero movies are generally not my genre XD) “We’re not so different” is a fairly common trope, mostly because it contrasts the hero and villain and sets them up as foils for each other. It has an interesting effect when it’s used correctly.
You’ve raised some good points. Sign me up for your next “TedTalk”. I’ll be there will bells on.
I’ll remember that next time I write two pages on a very specific subject 😉
Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?