1. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    untangling a YA moral issue

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Justin Rocket 2, Apr 15, 2016.

    I've been struggling with a plot issue and could use a pow-wow brainstorming sessions.

    Adam is destined to kill Bill. The prophecy has been made and it is unavoidable. However, to stop Charlie (a supernatural villain), Bill has come to Adam to ask for assistance. As far as Bill is concerned, his death is a small price to pay to stop Charlie.
    Adam does not want to kill Bill. However, he eventually comes to realize that stopping Charlie is worth the price of killing his friend, Bill.
    What Adam and Bill come to realize is that, since they can't prevent Adam from killing Bill, they might as well do so in a way that most helps them stop Charlie. Adam and Bill agree (more Bill than Adam) for Adam to kill Bill. Adam kills Bill. Bill goes to the afterlife. However, from the afterlife, Bill can provide certain resources to Adam which make it easier to stop Charlie.

    Problem. This basically glorifies Adam's killing of Bill. I want my overall moral compass in this story to be fairly clear (Adam isn't a white knight on a shining horse, but I want him to struggle to find a moral path which is at least a very light shade of grey - his struggle to retain his innocence is the moral conflict in subplot B).

    Oh, and this is a Young Adult novel. So, I really don't want to panic moms (and their preachers) into not buying the book for their kids.
     
  2. Kate Sen
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    Kate Sen Member

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    As a mom with a moral compass, I would not be comfortable with killing a friend on purpose. There would have to be quite an elaborate story that used a convoluted logic which made the killing inevitable, ideally almost accidental, and perhaps in a situation where one of the friends must die for the other to survive?
     
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  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Have Bill sacrifice himself instead of being killed. Even with the prophecy it could be a plot twist to save a friend from having to kill a friend.
     
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  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @Justin Rocket that's not even close to the line for what appears in YA novels these days. I think you're already on the right track giving Bill agency in the whole situation, and the unavoidable destiny part of it really goes against glorifying it, in my view. If the way your world is set up is that it is truly unavoidable, then the way it works out really looks like the product of Bill's decision, and since you've already said Adam doesn't want to do this I think you further take away from any glorification. You could go a step further and show Adam having real problems dealing with it. That would also go against glorifying.
     
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  5. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Yeah, he can do it, but be anguished. That's very powerful.
     
  6. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    As I mentioned, Adam's anguish over this is the conflict in subplot B. I've been told repeatedly to be a real bastard to my protagonist.

    The plan is to have Adam already torn up over accidentally killing his little brother (which happens before the story starts). He has kept this a secret out of fear that no one would still love him if they knew. As long as he keeps his role in his brother's death a secret, he can't heal from it. However, does this make the story too emotionally manipulative to sustain suspension of disbelief?
     
  7. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    I'd like to propose an offshoot of the Sexy Lamp Test--the angsty lamp test, I suppose? If Adam has no way at all to avoid killing Bill and no choice to be made in the matter, it's effectively irrelevant that Adam kills Bill at all. Bill could just as easily be inevitably destined to be killed by a falling lamp, and the only difference would be that the lamp wouldn't angst about it. If you want Bill's death to actually matter, either Adam or Bill needs to make some kind of a choice.
     
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  8. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    To be clear, Adam and Bill DO have a choice.
    Adam will kill Bill, that's unavoidable.
    When, however, is up for negotiation.
     
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  9. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    And how I presume?
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    If you don't have a reason for this besides the prophesy, your readers won't buy it. Did you have a reason this happens in mind even if the characters don't yet know what said reason or circumstances are?
     
  11. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Correct. "How" is up for negotiation as well.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    As an aside, what's the point of making it destined? What does that do for the story? Are you making a comment about destiny with the story?
     
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  13. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    If they're young adults, but could both put this off until they're eighty, and Bill is doing it now to save others, then yeah, it's glorifying Bill's sacrifice to one degree or another. It's ultimately up to you whether that's a problem or not.
     
  14. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    The young adults are the incarnations of Loki and Baldur, respectively.
     
  15. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    I don't have a problem with it glorifying Bill's sacrifice. I just don't want to glorify the killing.
     
  16. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    That seems like a very thin hole to thread the needle with. If Adam kills Bill as part of Bill's sacrifice, and Bill's sacrifice is glorified, it seems to follow through the transitive property that Adam killing Bill is glorified on some level.
     
  17. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Also, a central theme of this story is that, while we can't do anything about all the shit that life shovels our way, we can choose how we respond to it. In that way, we can gain control over our lives.
     
