Continuing from my first post on protagonist-centered morality; scroll to the bottom and you’ll find the comment from Sarahtps that inspired this post. I’ve also probably posted on this before, but who cares, you can never have enough character development posts. 😉
How annoying is someone who spouts preachy nonsense without following it in real life? … yeah, that’s what I thought you’d all say. ;-P This is another reason why protagonist-centered morality deserves to be ditched; it creates a double standard. Otherwise known as you-just-made-your-hero/anti-hero-a-hypocrite. And somewhere in the world, there is a reader who will call you on it. There are multiple readers who will hate on your hard-written book because of it.
Simply put, even if your heroes (well, only anti-heroes do this; real, actual heroes don’t,) don’t hold themselves to the standards they hold others to, you should.
If your hero breaks a rule and doesn’t feel any remorse for it, have karma come back to bite them in the posterior for it. Even if they later do feel remorse, do not hesitate to let the universe at large slap them silly for it. Temporal punishment is a thing, you know (and if you have never heard that term before, you are not a very-well-catechized-Christian and I can tell you what it is on demand. ;-P )
A good example of this would be in the case of the antagonist(s) in Ben-Hur; Massada ends up almost dying in a chariot race and then being permanently crippled, almost as a direct result of his abuse of Judah’s mother and sister, and Iras, the woman who betrays Judah earlier in the book, is stuck taking care of the now-utterly-boring Massada. (She tries to play the pity card with Judah, but she dug herself into that pit and he knows, I think, that the only way for her to ever redeem herself is not by attempting to seduce him but rather taking care of Massada. However, I think it’s pretty clear that she and Massada will eat at each other with their words until he gets her executed or she poisons him out of spite. Sorry, it’s been a while since I read it…)
I’m trying to recall the title of the book and names of the characters I had in mind while writing this post, but for some reason they continuously slip my mind. The story featured a redeemed thief who was continually held back from trying to be a hero due to his past… maybe it was Ladyhawke? Though that’s a movie, not a book…
Actions have consequences (I’m certain you’ve heard this before in much less polite terms.) Don’t forget that, and don’t let your heroes forget it, either. Even if they don’t hold themselves to the standard, it falls to you to hold them to it.
Protagonist-centered morality and double standards make Mary Sues. À bas les Sues!