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Values... on the page and in life.

There's a lot of talk about values these days, but most people don't take the time to clearly define what their "values" really are. I decided to write down my own values to better articulate how I feel about the world and what I care about most. Next, I did an exercise in character sketching for the four main characters in Sleeping Beauty and the Beast of Vepreskastel. Sketches for fictional characters often list traits such quirks, motives, or personality or physical characteristics. But what about values? I'm finding that writing characters who disagree with each other and misunderstand each other is a good exercise in building empathy and understanding for people who disagree with me in real life.

Here is a short list of my MCs' core values at the beginning of the story:

Rosemarie values honesty, companionship, and romance.

Johann values bravery, chivalry, and valor.

Gustav values humanity, kindness, and civility.

Bellynda values freedom, power, and wealth.

They all share each other's values, too, but they prioritize and define them differently. Even though all four MCs are trying to be the best people they can be, they find themselves clashing with each other as they seek their own paths toward goodness. As they interact, they will (at least, this is the plan right now) come to reevaluate, redefine, and amend their core values as they learn more about each other, the world, and themselves.

In my real life, I'm upset by people who do not seem to share my core values at all. I have to ask myself questions like, why are so many people against social justice? Why are some people downright enraged about efforts toward social justice? Some progressives dismiss these people as ignorant or stupid. But I think that's a cop-out; it's easier to think someone just doesn't know any better than to face the difficult reality that we do not all share the same basic values. Disagreements are not always a matter of someone just not knowing better. Much of the time, people's personal needs are not met. They have emotional deficits and needs that prevent them from being able to care about other people's needs. They feel threatened and angry, and they don't even have the energy to focus that anger, objectively, on a real enemy or problem. (I am reminded of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.)

Times are tough right now. Many people are facing unemployment and other threats upon their sense of safety and security. I think fear, and its corrolary hatred, have more to do with today's bitterest social, religious, and political conflicts than ignorance or stupidity. Many educated, intelligent people are still fearful, prejudiced, and dismissive of facts. Many humans would rather scapegoat and lash out at people viewed as "others" than reach out with love and compassion, which takes real courage and requires an internal strength that some people just don't have. I find myself often "expecting too much of the wounded," as Billy Howerdel of A Perfect Circle sings on the song Three Libras. I need to remind myself that the work I do and the way I live are necessary and good, whether or not the whole world knows it.

So what do I value? Here's my list.

I value love over judgment.
I value justice over vengeance.
I value courage over aggression.
I value education over ignorance.
I value wisdom over innocence.
I value peace over control.
I value diversity over coersion in thought, religion, or politics.
I value human life over money.
I value a high standard of living over low taxes and high hidden costs.
I value short-term investments for long-term gains over a failing status quo.
I value mutual respect over being "right."
I value people over all else.

What do you value? What do your characters value? Has writing characters with different value systems given you any insight into human nature or yourself?

Comments

  1. I love your list, and I think it's beautiful. What a great idea to list your character's values! I think I might try that. Thanks for the idea. :)

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  2. Wonderful post, good lady.

    "I'm finding that writing characters who disagree with each other and misunderstand each other is a good exercise in building empathy and understanding for people who disagree with me in real life."

    Yes, and yes. There's nothing like the process of empathizing with a different character to bring some more understanding to your own world. I've found things occasionally in my fiction that twisted my understanding of things a bit. Surprising, but gratifying.

    And...

    I value creativity, dedication, perseverance, feeling.

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