Tag Archives: Morality Play

16.45: World and Character Part 2: Moral Frame

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Fonda Lee, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler

Let’s follow up on character biases with an exploration of moral frame. When we say someone is “morally gray” or “morally ambiguous,” what we’re really talking about is the way they fit into the moral frame defined by society. In this episode we talk about that frame, and how we can apply it, through our characters, to our worldbuilding.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson


Come up with a list of 4-6 “morally gray” characters from your favorite stories. Attempt to identify whether they are acting in opposition to, or in accordance with, their society/group’s moral frame.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson

Writing Excuses 7.1 When Good Characters Go Bad

Welcome to Writing Excuses Season 7!

Let’s start with a trip to the dark side! How do you take a good character and make them evil? And why would you want to do this? Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard answer that second question first, and then walk you through the process of doing this. We cover establishing the character, venturing onto a slippery slope, and connecting these and other elements to important pieces of the story.

We talk about the types of “evil” a character can fall into, using character examples like Oedipus, Othello, Boromir, and Doctor Horrible, and how you might incorporate tragic flaws into their downward-trending paths. Finally, we offer examples where we’ve seen it done poorly. Hello, Anakin!


Come up with a list of three things that are important to your main character. Push one of those things out of alignment so that it will draw your character to the antagonist’s side.

Hard Magic, by Larry Correia, narrated by Bronson Pinchot

Writing Excuses Season 3 Episode 31: Tragedy

Tragedy. It’s just TRAGIC. Tragedy is also one of the classical forms that writers need to know how to work within. Why? Well… because the Greeks thought we should be forced to have strong emotional responses to literature.

Writing Prompt: Write a delightful story about happy, cheerful anthropomorphic creatures who all die horribly.

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