Culture: Character Beliefs

cookie cutter charactersLast week when I wrote about world building, one of the things that I wrote about was culture.  Culture is anything that makes up how a group of people live.  It includes both their technology and their beliefs.

When you write about your characters’ beliefs, be certain to include a range of beliefs.  There are two reasons for this.

The first is that some beliefs include both an ideal and a real.  Ideally, our founding fathers believed that all men were equal.  In reality, they found ways to justify slavery, in large part by declaring slaves sub-human. They attempted to scientifically categorize race.  Ideally, they believed in freedom of religion.  In reality, it was illegal to be Catholic.

And this isn’t just a historic practice.  Equality is grand.  The US believes in equality.  Except for gay people.  That’s different.  That’s a matter set down by God.  We’re just doing what is moral when we deny them the right to marry.

Some people buy into the ideal while others wholeheartedly support the current practice. The space in between?  Full of people who each hold a view that is neither one extreme or the other although it is most often the people in the extreme positions who are heard.

The other reason for a range of beliefs is simply the variety that is mankind.  No two people completely agree on anything.  Take two people out of any church, political organization or support group and ask them to define what they believe.  Unless they are both quoting the official pamphlet you are going to get a different perspective from each on at least some of the details.

No two people see the world in exactly the same way.  Some people believe it is best to live in the city/suburbs/country.  Our tastes vary in music, food, clothing and so much more.

This means that any time your protagonist and his friends all like the same things and believe exactly the same things, you need to shake things up.  It just isn’t realistic or believable.  Unless this is a cult or a stepford thing.  That’s another matter altogether.

–SueBE