#TheWritingDesk: An Analysis of Morally Grey Characters, Why Readers Love Them, with a focus on “The Crows”
In recent years, there has been a trend in literature towards morally grey characters - protagonists who are not purely good or evil, but instead have complex motivations and make difficult choices throughout the story. These characters often walk a fine line between hero and villain, and their actions are not always clear-cut in terms of morality. So why are readers so drawn to these morally ambiguous characters?
What are Morally Grey Characters?
Morally grey characters are those who have complex motivations and are not purely good or evil. They often make difficult choices throughout the story, and their actions are not always clear-cut in terms of morality. These characters are often driven by a desire to achieve their goals, even if it means engaging in morally questionable behavior. They may have a tragic backstory that has shaped their worldview, or they may simply be motivated by a sense of justice or revenge.
The Crows from "Six of Crows" and "Crooked Kingdom"
One of the best examples of morally grey characters in recent literature is the gang known as the crows from Leigh Bardugo's "Six of Crows" and "Crooked Kingdom". The six members of the gang - Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Nina, Matthias, and Wylan - are all complex characters with their own strengths and flaws, and their actions throughout the two books are not always black and white.
Kaz Brekker: The Ruthless Leader
Kaz Brekker, the leader of the gang, is known for his cunning and ruthlessness. He is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals, even if it means resorting to violence or deception. However, he also has a tragic backstory that has shaped his worldview, and he cares deeply for the other members of his gang, even if he doesn't always show it.
Inej Ghafa: The Skilled Assassin
Inej Ghafa is a skilled assassin who has killed people in the past, but she also has a strong moral code and is dedicated to protecting the innocent. She is morally grey in that she is willing to engage in morally questionable behavior in order to achieve her goals, but she also has a sense of compassion and empathy that makes her a sympathetic character.
Jesper Fahey: The Risk-taker
Wylan Van Eck: The Privileged Outsider
Wylan Van Eck is the son of a wealthy merchant who is hired by the crows to help them with their heist. Although he is initially seen as an outsider due to his lack of criminal experience, Wylan quickly proves himself to be a valuable member of the team due to his knowledge of explosives and engineering. Wylan's character is morally grey in that he is somewhat sheltered and naive due to his privileged upbringing, but he is also resourceful and willing to take risks when necessary.
Nina Zenik: The Grisha on the Run
Matthias Helvar: The Wrongfully Accused
Matthias Helvar is a former Fjerdan soldier who joins the crows. He is a morally grey character who initially sees the crows as criminals but over time questions his own beliefs. Matthias is conflicted about his loyalty to his country and his love for Nina, and he struggles to reconcile his past actions with the person he wants to be in the future. His internal conflict makes him a sympathetic character, and his journey from antagonist to ally is one of the highlights of the series.
5 Reasons Why Readers are Drawn to Morally Grey Characters
They're more relatable. Morally grey characters are more relatable than traditional heroes or villains because they have flaws and make mistakes, just like real people do. Readers can see themselves in these characters, even if they don't always agree with their actions.
They're more complex. Morally grey characters are often more complex than traditional heroes or villains. They have motivations that are not always clear-cut, and their actions are not always black and white. This complexity makes them more interesting to read about.
They challenge our perceptions. Morally grey characters challenge our perceptions of good and evil. They make us question what we consider to be morally right or wrong, and they force us to confront the gray areas in between.
They add tension to the story. Morally grey characters often add tension to the story because readers are never quite sure what they're going to do next. This unpredictability keeps readers on the edge of their seats and makes the story more exciting.
They're more memorable. Morally grey characters are often more memorable than traditional heroes or villains because they have unique personalities and motivations. Readers are more likely to remember a complex character who defies easy categorization than a one-dimensional hero or villain.
What Should Authors Do with this Knowledge?
If you're an author, understanding why readers love morally grey characters can help you create more compelling and memorable characters.
Give your characters flaws. Flawed characters are more relatable and interesting than perfect characters.
Create complex motivations. Your characters should have motivations that are not always clear-cut, and their actions should not always be black and white.
Challenge readers' perceptions. Use your characters to challenge readers' perceptions of good and evil, and force them to confront the gray areas in between.
Add tension to the story. Use your morally grey characters to add tension and excitement to the story.
Make your characters memorable. Give your characters unique personalities and motivations that will make them stand out in readers' minds.
Morally grey characters like the crows from "Six of Crows" and "Crooked Kingdom" have become increasingly popular in recent years because they are more relatable, complex, and memorable than traditional heroes or villains. By understanding why readers love these characters, authors can create more compelling and memorable characters in their own work.