Do you have a preference for good or evil sides to win?
Interesting question, yes? Would you say it depends on the story?
And that is key—why do we love good vs evil books so much? Especially in YA fiction and epic fiction? It’s a hard question to answer, even when you’re an author like me who loves this theme, and whose own books certainly circle around it—Resistance vs Faction anyone?
So why do we love the contest between good and evil? Is it because we love a hero? An underdog?
Is it because we love traits that are carried within each side, perhaps the loyalty and duty of the good guys versus the cruelty and recklessness of the bad guys? But then these elements (which there are plenty more of) can also be reversed. The evil side can be doing things from a sense of loyalty and duty, while recklessness and cruelty may be required for the good guys to win, but they are still good.
So then is it a question of the means we use to get to an end? Good guys won’t compromise on using evil ends, whereas bad guys will use whatever ends necessary?
But then Star Wars is a perfect example—the Rebellion blew up the Death Star. Great! You’ve saved countless worlds…and killed thousands, millions who were just doing their day job manning the kitchens and mopping the shiny black floors of that big round moon that wasn’t actually one.
So when the two sides can interchange their themes or their motives, what makes one inherently good or evil? Is it the character’s general story? Their intent?
Sometimes I’ve read books where the main character has been too chaste, too concerned about not killing others, when that one death might have saved so many others.
Point of fact, when I read Sarah J. Maas’ book, Court of Thorns and Roses, a scenario similar to the above played out, and I give kudos to the author (and the character) for walking such a hard path.
But I think it might be that we love the test of good and evil against one another because we want to know where the lines are, and the impact when they are crossed. Because we like to see other characters living dangerously. Because we sometimes like to see the distinction clearly, when sometimes, both in fiction and reality, it’s just not.
And sometimes, I think we just like to cheer on our favourite side, whether you’re feeling very evil, or a tiny bit good.
So how do you feel today? Evil, or good?