Imaginary Good and Evil
December 2nd, 2010
Why is the world of fiction (and non-fiction to a lesser extent) dominated by stories of violence? Are most people strangely drawn to cruelty or is some other dynamic at work? Catharsis? Projection? Simone Weil offers an interesting idea which contrasts the imaginary and the real:
Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.
Then our challenge as fiction writers is to present real goodness in as an intoxicating, fresh and riveting plot with equally inspiring and challenging characters as they confront small minded boorish villains with undeserved but vast powers. Hmmmm. That is exactly what I am trying to do in The Witches of Fawsetwood. Now to convince a publisher. Thanks!
Interesting! I often cross this ethical question as I write. To create excitement and ‘conflict’ and yet not to let my bad guys become too horrible, the work too violent, because there is enough horribleness and violence in the world already, and it is easy to cross a line between making someone bad enough to need defeating, and making the things they do just one more homage to gore porn. Is it a Sheri S. Tepper novel where the writers end up in hells of their own creation? Writer beware! 🙂
A fascinating insight and one I had not heard before. The romanticization of evil, violence, and struggle are so ingrained in the common beliefs of society that what we perceive of evil and good both in fiction and how real events are framed in the media that this cognitive dissonance between what we see and what is true is not realized by so many.
I think Nature’s way of balance; I bet a lot of people who are really suffering like thinking and reading about nice things. I especially like the line: ‘real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.’