1. prettyprettyprettygood
    Offline

    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2011
    Messages:
    452
    Likes Received:
    46
    Location:
    Edinburgh

    Immoral characters in children's fiction

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by prettyprettyprettygood, Jan 10, 2012.

    I wondered what people's thoughts/knowledge is on this? Specifically, whether it would be considered acceptable to have an immoral character, such as a thief, who is depicted as a loving father and generally pleasant person- and who doesn't get an ultimate comeuppance? I'm thinking of the 8-10 age range, perhaps a bit younger. I used to love Roald Dahl books when I was that age, but although they are dark as far as I can remember the bad guys always came to a sticky end, so there was a strong moral lesson. I'm going to do a bit of googling about this, and probably get hold of some modern children's books as well, but I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts :)
     
  2. RusticOnion
    Offline

    RusticOnion Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2011
    Messages:
    306
    Likes Received:
    8
    Does the immoral character have a moral excuse, for example is he stealing to feed his family?
     
  3. prettyprettyprettygood
    Offline

    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2011
    Messages:
    452
    Likes Received:
    46
    Location:
    Edinburgh
    The character I have in mind does steal to feed his family, but the reason he does that instead of getting a proper job is that he has ambitions to get wealthy by becoming some sort of illustrious thief (my idea is a historical story). So he's definitely not a victim of circumstance. I wouldn't have him succeed, he'd be pretty clumsy and hapless, but he wouldn't actually get killed or abandoned by his family or anything either. I suppose I'm interested in whether you can have characters with 'shades of grey' for this age group, or whether it's best to stick to stark good/evil characters.
     
  4. Ziggy Stardust
    Offline

    Ziggy Stardust Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2011
    Messages:
    129
    Likes Received:
    4
    Well Fantastic Mr. Fox is a thief isn't he?
     
  5. RusticOnion
    Offline

    RusticOnion Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2011
    Messages:
    306
    Likes Received:
    8
    I'm pretty sure you can, if not just raise the age group a tad, no biggy.
     
  6. prettyprettyprettygood
    Offline

    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2011
    Messages:
    452
    Likes Received:
    46
    Location:
    Edinburgh
    True, true, but he steals from mean people!
     
  7. RusticOnion
    Offline

    RusticOnion Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2011
    Messages:
    306
    Likes Received:
    8
    Then I guess it depends on how mean they are, perhaps they could steal from the poor in some form or another?
     
  8. prettyprettyprettygood
    Offline

    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2011
    Messages:
    452
    Likes Received:
    46
    Location:
    Edinburgh
    Ah sorry rustic, my comment was aimed at Ziggy and the Fantastic Mr Fox suggestion, my crappy phone won't let me quote.
     
  9. Ziggy Stardust
    Offline

    Ziggy Stardust Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2011
    Messages:
    129
    Likes Received:
    4
    I think if your character is stealing food from starving children that would probably be an issue. :p

    It's a tough one. You've got to make him likeable enough that we can forgive his stealing.

    For instance, have you seen Despicable Me? The main character is a professional thief, and his motivation was a quest to make his mother proud of him. And ultimately he gives up being a thief. The important thing is that he is basically a good guy, just misguided. Or in the case of Mr. Fox, he can't help it because he's a "wild animal". As long as there's a moral lesson in there somewhere, "be true to yourself", "you can't please everyone", etc, then you're all good.

    You need to be careful with his motivations.
     
  10. RusticOnion
    Offline

    RusticOnion Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2011
    Messages:
    306
    Likes Received:
    8
    Could his children foil him? Perhaps by giving the stuff he steals away?
     
  11. yagr
    Offline

    yagr Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2012
    Messages:
    320
    Likes Received:
    166
    Location:
    West Coast
    I feel that children are never to young to begin asking the tough questions; though the risk in getting young minds to question things is that the adults who actually buy the books for them may balk, leading to a commercially unsuccessful project.

    Personally, and for instance, I don't believe there is such a thing as an immoral person. That opinion is certainly not mainstream and I believe that great care must be taken when sharing that pov with an audience to prevent distancing them. As an example from more adult reading, I recall reading a (true) short story/article about a conversation between two men. One asked the other how he became such a responsiible and respected man and father when he was raised by the town drunk, one of the least respected men in town. After a moments reflection the man replied, "Every day of my childhood, as far back as I can remember, my father would come into my room when he got home, whatever the time, wake me up and tell me what a good son I was and how much he loved me."

    People are multi-dimensional. With care, I believe a child is ready to grasp that. Too, I believe you can win over the parents with a poignant explanation or story such as the above example.
     
  12. prettyprettyprettygood
    Offline

    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2011
    Messages:
    452
    Likes Received:
    46
    Location:
    Edinburgh
    Thanks for your input, Yagr, I agree with everything you say. Perhaps rather than immoral I should have said flawed- it's always deeply flawed characters that I love both writing and reading about, and I'd love to bring this type of character into a children's book.

    The story I have in mind would be told from the thief's young daughter's perspective, and she'd have kind of an eye-rolling attitude to her father's chosen vocation- she knows it isn't right, but it's her dad and he loves her, so she goes along with things. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to have her return stolen goods (although it's a good idea Rustic, and could work for some parts) but she'd certainly be the voice of maturity in the pairing. I'd like to think that parents would be ok with their children reading this kind of thing, but perhaps I'd feel different if I had my own!
     
  13. agentkirb
    Offline

    agentkirb Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2009
    Messages:
    494
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Houston
    I don't think you'd see an outrage from a lot of parents though... or at least enough to make it not worth the choice. It all depends on how you write it, if you come at if from a dark and gritty enough angle... the idea won't work IMO but not because of the idea as much as the way it was written.
     
  14. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    have you never heard of the grinch?... or the evil queen in snow white, or the wicked witch of the west in oz?...

    immoral characters appear in children's literature all the time... the only thing is they have to be either reformed or get their comeuppance at the end...
     
  15. prettyprettyprettygood
    Offline

    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2011
    Messages:
    452
    Likes Received:
    46
    Location:
    Edinburgh
    Exactly mamma, and that's the rule I'm wondering whether I can break. I don't want reformation or any major comeuppance, but I wonder if I need that for a children's book to be acceptable. My overall message would be that crime doesn't pay, but the message would be delivered fairly subtly, and wouldn't include a final downfall.
     

Share This Page