A moral perspective – explained

Circle of Misse and Chateau d'OrionYesterday I posed a question – or several questions – around the theme of ‘to tell or not to tell’ and whether people have ‘a right to know’.  As I’d hoped, it generated some interesting and thoughtful responses.

Themes took a while to emerge from early drafts of my debut novel, Singled Out. I know this isn’t unusual, that themes often take some time to show themselves.  We know what kind of story we want to write, but it isn’t until the characters take hold of the action, that the themes offer themselves up. I held my breath and eventually they came out from the shadows.

One theme, and the reason for yesterday’s post is – yes, you guessed: To tell or not to tell.

Perversely (sorry about this) I can’t tell you much about the scenario, and I’m obviously not going to give away the plot.  However, the views expressed in the comments on yesterday’s post reflected some of my own thought processes as I wrote Singled Out, and they inform the moral and values-driven dilemmas my protagonist faces as the story unfolds.

Is it right to be open and upfront, whatever the potential cost?  Or is it ever better to withhold and leave someone in (blissful) ignorance?  Rigid morality makes for a black or white choice, where there are in reality – as all the responses articulated – multiple shades of grey, and many considerations which interweave and serve to confuse the picture.

I just hope it makes for a compelling story.  And maybe even an interesting set of back-of-the-book book club discussion topics.

If you’re writing a novel, how are you handling the issue of identifying theme(s)?  Did you start with a theme and work your story up around it?  Or did you, as I did, pile all the elements of your story – plot, characters, dilemmas, challenges and so on – into a sieve and keep on shaking it until the themes fell out?

A moral perspective

Circle of Misse visit to Chateau d'OironShould people always be told?  Does someone always have a right to know? Is the truth always better out than in?

If you find something out – something you believe someone you care about has a ‘right to know’ – is it ever better not to tell?  If you hear or see something you shouldn’t have, would you look upon it as your duty to enlighten whoever is being deceived, misled or lied to? Is it ever preferable for someone to be kept in the dark?

And what do you worry more about – the impact on the person you care about, of the news you’re considering breaking to them, or what they will think of you when you tell them? Or perhaps even, what they will think of you if they find out later and realise you knew but didn’t tell them?

I’m being deliberately vague here – I don’t want to tell you why I’m asking or give you any specific scenarios, because I’d like to know how you interpret these questions and what colour and shade you bring to your responses.  It would be great to open up a debate on the question of secrets and lies, and whether ‘to tell, or not to tell’ in the comments.

I have readers of all faiths, and no faith, and from all parts of the world.  Presumably that means a multiplicity of perspectives – and that could be interesting.

So are you up for it?