If you remember my book review yesterday, you will know I wasn’t too enamoured with A Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet. And one of the reasons I hated it was cos it was very moralising. I have often stated that I *hate* overt message books- but have never really gone into the whys and wherefores of what makes me feel like face palming so hard that I knock all memory of the book from my head…
Now not all books that have messages will do this and not all books that do this will drive me mad- but here are my reasons why I can’t stand moralising books:
- Superbly stupid-non arguments. I’m not in primary school. You can’t just say “war is bad” and “don’t be mean”- I won’t just nod along robotically. I want nuance. I want to be treated like an adult and not patronised by what I just read. Heck- I want the complex arguments and analysis of Tolstoy (ok I don’t expect this from everything I read- especially not YA- just don’t make halfwit statements- ok??)
- If you’re going to debate something, put up a fight. No truism back and forths. If two characters are discussing, say, the existence of god- try not to make one of the characters a moron. It doesn’t make the mouthpiece for your agenda look good. It makes it look like you don’t have the confidence to thrash it out properly and it doesn’t sound believable. Unless you *want* your characters going on long tirades and probably getting quite heated, *leave this out of your book*!
- The argument is just plain wrong. Sometimes views espoused in books are so objectionable or misleading that I just cannot get on board with them and it completely spoils my enjoyment of the book. For example, Once Upon A Time has put murder on a par with killing for self-defence before- not cool! A writer is entitled to present their views of course- but here’s the kicker- the reader is entitled to disagree and if your views are so flimsy they can be debunked in five seconds, you might want to rethink putting it in.
- Also, you might want to make sure the argument doesn’t undermine itself! Watch out if you accidentally undermine your feminist arguments with horrible characters too (I’m looking at you 99 Days). NB: Before anyone in the comments yells “there are no objective truths”- just know that’s a subjective opinion, so as a moral relativist, you have to accept that other people are not moral relativists and that they are right in their own way (yeah that’s right, I just used moral relativism against the moral relativists…)
- When it’s invasive and gets in the way of the actual story. This often goes for any character giving a political speech and basically being used as a mouthpiece to preach- is this a religious text??? Keep it subtle!
- Similarly, try to keep on point. Honestly, if you’re writing a contemporary, why would you want to go off on some rant? Not gonna lie- this always makes me wince. Think very hard about whether this actually improves the story.
- If every single one of the messages is pessimistic– aka “people are shit, everyone’s evil, what’s the point of living”. And this is coming from a Hardy fan. Pessimism is best put into symbols and plot- not preachy characters or narrators.
So agree or disagree? What do you think about moralising books? Let me know in the comments!