Saturday, August 20, 2016

August Writing Challenges: Day 20 - Moral Dilemmas

August. The summer is nearly over. Kids are going back to school. You now have some time on your hands.  Okay, you still have a list of chores a mile long, but let's put writing at the top of the priority list, okay?

I am going to challenge you with a writing prompt every day this month. Are you up for it? I hope so.

The writing challenges will be about a variety of topics and hopefully cause you to dig into your writing toolbox to complete with emotional skill.

Watch out, I just might throw in a fun one, well, just for fun!

For the twentith challenge we're going to dig into moral dilemmas.

It's not enough for your characters to have simple opinions. Each of us also has deeper philosophical ideals and values. Our values come from our families, religions, and cultures. They shape our morals and the decisions we make.

People are complex. What we believe is right or wrong changes when we find ourselves in real situations. Consider an honorable character who believes that one's highest loyalty is to his or her family. Then, that character learns his/her brother is a serial killer. Does he/she turn him in? Testify against him? Stories get interesting when characters' morals are put to the test.

We all know the knight in shining armor should risk his life to save the damsel in distress. If he doesn't, then he loses his status as hero and becomes a coward. What if the knight is forced to make a more difficult decision? What if his true love and his beloved sister are both in distress but he only has time to save one of them?

Here is your challenge:
For this exercise, you will put a character's morals to the test. Below, you'll find a short list of moral dilemmas. Write a scene in which a character faces one of these moral dilemmas and has to make an agonizing decision.


  • In the novel Sophie's Choice, a young Jewish mother and her two children are taken to a concentration camp. Upon arrival, she is forced to choose one child to live and one to die. If she doesn't choose, they both die. Write a scene in which your character must choose between the lives of two loved ones.
  • A single woman is close friends with the couple next door and has secret romantic feelings for the husband. She discovers that his wife is having an affair. Normally, this woman minds her own business but now she sees an opportunity to get closer to the man she wants.
  • Some countries have strict laws regarding drug possession. A family has traveled to one such country for vacation. Upon arrive (or departure), one of the teenager's bags is sniffed out by a dog. The bag is opened, the drugs are identified, and the guard asks who bag it is. Both parents are considering claiming ownership. Everyone in the family knows the sentence would be death.
  • Your character gets to travel through time and face this classic moral dilemma: The character find himself or herself holding a loaded gun, alone in a room, with a two-year-old baby Hitler.
  • A plane crashes into the sea. Most of the passengers escape with inflatable lifeboats but they do not board them correctly. Your character ends up on a lifeboat that holds eight people but there are twelve people on it, and it's sinking. Your character can either throw four people overboard and eight will survive or they will all die expect your character, who will get rescued after the others drown.




Remember, during the scene, the character should agonize over the decision and reveal his or her reasons for the choice that he or she makes.

TIPS: Search online for "lists of moral dilemmas" to get more scenarios.

If you don't want to write a scene, you can come up with more moral dilemmas of your own.

The moral dilemmas force you to put your characters in situations that are deeply distressing, thus creating conflict and tension.

Good Luck!