How to Write Morally Gray Characters

by | Jan 4, 2024 | Character Creation, Writing

How to Write Morally Gray Characters: Navigating the Shades of Storytelling

Welcome, fellow writers and bookworms! Today, we’re diving into the compelling world of morally gray characters. You know, the ones who live in the “gray area” – not quite heroes, not fully villains, but 100% fascinating. These are the characters who make us question our morals while we’re still in our pajamas, cup of coffee in hand, eyebrows furrowed in deep, philosophical thought.

Understanding the Gray Spectrum

Before you start, remember: morally gray is not just a fancy term for a villain with a sad backstory or a hero with a penchant for jaywalking. It’s about creating characters who challenge the clear-cut notions of right and wrong. Think of it as cooking; you need the right balance of salt and sugar. Too much of either, and you’ll end up with a literary stomachache.

Complex Motivations are Key

Your character needs a compelling reason for their actions, something more nuanced than “because the script says so.” Maybe they’re saving the world, but also enjoy the thrill of the chaos they cause. Or perhaps they’re doing the wrong things for the right reasons, like stealing from the rich to feed the poor, but also keeping a little on the side for that fancy quill they’ve had their eye on.

Flaws and Virtues: Stir Gently

Mix flaws and virtues like you’re making a cake. Too many flaws, and your character is just plain unlikable. Too virtuous, and they’re back in the realm of traditional heroes. Find the sweet spot. Maybe they’re incredibly brave but have a habit of “borrowing” books permanently from friends.

The Unpredictable Plot Twist

Morally gray characters are the kings and queens of unpredictability. Just when your reader thinks they’ve got them figured out, add a twist. They saved the kingdom, hooray! But, did they also secretly keep the dragon’s treasure? Classic morally gray move.

Relatable Backgrounds

Give your character a background that explains, but doesn’t justify, their actions. Maybe they grew up in a library and believe knowledge is power – literally. They’re willing to do anything for it, including betraying their allies. But hey, they also organize charity book drives, so there’s that.

Dialogue: The Window to Moral Ambiguity

Their dialogue should be a mix of sharp wit and revealing truths. Think less “I will destroy the world!” and more “The world’s already broken; I’m just rearranging the pieces.” Add a dash of dry humor, and voila!

Reader’s Moral Dilemma

The best part about writing morally gray characters? Making your readers question their own morals. If you’ve got them pondering their life choices at 3 AM, you’re doing it right.

Conclusion: How to Write Morally Gray Characters

Crafting morally gray characters is like arranging an oddly satisfying bookshelf. It’s not about perfection; it’s about creating a story that’s intriguing, unpredictable, and a little bit mischievous. Now go forth, add some gray to your black and white story, and remember: in the world of morally gray characters, the only real sin is being boring. Happy writing!

Up Next: How to Write a Lone Wolf Character

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Hey there, I´m Leah

Welcome to my little corner of the internet. If you adore young adult fantasy books, creative writing tips, and watching authors chase their dreams, then you’re in the right place.  I’m currently in the trenches of writing my first young adult fantasy novel. One of my favorite hobbies is searching out and reading new books that will take me on my next adventure. I love diving into immersive world-building and experiencing characters that nestle their way into my heart.

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