Life Coach Magazine

Using Character Values to Write Great Fiction

By Writerinterrupted @writerinterrupt

Snowflake Method guyValues determine a character’s abstract motivations and concrete goals. Values are important because they define, ultimately, what a character will and won’t do.

When a character’s values are in conflict, they force the character to make a choice.

That’s a key to writing great fiction. It’s easy to make a decision when you only value one thing in life. We all know people who only have one criterion for making decisions. It may be their quest for money. Their hunger for fame. Their theology. Their cat. Whatever.

People like that CAN be interesting characters, IF they have some powerful opponent. Then there’ll be a nice external conflict and, hopefully, the Good Guy will win. It’s a battle of Good versus Evil, and that’s always interesting.

But it’s so much MORE interesting when the Good Guy has conflicting values. Then there’s an internal conflict too. It becomes a story of Good versus Good. It forces the character to confront his own values. And it forces you to think about YOUR values.

I’m thinking of the movie Chariots of Fire. It’s a story of two British runners in the 1924 Olympics. Both of them want to win, and each has an interesting story. I’m going to focus here on only one of them, Eric Liddell, because a major part of his conflict is internal — a clash of his values — and both of those values are good.

Eric Liddell is a conservative Scottish Christian and he loves to run. In one of the strongest scenes in the movie, he’s explaining to his sister why he likes to run, even though it seems like a frivolous activity. He says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” So that’s one of his values — Eric runs for God.

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