July 3, 2019 at 9:41 pm #92724
I’ve been experiment writing with an amoral character of mine and I was wondering if anyone else had written amoral characters before. There are some stereotypes that pop into my mind with the word “Amoral”, such as an uncaring villain laughing as the world burns around him. However Matz (my character) is different. Typically the feeling assigned to amoral is unfeeling, but amoral is just the lack of understanding right and wrong.
Matz struggles with his amorality, searching for truth in men by studying philosophers. He ends up contradicting himself a lot and is a pretty lost character.
Here are my questions:
What’s your advice on writing amoral characters?
What are your thoughts on converting an amoral character to Christianity?
Can an amoral character be a main character? (I’ve heard it’s really hard)
and….anything else you would like to share?
“Scarlet, What are you eating?” ~ “Ghost peppers...” ~ Robin sighed.July 4, 2019 at 6:43 pm #92756
Ooh, this is an interesting concept!
Amoral, by definition, is to lack moral sense or be unconcerned with morals. So first off, you need to decide if your character is completely lacking morals, or just ignores them. There’s a large difference between someone who doesn’t know what morals are than someone who willingly ignores them.
Secondly, amoral is synonymous with unethical, but is also synonymous with “without morals”. Let’s just break that down for a moment. Ethics, are defined as a set of principles upheld and defined by a particular society, class, or culture. They are external, as in meaning they are adopted through being taught most of the time, like you’re taught table manners. They’re generally governed by government or legality during a certain period of time, just like how slavery was considered ethical before the Civil War, but now is today considered one of the worst sins someone can possibly ever commit.
Morals, on the other hand, are principles gained internally, basically standing as a single person’s “life compass” as to what is right and what is wrong. This is where we dive into a technicalities–because what doesn’t make sense about the concept of morals to a Christian is that there is no such thing as “choice” when it comes to right and wrong. You are either in the right, or in the wrong. What people define as a moral compass is instead your conscience, and it cannot be changed. Morals, on the other hand, can be altered to fit a certain person’s goals. For example, like I said above about diving into technicalities–no sane person would ever think it “right” to kill a child. A character who’s morals defined by his own mind however, can “decide” what is right and wrong for themselves, and therefore do whatever they wish.
What does this mean for an amoral character though? Someone without ethics does not have to uphold society’s standards of what is right and wrong, and someone without morals does not have to upheld a personal standing of what is right and wrong. An amoral character is both of these. He has no reason to upheld society or himself in what is right and wrong, and most likely just simply ignores both for whatever his final goal is.
My advice to you is to find that goal, and make it a really, really good goal. You need something that people will understand and sympathize with, and want this character to get no matter what. No matter what he has to do, because he will do anything to get it, since there is nothing holding him back.
And then, you should introduce morals. Slowly, perhaps. In my limited opinion on your story, in your place I would have your amoral character see others acting morally or immorally, ethically or unethically, and wonder why some of this is considered bad and some good. Make him curious, and make him slowly start to realize what right and wrong is. I see a lot of people saying that an amoral character needs to have some sort of line he won’t cross–but that’s the point of his character. He doesn’t have a line. What you need to do is slowly build that line, then give him the chance to jump over the edge and have him either take it or leave it. Then your amoral character will no longer be amoral, but either moral or immoral. Depending on his arc, choose wisely. Mistakes are valuable lessons, and maybe your character needs to make the wrong choice to see the right one. maybe he needs to almost have his goal within his fingertips, but then because of something he did(make sure to not let him pass the blame, that’ll ruin the lesson), it’s yanked away. Only when he realizes what he should have done in that situation should he get it back.
Converting him to Christianity should most likely be done after he realizes what morals are–because afterwards, he’ll have a reason. Before, there won’t be any need for him too–he doesn’t believe in right and wrong, so why should he?
Personally, I think an amoral main character, written correctly, would be very interesting and would open up a lot of avenues to ask questions about morality and ethics that couldn’t be asked otherwise. But it’s your story, and you may have different goals for it. Anyhow, I hope this giant rant helped, and if you have any need of learning more about morals vs. ethics, I’d check out this website: https://www.diffen.com/difference/Ethics_vs_Morals (There’s also some reference links at the bottom of the article that may be useful.)
"A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."
- C. S. LewisJuly 4, 2019 at 10:30 pm #92764
Wow I love your rants….so much…this invoked so many questions in my mind and some I got to answer! Thanks for the link it helped as well!
