Sunday, March 9, 2008

Evil in Fiction

I was prepared to write the end of Furnace Angel. I had a general idea of how to I wanted to resolve the plot. But as I looked at the story and considered the resolution, I realized that the ending was not going to deliver a modern horror story. People with subscriptions to horror magazines demand a resolution that is unsettling--one that makes me queasy.

So I twisted the ending into one that made me queasy. The ending was EVIL.

It was so evil that I did not know if I could live with it. That presented me with the question, "Will John Arkwright write horror?" I thought about it quite a bit. I could try to change the ending. There might be even more horrific endings that I could live with. I contemplated other endings.

My problem was resolved in Sunday school. Some verses in Isaiah discuss "calling good, 'evil' and calling evil, 'good.'" I mentioned my story ending in class. Before I knew it, I put forth a point from an Orson Scott Card essay.

Evil enters fiction in three ways.

Fiction can depict evil. The scriptures depict plenty of evil. And a great deal of conflict in fiction portrays someone who is a bad guy. In order to see good triumph, we must see evil. In order to teach someone how to behave, one often has to also teach them how not to behave.

Fiction can advocate evil. Not only does evil happen in the story, but the evil outcome is the "right" outcome from the writer's point of view.

Fiction can enact evil. Child erotica is evil on its face.

That gave me a good standard for the horror story. Furnace Angel certainly does not enact evil. I have to make sure that Furnace Angel does not advocate evil. I may change the ending. I may not. I have more thinking to do. But now I have my standard. Thank you, Uncle Orson.

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