A psychologist author explains the conditions under which readers can tolerate characters taking bad measures to achieve their goals.

Characters in stories are not always honest and make the right choices, and sometimes even if they are not evil, they do immoral acts or make unjust choices for important purposes. Readers may dislike such characters, thinking that they are ``unforgivable,'' or they may find them favorable, thinking that ``it's cool to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals.'' Psychologist and novelist R.J. Jacobs explains under what conditions reactions change.

When is a Character's Dishonesty Justified? ‹ CrimeReads


Jacobs' novel ' This Is How We End Things, ' released in September 2023, is set in a psychology department at a small university that conducts ethically questionable research. According to Jacobs, there have been many notorious experiments in the history of psychological research, including ones that harmed participants or misrepresented the purpose of the research. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the insights gained from those early studies advanced the field of psychology, and in ``This Is How We End Things'' we discuss the ``unethical aspects'' and ``practical aspects'' of such psychological research. It depicts a 'face'.

In response to the question, ``When is it considered legitimate for a character to do something slightly wrong and lead to a big right result?'' Mr. Jacobs raises two points.

First, it is increasingly accepted as ethical or justifiable when characters lie about themselves in pursuit of a good cause. In 'This Is How We End Things,' characters lie to others about their pasts because their current work is meaningful and will help more people in the future. Also, Kate Quinn's work ``

The Clinic '' depicts a woman who disguises her identity and enters the facility where her sister was staying in order to investigate the cause of her death. When a character lies about their identity, the reader feels that this character is a liar and is deceiving others, but when the lie is shown to have a good purpose, it is easier to accept it as legitimate. Become.

Second, it is also acceptable to readers when characters hide or lie about information they know in order to protect themselves or pursue a benevolent outcome. Mr. Jacobs cites Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express as a ``classic example of a legitimate lie,'' in which the characters conceal information about the incident that they should know in order to protect their own inner selves. Continuing.

Overall, Mr. Jacobs believes that lying and cheating are justified when they are committed by ``people who are emotionally weak,'' ``people who are facing death,'' and ``people whose situation would worsen for themselves or those around them if the truth were told.'' It is summarized when it is considered. On the other hand, if these conditions are not met and you choose dishonest means, your character may leave a worse impression on the reader than you expected.

Particularly in mysteries and thrillers, lies and deception by the characters can sometimes make the story interesting. It is important to objectively consider the character's situation and purpose so that the essence added to make the story interesting does not end up making the reader uncomfortable or make it difficult to empathize with the character.

in Note, Posted by log1e_dh