Thursday, April 25, 2013

World Building A to Z: Values

This month, I'm writing about world building and setting from stuff I've observed in stories. 

Values: Author Nathan Bransford points out the varying value systems that can come from different settings in a thought-provoking blog post, What Makes a Great Setting. 

I want to point out that sometimes the internal struggle of a character might stem from them either trying to adopt OR escape the values of their world.

In Anne Ylvisaker's THE LUCK OF THE BUTTONS, 12-year old Tugs is the only one suspicious of the stranger showing up in her Iowa town in 1929. The townspeople embrace the stranger for his charm and good looks; they easily accept his promise of bringing progress to the area. Unmoved by charisma, Tugs sees through the stranger's facade.  

In Claire Legrand's THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, the stubborn and critical Victoria is forced into a boarding school where children are forced to give up the characteristics that make them individuals and become conformists instead.   

In Edith Wharton's THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, Newland Archer struggles with his socially acceptable decision to marry a girl with a clean reputation over giving into his own desires to pursue a "scandalized" woman. 

In THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, Andrea learns that in order to fit into her role as the editor's assistant at the fashion magazine, she has to immerse herself in the superficialities of the fashion scene.

In the movie, Schindler's List, Oscar Schindler strives to do the right thing during the Holocaust, a time in which doing the unspeakable and inhumane thing takes on an alarmingly disturbing  tone of normalcy.

In the TV show, Gossip Girl, the young adults of Manhattan's Upper East Side value of the notion of being regarded as relevant enough to be gossiped about, while aware that the gossip obstructs their relationships with others.

Can you share other examples where characters might struggle with the values of their world?

Have you ever been stuck in circumstances where your personal values didn't match the values of the environment you were in? 


J.L. Campbell said...

I'm sorry I haven't followed you from the beginning. Yours is a good theme for the Challenge. I like reading about characters who stick up for what they believe in, even if it means going against the tide.

J.L. Campbell writes Jamaican Kid Lit

Michael Di Gesu said...

What a fantastic topic!

I think we ALL confirm in one way or another. Even as writers we MUST follow certain rules... For me I used to LOVE using adverbs lavishly.... Description is important to me, so I had ysed them EVERYWHERE!

Now I use them sparingly because they are so frowned upon ....

Natalie Aguirre said...

Values can be so important for world building. Cinda Chima Williams did a great job with this in her fantasy series.

Pat Hatt said...

Values can show through in writing of the author, but i think they can waiver too. As for real life, I suppose all have their breaking point.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think a lot of stories have characters questioning values.

Melanie Schulz said...

This post made me thing of Genevive Foster's books ex. George Washington's World. Her books are history books, a slice of time where you see all that was going on in the world during that person's lifetime. I think her work is profound, because as you've pointed out, it is hard to understand who a person is until you get a feel for the world going on around them.

Julie Luek said...

Value are such a great tool for a writer to examine and use with their characters. They motivate us in almost every situation-- how we value love, sex (or abstinence!) or friendships, life, death, right and wrong. Good examples and thought-provoking topic.

John Wiswell said...

Fantasy is rife with young protagonists questioning and bucking tradition, usually to the extent of undercooking tradition.

Lynn Proctor said...

so funny---i was just having this discussion with my dad---great thought provoking this morning :)

Nick Wilford said...

I can't think of any offhand but the dichotomy between a world's values and what the character feels is a great way of creating tension.

S.P. Bowers said...

I think the most pressing novels have this type of conflict. Every one of us has values of one kind or another and all of us understand what it is to stand up for them, or not to. It's very easy for readers to connect to.

Nicole Rivera said...

Hey Cynthia!
I was looking for an email or a contact of some sort here and I couldn't find one :(
I was planning on featuring your entire A to Z Challenge on my blog today for my post on "World Building." (My theme has been Writing a Novel from A to Z:
I didn't want to post it with okaying it with you first. I figure it could bring you some well deserved traffic for a job AWESOMELY done this month.
Let me know what you think. My email is BlogWithNV[at]gmail[dot]com. I'll hold off publishing until I hear from you.
All the Best,
Nicole :)

Cynthia said...

I'm glad Nathan Bransford brought up this topic in his blog- it really gives me food for thought when I read or see stories with distinct settings.

Nicole, thanks so much!

Carrie-Anne said...

I felt so at odds at my second of three high schools, in a small Pennsylvania town. I was the liberal outcast Yankee going through culture shock at how unprogressive and undiverse this area was.

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