Or I could call this — The InfoDump of Morality
This will be my last infodump post, because I’ve said it all, or enough of it to stop. No one here needs every instance of possible infodump-ery listed and suggestions of ways to avoid it. We are writers. Give us an idea and we can twist it every which way all by ourselves. But I want to make one last (short) note on infodumps, and to me this is a biggie. Morality.
In each fantasy novel, in each fantasy world, we (the writers) incorporate the concept of morality. It may not be by intent, and, in fact, we may desire to avoid the idea of morality in our books entirely. But it always sneaks in.
Sometimes it is the morality of religion, and we keep a handy list of “Thou Shalts” or “Thou Shalt Nots” beside us while we write. Sometimes it is the morality of a feudal-like system, or the morality of women’s rights (or lack thereof) , or the morality (the lack thereof) of slavery: sexual, racial, sweatshop, children, religion, etc. Animal rights, the right to health care, the right to food, the right to water, have all played deeply into many series and novels and have become thematic parts to the works. And we writers always, whether consciously or subconsciously, weave in our own view of the subject. It is that weaving that is key.
David B Coe wove morality wonderfully well through all three of his series, with his Lon Tobyn Chronicles bringing the morality of personal choice, the rights of the powerful, and the rights of what passed for religion all together in one conflict. The morality of the world was so integral to the plot and character development that separating the two would have been impossible.
Misty Massey wrote her Mad Kestrel as a strong, vibrant, powerful woman, and even without ever saying so, women’s rights, the magic-users’ rights, and the right to self-determination were huge parts of the novel and the plot and the character development. All are parts of our real life morality, and Misty’s personal, female, world-view.
Both Misty and David showed us the morality of their worlds without an infodump, which is good thing because, just as with any necessary information, the morality of our fantasy worlds must be woven in carefully, in snippets and bits, morsels and snatches, or it becomes a sermon-worthy infodump, and there is little worse than a writer preaching to a reader.
Morality is a prime example of the importance of “Show, Don’t Tell.” When we show, it becomes like the background music in a film, there but unnoticed, making a huge impact, but not shoved into our faces. In films, when the production is messed up and the music is so loud we can’t hear the dialogue, we notice and it is terribly annoying. Just so with the dos and don’ts of our worlds.
The first of the Lon Tobyn books opens with a scene that shows the reader the power wielded by the winged “mages”, and Mad Kestrel opens with a storm, a mention of a magical secret, and a woman with power. There is no opening statement about morality, it is just there, in the background, but powerful nonetheless.
We put ourselves into our novels. It’s easy for me to look back on the last 20-something books and see my own needs, wants, my view of justice, and my desire to protect the innocent on every page, in every scene. It’s a thematic undercurrent in all my books, sometimes so much so that I go overboard. It’s probably a good thing that I’m not a cop or a judge in real life. I’d be hard pressed to not pass judgment (and be wrong all too often).
Today, I’ll be taking a moment to think about my own thematic approach to morality. And what I’ll write differently in view of current events and tragedies.
What message does your work pass on to readers?