On the wall above my desk is a tack strip bearing note cards with writing tips I've collected. There are only a few, considering how many I actually employ when I sit down to write. But these represent the ones that I've had to learn, to intentionally think about on a regular basis.
One of them is from Philip Gerard's Writing a Book that Makes a Difference. I wrote down this passage without noting the context, which I've since forgotten: "... choices are rarely completely clear, and even doing the right thing can bring about unfortunate and unforeseen consequences." In writing I have applied this observation to thinking about my characters' life conflicts and layering them with realistic complexity.
Recently it has struck me that the reason this principle works in fiction is because it is a true observation of real life. We Christians are taught to believe that right and wrong choices are usually black and white. And some of them are. But it seems to me that as I've grown older, the number of life choices that fall into gray areas has only increased. Some choices are less clear, and sometimes doing the right thing doesn't always lead to ideal results.
When I'm writing fiction, this truth makes for interesting drama. In life, it leads to a lot of heartache that can be soothed only faith in a loving and merciful God. How many times have you done "the right thing" only to face an undesirable fallout? How do you work through it?