A Good vs. Evil story is usually pretty straightforward. You have the Good Guys on one side, and the Bad Guys on the other side, and you’re almost always cheering for the Good Guys to win. It’s the type of story you see in children’s fairy tales, but that doesn’t make it childish.
Lately, I’ve noticed people tend to steer clear of these types of stories. The argument is that “Good vs. Evil” is too unrealistic – people and societies really aren’t that clear-cut when it comes to morality. In reality, there’s a lot more ambiguity. That’s how we end up with writing advice about giving our villains redeemable qualities and giving our heroes flaws.
And don’t get me wrong, that’s good advice – you do want to have fully developed characters on both sides of the equation, or it isn’t a very fair story. But in the process of giving this advice, we shun the typical good vs. evil stories, calling them cliche, predictable, overdone, and so on and so forth.
But here’s a secret: I’m actually okay with these kinds of stories.
When I say I’m okay with good vs. evil stories, I don’t mean just any story that falls into this broad category. It still needs to be a thoughtful, well-written narrative. Simplicity does not equal laziness. In other words, writing something that’s fairly straightforward doesn’t mean you can slack off.
That being said, I’ve grown rather attached to plenty of these types of stories. To me, there’s something comforting about knowing that things are going to be okay. For some people, that may seem predictable, but predictability can be comforting.
When I play a game like The Legend of Zelda, I know that good is going to overcome evil. I know that in the end, though the situation may seem bleak, Link is going to defeat Ganondorf and restore peace to Hyrule. It’s never a surprise for me when I reach the final battle and the King of Evil (I’m serious, that’s a canonical title) is destroyed once again. I’ve never seen that as a negative though – it makes me feel better knowing that no matter what, Link will triumph.
Or take another one of my favorite video games franchises, Ace Attorney (I’m not sure why I’m so stuck on gaming lately). There are times during cases where I don’t know how the situation is going to be resolved, but by sorting things out and bringing things to their logical conclusion, everything turns out fine. The innocent go free, and the guilty get what’s due to them.
Even something like the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series does this (vague spoilers ahead). The demigods at Camp Half-Blood are fighting a war against the mythological Titans, and there are times when things look bad. Friends have been lost, the heroes are injured, and you don’t know if they’ll make it out. But they win! The Titans are defeated, and the heroes have their happy ending.
Perhaps it sounds silly to say something fictional like books or video games can cheer me up like that. But I have bad days just like anyone else, and sometimes those bad days turn into bad weeks where I feel tired, drained, and down.
One of the ways I’ve found that helps cheer me up is returning to these good vs. evil stories, because I know that no matter what, everything will turn out okay in the conclusion. That’s why I’m okay these stories of good vs. evil – they give me comfort and hope when I’m a mess, as strange as that sounds.