On July 17th, Kasie and Rex took on “greed” in the 7 Deadly Sins series. Here are the show notes:
Theme for the day(s)
The Seven Deadly Sins
- Summer project update
- SCWA Upcoming events and goings-on
- The 7 Deadly Sins series
- Greed as a character trait
This summer we’re working on serialization projects. You can review the show where we covered the benefits and opportunities of serialization here. My work is on Wattpad and it’s called The Full Moon in Neverland. It’s nine full chapters, 36 parts, and clocks in at 4 hour and 22 minute read (phew!) already and about one chapter from the climax. I think it’ll end up being between 12 and 14 chapters. So a lot of work and I’m giving it away.
Rex is working with Vella and has this epic cover for his vampire novel. I know, copycat (ha). So he’s going to go live after he gets six chapters loaded. Vella is a service of Amazon.
Let’s get to the fun stuff. Sin. From the Wikipedia page:
The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices, or cardinal sins, is a grouping and classification of vices within Christian teachings, although they are not mentioned in the Bible. Behaviours or habits are classified under this category if they directly give rise to other immoralities. According to the standard list, they are pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth, which are contrary to the seven heavenly virtues.
So the 7 Deadly Sins discussion started last week with “Pride” and this week we’re taking on “Greed” which is not to be confused with gluttony which is a sin in and of itself. But we did have an extensive conversation about the difference between greed and avarice once upon a time.
From that episode:
Janice Hardy’s Fiction University blog suggests that greed can be good. For example, if the character is greedy for altruistic reasons — “Think of what we can do with all this money?” Goonies comes to mind.
Our TV Trope site points out that greed is frequently the villain’s motivation. For example, the evil corporate executive, the corrupt politician, or the gold digger.
So is greed inherently bad? And, if so, is the character that is motivated by it also bad?
Considering it’s the second of the seven deadly sins and tightly connected to pride, I’d go with yeah, greed is bad. So let’s get that Biblical — faith-based — explanation real quick (back to wikipedia):
Greed (Latin: avaritia), also known as avarice, cupidity, or covetousness, is, like lust and gluttony, a sin of desire. However, greed (as seen by the Church) is applied to an artificial, rapacious desire and pursuit of material possessions. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Greed is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things.” In Dante’s Purgatory, the penitents are bound and laid face down on the ground for having concentrated excessively on earthly thoughts. Hoarding of materials or objects, theft and robbery, especially by means of violence, trickery, or manipulation of authority are all actions that may be inspired by greed.
The SCWA invites you to participate in Writing Conversations every Tuesday at noon via zoom. Click here to register. This upcoming Tuesday, July 13th, is “The Evolution of a Work” with Jodie Cain Smith, whom we interviewed for Write On SC YouTube here and who’s launching two books in July.
Back to the discussion on Greed. What is our character greedy for? This great prezi puts together a Venn diagram with three possible categories:
- Power — Shakespeare’s Iago from Othello, Shylock in The Merchant of Venice
- Wealth — Henry James worked this one over a good bit (Osmond marries Isabel for money in Portrait of a Lady and Townsend married Catherine for the same purpose in Washington Square)
- Status — a frequent Jane Austen trope with just about every book have a conversation about the marriageability of a family
So let’s unpack those.
All of these categories give the seeker dominance over others.
All of them create a level (perceived or real) of security.
Jodie and I both did this online (livestream) critique session last week with our publisher, Alexa, so that was fun. You can hear clips from my upcoming novel, Before Pittsburgh, and Jodie’s Bayou Cresting: The Wanting Women of Huet’s Pointe among others. You’ll also hear Jodie and I give feedback to the other readers.
So if the greedy character is pursuing power, wealth, or status, what are they sacrificing in pursuit of those things? (Back to the instructive slide deck)
- Willie Lohman
- Daisy — lets Gatsby take the blame
- Oedipus, Macbeth
- Macbeth, Jay Gatsby
- Grapes of Wrath – enterprise over the collective good
The results of greed-driven acts:
- Death — Scrooge’s pal Marley
- Corruption / Ruination — Gordon Gecko, Marquise de Merteuil
- Insanity — Gollum
In Dangerous Liaisons, the Marquise de Merteuil (portrayed by Glenn Close in the film) plots revenge against her ex-lover, using the Vicomte Valmont (played by Jeremy Irons) who is guilty of pride as he first woos and then, under pressure by the Marquise, rejects the deeply religious Madame de Tourvel (played by Michelle Pfieffer). When the letters between the two are made public, society turns on the Marquise de Merteuil, as Valmont has redeemed himself and died for the woman he loved (de Tourval).
Last little bit of housekeeping. SCWA is piloting a new monthly feature called Authors’ Corner that streams live on their YouTube and Facebook. This week was the first one and it was me talking to romance author Bettie Williams and middle grade author Lis Anna-Langston. Catch the whole video here.
Okay, so how do you do it? How do you craft a beautifully greedy character?
- Avoid cliches in behavior, speech, and motivations
- Make the character’s greed a living, breathing thing — something that grows as the book progresses; it’s never enough
- It’s the ‘getting’ not the ‘having’ that brings your character joy, so greedy characters should be relentless and unsatisfied
- Ask yourself (link):
- What history or personal belief, could be driving this ‘I want more’ behaviour?
- What are possible obstacles a character with this flaw might need to overcome?
From this list possible underlying causes of the character’s greed:
- Extrinsic self-worth: Characters who feel they need to acquire wealth or status to ‘be someone’ may believe one’s worth or joy is a matter of what you have or can get, rather than who you are
- Fear or shame: A character might amass far more wealth than they need, even by illicit means (like Gatsby) because they’re striving to bury humbler, poorer beginnings
- Lust, ‘greener pastures’: Often, we want what we can’t have (or more of what we do have) because it’s tantalizing, just out of reach rather than easily attainable