When you’re writing fiction it’s important to understand the values of your main characters. Their values are more important than any other aspect of them – more important than their appearance, their goals, or their characteristics and quirks.

Usually their goals and characteristics are based on their values. You don’t just pull them out of a hat; they have a basis that is much deeper than surface appearance.

We talk about ‘value systems’ in our own personal lives. Out of all the many values, which ones do you hold dearest? Whatever they are, your actions in all parts of your life will be guided by them. There’s no escaping values.

Supposing you greatly value honesty. That’s a good thing, right? Usually, yes. Honesty keeps most of us from hurting others by stealing and lying. But what if it meant that you couldn’t tell even a tiny white lie, one that could be a kindness.

You gave them a Christmas gift and they said “I thought it was quite useless and I gave it to the Salvation Army.” How does that make you feel? Could they not just have said ‘Thank you’ ? Could the value of kindness not have allowed them to say “It was so unusual, where did you find it?”

So when you are developing characters you need to know where they stand with values. Would kindness win out for them, or would they have to blurt out the cold truth?

This person who is having a love affair, or saving the universe or solving a murder – what values drive them along? What values cause them to make mistakes, make brilliant leaps of deduction, chase a rainbow against all reasonable logic?

I’m happy to know that this character has blue eyes or lives in a big house. but what I’m looking for is a clue to what drives them, what they base their decision- making on, why they behave the way they do.

They are driven by their values. All their goals and their motivation spring from that. their values make them true to life. Give them this extra dimension.

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