Also *sweats* there’s a lot of pressure writing an amoral character…
I’ve got a few questions regarding to more of his role in the story forming in my mind. More to how you would think it would play out? Aurgh, its really cool hearing your opinion.
So Matz is basically an experiment (program) under a CIA operated branch called M.O.T.H.E.R., which is trying to perfect the perfect overseas operative. Someone who doesn’t care what shady business the CIA needs them to do. Pretty much from childhood he’s been raised in a lab, tested and prodded. He would be raised without ethics as well. He finds a refuge in philosophy, studying and reading different philosophers over time, which brings me to his goals.
To define right and wrong and to find a real family. (Is that a goal that audiences would sympathize with? I’m not entirely sure.)
By saying “he will do anything to get it” my mind always pops to ‘murder’ but it would also be lying, stealing, cheating, etc correct?
In the story he will have a strong father/older brother figure come into his life. This could be how he starts building the line, right?
Also for tripping up, making that mistake. What could be something he crosses the line for family that would turn the people he’s been closest with away for a bit? Again my mind pops to ‘murder’ but you would be surprised how often my mind goes there…
Thanks again for everything, I hope I didn’t drill you too much….
“Scarlet, What are you eating?” ~ “Ghost peppers...” ~ Robin sighed.July 5, 2019 at 11:21 am #92779
Ooh, more questions. To be honest, this is a really interesting subject that I love thinking about, so I’ll talk about it as much as I can. XD
First off, I like his interest in philosophy, but there’s one small issue that I think you should really think about. How does he come into contact with the resources to read/study philosophy? I highly doubt a government program designed to make the perfect operative tool would allow him to read things that might make him question their actions/orders. You’re probably going to need an external source that he gains these things from.
Secondly, I looooooove the goal of finding a real family. That is something that readers will sympathize and empathize with, because having a family is something everyone wants. We’re social beings, we need support and love to function. A family offers this and so much more.
Murder I would consider as definitely a possibility. Or at least murder in self-defense. A lot of Christian stories annoy me because they have a character that is an anti-hero or such, and would not hesitate to kill from the way they’ve built him up, but then he never does because….. it’s Christian, we can’t show blood. I’m not saying that your character has to kill, but if you’re going to build him up as a perfect tool for the government’s shady business, like it or not he’s going to have had to killed more people than you probably want to think about. And that doesn’t mean you need to show it–but don’t ignore it.
In regards to the other half of this question, yes, lying, stealing, cheating, etc. would all be very good ways to show his amorality. Don’t doubt the little things–for one, people are naturally selfish and self-centered, and an amoral character only hypes this up more because he doesn’t have a reputation to uphold–he can lie, and steal, and cheat, and he won’t feel guilty because he doesn’t care. Use this to your advantage–maybe in the pursuit of trying to get his perfect family, your character starts lying a little to them to try and keep them all together when times get rough. Maybe those lies build up and up until finally, they come crashing down on his head and that is what makes his family turn away from him a little.
Then you drop the bomb, that little thing that makes them unable to see him as the same person they thought they knew, and they leave him. And then he needs to get them back. Murder would be an easy thing to use here, but if I were you I’d do something more fitting to his amorality. Anyone can murder, given the choice. So instead maybe have him abandon a close to friend to die, or maybe it’s his fault that one of his family members has gotten kidnapped but he doesn’t want to go rescue them because it would put the rest of his family at risk, and he doesn’t understand why they’re all so determined to get their family member back. Maybe he thinks someone has betrayed them, and ruthlessly interrogates them even though they’ve been a close friend for months or weeks now.
Use your imagination. Murder can work, but there as so, so many more things that will just yank on your reader’s heartstrings.
Also, can I just say, I looove that you’re giving him an older brother/father figure. That’s something a lot of books definitely skip out on, plus father-son bonding time is like, the best. I’d personally rather see a father figure, because this character, being amoral, needs someone with authority that can tell him no, not someone to coddle him really. He needs to be taught what is right and what is wrong, and I just feel that a firm father figure would do that better. That would help him start to realize what the line is, and help him slowly come to respect the father figure and his morals, and in turn start building your character’s morals.
I hope this helps! If you have any more questions just tag me. XD
"A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."
- C. S. LewisJuly 5, 2019 at 2:35 pm #92784Ariella Newheart@ariella-newheart
@scarletimmortalized This is an interesting thread! I haven’t thought about amoral characters much before.
