What Motivates Your Characters?

I teach a class in Vision Boarding. Most people take the workshop to identify what's truly important to them. Knowing what's important to them allows them to filter through a myriad of opportunities and obligations and choose the ones that fit their vision.

  1. Your values drive WHO you are
  2. Who you are affects HOW you think.
  3. This manifests in WHAT you do.



What is a Value?

As you can see, your values drive your actions. They are the WHY of your behavior.

The same goes for the characters in your story.

Values are the beliefs or concepts that are important to you. For example, if honesty is a value of yours, then your thoughts and actions will filter through that belief first. A character can experience a crisis when following a personal value violates what others expect of them. For example, an honest person doesn't want to lie, but they can avoid a crisis if they lie or bend the truth a little.


Where Do Values Come From?

The short answer? A lot of places.

Some of your values were handed down to you from your parents' teaching. Sometimes, your values are in contradiction to your parents' because you felt trapped or constricted by their values. Other values come from friends, co-workers, companies, church, culture, etc.

How Do I Establish a Character's Values?

First of all, keep in mind we have more than one value. Some are more important to us than others, and the order of importance can change over time. The best way to determine your character's values is to look at a list of potential values and find the five most important to your character. Then everything you write about that character should align with his values or create a problem for him.

I'm including a partial list of values here. It's one I use in a Vision Board class focused on service, but the values are still applicable to your needs.

The process is:

  1. Read through the entire list
  2. Identify the top five values for your character
  3. Narrow the list down to the top two or three that fully drive their actions
  4. Ask yourself how these values appear in your character's thoughts and actions.

This list will help you ensure your character acts appropriately in a story. AND most importantly, help you identify ways to introduce conflict. Keep in mind, when our values are challenged, we experience conflict internally. That conflict will drive our internal thoughts and surface in our actions.

For more information on Vision Board workshops, you can visit these posts on my inspirational blog. Please note, the posts are focused on a ministry service, but the concepts apply to all of life's choices.


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