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Literary References: The Great Questions

Journal Entry: Mon Feb 21, 2011, 4:32 PM

I've decided to compile a list of links to extremely helpful references relevant to writing fiction and designing comic books, and along with findings in my new research, I wanted to include some very helpful references that I was provided with in my Advanced Placement Literature course in high school. I still have the papers, old and poorly copied, but I've found it impossible to find all of the information online. Because of its monumental usefulness in developing main focuses--the thesis of a fictional piece--I'm just going to have to type up one of my papers to share with you.

The Great Questions
Great literature in all cultures usually deals with one or more of the following questions:

I. What is the Nature of the Universe--the Cosmos?
     i. Is the universe hostile/benevolent/indifferent to humanity?
     ii. What is the nature of evil? What is the source of evil?
     iii. Why, if God is good, does He allow evil to exist? (The Problem of Evil)
     iv. Why, if God is just, does He allow the good to suffer? (The problem of Pain)

II. What is God's Relationship to Humans?
     i. Does God exist?
     ii. Is God the Creator?
     iii. Is God concerned about humanity?
     iv. Is God indifferent towards humanity?
     v. Should humans fear/obey/love/sacrifice/propitiate/pray to God?

III. What is the Nature of God?
     i. Is God (are the gods) basically
        :bulletblack: an angry God? :bulletblack: a proud God?
        :bulletblack: a jealous God? :bulletblack: a kind God?
     ii. Is God all good?
     iii. Does God Himself bring evil to humanity and cause suffering?
Note: remember that when writing fiction, you needn't necessarily challenge the real world's ideas of religion. It could be the Protagonist having an inner religious struggle with fictional deities and their natures.

IV. What is the Nature of Human Beings?
     i. Are humans basically good or evil?
     ii. Are people determined or do we have free will?
     iii. Are people noble?
     iv. Are people degrade, corrupt--more animal than spirit?
     v. Are people a balance? How is the balance preserved?
     vi. What is the human being's greatest faculty? Reason? Imagination?
     vii. Do humans have souls? Can we achieve immortality? How?
     viii. Are humans in the universe by chance or by design? By what design?
     ix. What is a human's basic purpose in life? Is there a purpose at all?
:bulletblack: To save the human soul?
:bulletblack: To find happiness? What is happiness? How do we achieve it?
     x. What is the "good" life for humans? How can life gain significance?
     xi. How can people give value to their lives?
     xii. How can people find their greatest satisfaction, completeness, fulfillment?
     xiii. Are happiness and satisfaction the same thing? If not, is it possible to achieve both, or must you choose?
     xiv. How are human values, morals, and ethics established? What are their bases?

V. What is the Relationship of One Human to Another?
i. How are we to treat people?
ii. Are all people to be treated as equals?
iii. On what basis should we/do we evaluate our fellow humans?
iv. Are we basically social animals or anti-social ones?
v. How are we to establish an orderly existence with other humans? (Does War create Peace?)
vi. What is an "ideal" or "good" society? How can it be established, if at all?
vii. Under what social system can people best flourish?
viii. On what base should we regulate our association with other people?

These questions appear constantly as the core of small conflicts and wordwide crises in literature, and it's worthwhile to slow down and try to evaluate your own work--what is the main theme? Are you trying to say something? Is your protagonist trying to say something? You may find that several related question pertain to the conflict in your own story, which can give you as the writer a conscious control over what will ultimately come to answer those questions.

For my own writing, I've found that asking these questions in relation to the events of my fictional universe serves amazingly well when dealing with motives of main heroes and villains. Villains.


If you find that you've managed to land yourself the boring world domination type, or the "I'm going to DESTROY THE ENTIRE WORLD even though I'll die too and I don't seem to have any suicidal inclinations" moron, and you've grown tired of saying, "uh, they're insane, so... they don't NEED a motive... right?" then it may prove exceptionally beneficial to imagine that your token bad guy is answering these questions himself. What fuels his fire? Ultimately, if you find the root of his dissatisfaction, you will find he may come to a more rational solution than world domination or destruction.

  • Mood: Eager
  • Listening to: "The Red" - Chevelle
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Submitted on
February 21, 2011