I started reading The Scarlet Letter for the first time a few days ago. What @sarah-inkdragon said about morals and ethics definitely applies to this book. The Puritan society that Nathanial Hawthorne portrays is very strict with regard to sin and immorality. Hester’s punishment is to wear the scarlet letter A on her dress. She is shamed and cannot function normally in society. This is an example of the ethics of the culture.
Though Hester yields to the punishment, she has a different set of morals where she almost seems to reject the rest of Puritan ideology. When tempted with the same sin that disgraced her, she does not immediately reject it. Perhaps this is because she thinks she has been treated unfairly, or because she never truly repented? Whatever the case, Hawthorne writes her as a sympathetic character, and that can be dangerous.
Hester’s whimsical daughter, Pearl, might be considered an amoral character. She is certainly not bound by the ethics of the culture, answering only to herself.
As a side note, I haven’t actually finished the book yet. My knowledge of it isn’t perfect. I only noticed some similarities between the characters in The Scarlet Letter and the definition of amoral characters. I don’t know if this helped any, but I thought I’d share. 🙂
Writer, illustrator, Parimi Alcan
Check out my new blog! https://arbitraryfairy.wordpress.com/July 5, 2019 at 10:09 pm #92802
I love this as well and I’m glad I’m not bugging you with my questions!
I actually hadn’t considered that prospect before. I’ve been messing around with Matz’s amorality. I’ve always thought that he had access to philosophy as a test in the program/experiment considering he is a prototype. I’ve always had it in my mind that his amorality is due to using a type of drug to kill/deaden those senses throughout his life. Giving him access to multiple contradicting philosophies only furthers to keep him in the gray. Is that a reasonable explanation?
Oh good! It seems he’s always wanted a family, considering the contrast with M.O.T.H.E.R.
Ugh I hate that too. I’m pretty sure Matz has killed before, party of the shady government deal.
I love all your insight! Yeah I like the ruthlessly interrogating one…murder is indeed easy…and now my second favorite word pops into my head…torture…
I absolutely love father/son bonding moments and especially the accidental father type. Ugh my heart. Yeah, which is why I go with a father figure, he needs someone to take him to his first baseball game so to speak, but admonish him when he steals a candy bar from the store.
What are some things you would advise me to stay away from since writing an amoral character seems to be a bit tricky?
Ohh the Scarlet Letter!! It’s on my reading list of ‘what I missed in high school’ so I get to read it soon, right after Faust! That was really helpful! I might have to bump it before my fluff read since I alternate heavy and fluff. Thanks for sharing! I really appreciate it!
“Scarlet, What are you eating?” ~ “Ghost peppers...” ~ Robin sighed.July 9, 2019 at 1:18 am #92933
One thing I’d definitely stay away from is attempting to “justify” his amoral personality in any way. It’s not just that he’s done bad things–we all have. But amorality in it’s very, most base essence, is simply avoiding consequence of any sin because if it doesn’t matter to you, it can’t effect you. It’s attempting to ignore God’s authority and undermine any respect left.
Another thing to avoid would be actually drawing that line in the sand that your character must step over, until the moment is right. Your amoral character is all about what he will do, not what he won’t. If you draw that line one moment too soon or without the correct emotional weight to go with it, it’ll end up both cheesy and non-impactful, but could also undermine the entire idea of an amoral character. Don’t give him a line that he won’t cross, like say, killing a child. That’s against the idea of an amoral character. That would make him more of an anti-hero, which he is not supposed to be.
Instead, force him to choose what is right, without drawing that line. Make him decide that he will draw the line, not that he has any predetermined ideas about morality. Because he doesn’t. He must decide for himself once and for all what his line will be, and then you must react accordingly, depending on whether his line follows what God has told us or not. Because here’s the thing–humans mess up. We mess up a lot, and we’re to arrogant to admit it. So just because something your main character or even yourself does is something you think is right, doesn’t mean God thinks it’s right. You must hold everything to a heavenly standard–not your standard. Matz’s line must eventually be equal with God’s–because only then has he actually changed, and become a better person. Anything less would simple be ignoring the higher call me are all demanded to follow.
So make Matz decide, eventually, when it is most needed, why he must finally draw that line in the sand. Make him avoid drawing it, make him try to justify his own amorality(Note that he’s trying to justify it, not you–your opinion may not always line up with Matz’s, and that’s okay. This is his lesson, his story.), make him try to get others to accept it before he is finally forced to confront his own actions and take a stand–or fall.
Whatever your choice be, don’t deny us that confrontation. This is a story that must have that moral confrontation to go on, without it it will fall flat and cheap.
"A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."
- C. S. Lewis
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