  18. Kate Sen
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    The thing is that even if one is destined to kill, choosing to kill is not the right approach. Destiny is one thing if it happens to one, but embracing a destined evil is not the right approach, I feel.

    Also what is the point of reincarnation of one cannot fix what went wrong but has got to keep killing, like Sisyphus with that darned rock of his, might as well leave it downhill and spend one's effort elsewhere.

    Yes, how we can react to things we cannot change is crucial, but embracing the fact that one cannot change them is not a lesson I would want to teach young adults, especially when it's a matter of life and death.
     
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  19. Justin Rocket 2
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    There are things we can't change. To avoid that is believing a lie, I think.
    Hell, one of the hardest things I ever went through in my life (accepting my physical disability) was hard precisely because I had always thought that anything can be changed if I try hard enough.
    I'd rather young adults learn to accept unavoidable things with grace, rather than keep banging their heads against a wall. Or, as the Serenity Prayer goes
    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    Courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.
     
  20. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Great premise. I don't know when you plan on killing off Bill, but I'd say your best bet is to do it late in the novel. This allows you time to make the reader understand why the MCs accept that Bill has to die (either the prophecies are so strongly built into their way of life, or other prophecies come to pass in the novel, or Adam only narrowly avoids killing Bill accidentally on multiple occasions). More importantly, it gives you time to let the characters realize that the only way to stop the Antagonist is to for Bill to help from the afterlife. Thirdly, it allows for emotional impact. And finally, the reader doesn't have to spend that much more time with a murderer an MC because the novel is close to being finished.
     
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  21. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    Being in a position where you "can't avoid" killing someone is pretty different from having a disability. It's true that there are some real-life situations where you "can't avoid" killing someone and killing them could be the right thing to do (like if an armed person is attacking you and you have no way to escape or disarm them.) However, most situations where you "can't avoid" killing someone are because someone in a position of power is ordering you to kill. The situation in your story seems closer to the Nuremberg defense than anything resembling a disability.
     
  22. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Which is why I posted here to get some brainstorming going. There are some alterations which could be done. For example, Bill could get injured and the most humane thing would be to kill him. I hate that alteration as it seems cliche. But, I'm confident that other alterations exist which I've just not thought of yet.

    As for killing someone not being the same as a disability, sure. But, in fiction, real world issues are often masquerading as something else (for example, fear of mutants vs. fear of other races). In the case of this story, the common element is embracing one's fate with grace.

    By the way, again drawing upon Norse myth, Baldur returned after Ragnarok. Death wasn't a one-way ticket for him.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 18, 2016
  23. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    How do they know "destiny" is unavoidable? If Bill were to kill himself, or the others were to avoid killing him, wouldn't the prophecy be averted? I mean, the only way they can be destined to kill him is it's not a matter of acceptance, but more that it is somehow inevitable that they make a certain choice. (Unless Adam kills Bill by accident if he tries to avoid it?). All that they are really accepting is that they are choosing to kill their friend. They do want to do it, and they've got no excuse for mourning the decision unless other circumstances were equally as pressing as well.
     
  24. Kate Sen
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    It is true that there are things we cannot change, though in my experience there are also many things we are told we cannot change but actually can, and we almost make the mistake of believing it. That has happened to me a number of times in my life. Also sometimes even if one cannot change something, if it is bad, it is one thing to accept it but another to embrace it. There is a difference between accepting that death is inevitable, and taking one's own life. Likewise, even if we accept the premise that Bill cannot avoid killing Adam (something I have a hard time accepting, I admit), but even if we and they accept it, it is different to live their lives until the killing happens to them than to actively seek it out. Actively seeking out killing a friend is hard to justify convincingly, and I have not seen anything yet in your storyline to justify it sufficiently.
     
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  25. Oscar Leigh
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    If the afterlife exists, why does anyone mourn? It seems to make mourning just missing someone who's popped off somewhere. I've never heard any rationale to explain that. I mean, I know why people mourn even when they believe in an afterlife, it's because it's a human instinct. But why would people not resist that instinct more? Why would they still place the same moral weight on killing? Actually, I'm thinking Adam should totally kill Bill. I mean, he doesn't really die. If it helps them stop the antagonist from doing whatever bad shit, who cares? They'll literally see him again in the next life. Why the fuss? It's just like sending someone to Sweden. And everyone has a time-activated automatic plane ticket there if they don't get sent early. If they really miss him they can always kill themselves and go to him. And if he can help them, can they talk to him when he's in the afterlife? Because if so, he's only half missing at all. Wow, how inconsequential is everything when there's an afterlife?
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2016
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