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  1. Anonym

    Anonym Contributing Member

    Jan 16, 2010
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    Moral dilemma

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Anonym, Mar 30, 2012.

    Hi. I could use some feedback on a moral quagmire my MC finds himself in.

    In brief, the character has discovered long ago that he carries a fatal plague of some kind, that he is inexplicably immune to. <1-5% of those infected survive, after horrible and agonizing illness.

    He only realized that he is a carrier after slowly noticing that death follows him where ever he goes - finding the villages he'd visited within the last couple months decimated or completely eradicated. Things like that. He has... a lot on his conscience. This has led to him wandering the wilderness for years, avoiding people as much as humanly possible.

    However, at one point in the story, he's so weak with hunger, thirst and sick with a festering wound, that there's no way he'd be able to survive on his own much longer, let alone travel to a nearby settlement if he didn't start moving soon. He knows full well that anyone he comes in contact with will almost certainly die. Slowly, painfully.

    So basically, the dilemma is between A: him dying alone, or B: wiping out a whole settlement, while relying on their generosity to survive. In the context of the story, short of a deus ex machina, there are really no other alternatives.

    Feedback in general would be appreciated, but specifically I'm wondering what you would do? What do you think most people would do? What would you think of someone who took the former, or latter options? What kind of person would do either? Etc. I'm trying to gauge reader reactions, resulting judgments, etc.

    Thank you.

    Edit: To state the (hopefully) obvious, I'm not asking someone to answer this for me, nor do I intend to base the "resolution" on what responses I get. Just lookin' for feedback.
    And yeah, I realize that this is pretty abstract without deeper context or knowing the MC better.
  2. funkybassmannick

    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

    Mar 22, 2011
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    Chicago, IL
    It depends on the character, and his moral development. It's difficult for us to think what we would do in such a dire situation, because who really knows? The thought of dying of starvation is tough to imagine. Your mind goes hazy, and you start to do all sorts of thinks in an attempt to survive.

    I think it's imaginable that he would try to avoid a settlement, but as his hunger sets in, and possible state of delirium from the wound, he finds himself crawling into town. They nurse him back to health, and just as he realized what he's done, he's killed off an entire village.
  3. killbill

    killbill Contributing Member

    Feb 27, 2012
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    where the mind is without fear...
    It's a futile exercise to ask people what would they do in such situations. Everybody would like to think that they don't want to be a burden to the society and they would prefer to die alone, even suicide is an option. But when people actually face such a dilemma, will they take the moral high ground? Some may, some may not. Here's how I see it: A) He finds out he is a health hazard to the society, he went far away and he dies alone. Well, there is not much story in it if this character is your MC. I may not want to read this book. B) He moves away taking a moral high ground but when it actually comes to the moment when he should decide to live or to die, he decides to survive. After all it is not his doing that he carries a disease that kills others. Will he able to carry the moral burden for his survival? No matter how morally wrong he seems to be I would definitely want to read this book! I guess what I am saying is that decide what your character react to situations base on your story and not on what people think about his moral.
  4. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    Because you aren't looking for advice on how to develop the character, I'm moving this to the Lounge. It's more of a "What would you do?" philosophical conundrum.

    As a story premise, there is, of course, a great deal you can do with this. If written carefully, your character could make a choice without the author intruding to push it as the right or wrong choice. So it could be very thought-provoking for the reader.

    My choice? I would like to think I would go into seclusion, try to survive the best I could in isolation. But the drive for survival is strong, so I don't know if I would be strong enough. I don't think anyone can really know until they are thrown into such a situation.

    I WOULD try to open communication with medical professionals. They might be able to approach me with suitable precautions. As an immune carrier, my blood might contain the best hope of a cure for the contagion.
  5. Erato

    Erato Contributing Member

    Feb 23, 2012
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    A place called home
    It would totally depend on what sort of person the MC was. He's obviously out for humanity's best interests because he's avoided civilization for so long. He's also obviously human, and most humans will put themselves first when they get to be really desperate. So if he has a lot of self-control, I'd let him die in the wilderness. If I wanted to put him through more moral consequences, I'd send him to a village. If I wanted a tragedy, I'd make him stagger toward a nearby village, and be killed by a wild animal as he neared it. I AM A WRITER! I TORTURE MY CHARACTERS ON A WHIM! Mwahaha...

    Hem. As far as thinking realistically goes, I agree with Cogito, especially about calling a medic. That part would depend on whether you're writing sci-fi with modern technology and medicines, or a fantasy about a different society with low-level technology.
  6. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Sep 24, 2009
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    Alabama, USA
    I agree with Cogito. If I were in his shoes, I'd try to communicate to everyone that I have this horrible disease that will kill them if they touch me, and offer a solution like "Do you have any protective gloves? Hell, a case I can crawl into?"

    Of course, if one of my characters was like that, he/she would amputate the limb if it got to that point and learn how to hunt wild game with only one arm.

    EDIT: How is this disease transmitted? If it's just by touch (ie, they have to physically touch his flesh to get the plague), then it's easy for him to just recommend they cover themselves throughly. If it's by breath, then masks?
  7. The Tourist

    The Tourist Banned

    Mar 27, 2012
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    Wow, I'm so glad I found this place! In an odd twist, I'm faced with the same dilemma.

    My lead also has death and destruction follow him. He's not sick, but he might as well be. And he faces the same go/no-go internal struggle, and I have already woven that into the plot.

    My lead has a discussion with one just like him and they debate the idea of living out their collective fate.

    Do they curl up in a ball and refuse to act, thereby saving some people, or decide to live and thereby save other people. This idea, as opposed to your arc, is that there is some "good" within them.

    So I would ask you the question, does your lead--even by exposing the population to a high percentage of certain death--provide a unique and necessary service which the reader will view as an acceptable risk?
  8. art

    art Contributing Member Contributor

    Sep 5, 2010
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    Perhaps he might happen upon a goatherd's dog and attach a note to the creature relating his predicament.:eek: He then might engage the village folk from a distance. Shouting across the valley. Whatever. Food might be left for him etc etc. (I guessing this is pre or post mobile telecommunications, cos otherwise I would suggest he makes a few phone calls.;))

    How does the settlement respond? How far do some go to help him? How many would drive him from the region etc etc? His dilemma becomes their dilemma. Much potential here.
  9. Kaymindless

    Kaymindless Contributing Member

    Mar 14, 2012
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    Beaumont, Texas, United States
    First thought of this is Stargate: Atlantis, I believe the runner episode. Same situation, except it's revealed by Ronon coming back to the town and the survivors are a bit pissed.

    Honestly, like everyone said, I like to think I'd take the highroad and stay away from people... but, then I want to survive. I'm human, I want to survive and I have that survival instinct. In the back of my mind, I'd be hoping and praying that I meet someone else who is immune but, you know...
  10. Phoenix Hikari

    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

    Feb 21, 2012
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    Latter, I'd think he's a normal human being. Former, I'd think he's such someone who likes to be seen as a hero, which is less realistic than the latter.
    I was reading in a book the other day about novel writing and there was a fairly good point about how sometimes the MC or some character seem to be too good to be a human. I suggest you avoid trying to make him sound heroic in a noble way. Though, this by no way suggests that you should not make him do good. There must be some other way. I assume it is not a non-fantasy-related story, so that means you can come up with something. Maybe someone similar to him coming across and finding him? Maybe him finding an empty cottage with supplements? the options are endless.

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