Inside us all, there is a deep-seated need to know justice. We see injustice and it unsettles us, makes us wonder what’s wrong with the world and those in it that they can’t see the wrongs and seemingly don’t try to avoid them. We ache for others who are victims of injustice and often when others come to us and speak of it, we have a relatable tale of an experience of our own that mirrors their experience in some fashion.
Injustice is universal. Everyone has experienced it, or believes that they have experienced it at some point in time. And no one can relate the wrongness in it and all of the tentacles that came with the injustice–in ways intended and expected and in ways unintended and unexpected–and not strike a chord in others.
We rail against it. We oppose it. We might even go to extraordinary lengths to prove it and rectify it–sometimes to self-destructive levels. We aren’t idealists (though some of us might like to be) and yet there is that mighty pull in us that demands fairness and what’s right (as we see it). That pull demands justice.
And for that reason justice is a powerful tool for a writer. Universal (in that we all want it and we all have at some time gotten it or not gotten it) and therefore identifiable to the reader, significant in triggering emotional empathy and relevant to us all. Yet unique (in that we’ve all experienced justice and injustice in different ways on different things in different situations and with different results.
Justice, or the lack of it, is a rich source of conflict in characterization and specifically in motivation and goals. The struggle for or against it and the lengths some will go to for it can be the core conflict in any type novel across genres.
So when you’re crafting characters and creating plot lines, consider those mighty, universal tugs like the one we feel for justice. It, and other universal resources like it, have strong backs in storytelling and can carry a lot of weight. Characterization, conflict, plot, goals and motivations are all served well simultaneously, and that’s a story element that is working overtime.
c2008, Vicki Hinze
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