Home > 2011 Posts > Masks for Cowards

Masks for Cowards

February 12, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Moral discord in a fictional character can be fun to portray. Flawed heroes seem to be the rule in stories today.  But, too often, the nuanced, artful agony from the flaw is just simple cowardice wearing an intricate opera mask. The  resulting character threads then seem forced and unreal, as though the reader were watching a badly controlled marionette.

For a writer, the fun comes from a credible portrayal. That portrayal can be the straightforward product of shaping a story’s characters via two simple truths:

  1. A moral choice is not one between good and bad; it is a choice made between bad and worse.
  2. Courage comes in two types, moral and physical, and every person has a different amount of each at any point in time.

If a moral choice lies within the character’s bounds of courage at the time, then minimal angst results. Move on. Please.

If the choice exceeds those bounds, then the choice itself is poor. So, the character either accepts and integrates this understanding, or rationalizes and fabricates an even more intricate mask for their own cowardice. The most craven rationalizers will even try to convince others that their choice was really one based on some high theoretical principle, regardless of the practical disaster that ensued. A craven hippocrite loves company.

With this simple framework, writers can cheerfully spin out an endless number of character threads and always remain consistent with their characters’ nature and true human nature.

  1. February 12, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Really like his analysis. Can’t wait to read how this theory manifests itself in the stories.

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