Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Three dimensions of character (Part 2) – Sociological

The Three dimensions of character (Part 2) – Sociological

Where and how a person is brought up can effect a great deal about that individual. Factors such as religion, Socio-economic status, and even climate can affect how a person develops and grows, and it is these aspects that I mean when I talk about the sociological elements of a character.

Primarily, our sociological traits dictate our value system. What is good? What is evil? Our determination of right and wrong are strongly affected by the what, where, when, and how of our upbringing.

Let’s take religion for starters. Religion is what supplies most people with the foundation for a moral compass. If your religion dictates that if 3,000 souls are not sent to the underworld every March Jellotrix the Smuckinator will destroy the world in a deluge of grape jelly, then were does killing fall on your moral scale?  If you don’t kill aren’t you damning the entire world to an early grave, is that more evil than ridding the world of 3,000 “evil” souls every spring?  Throw faith and doubt into the mix, and now you got some story fodder.  What if your character is at 2,999 souls at 11:58, on March 31st and the only person nearby is his son? Does he hold fast to his faith, or give into doubt, and what effect will the result have on his world view? What does it mean if nothing happens? Take a minute to think about your character’s relationship to the divine. What are his beliefs, and how strongly does he hold them, and why?
Socio-economic status is another important factor. Is your character rich, or poor?  Does he know the value of a hard days work, or has he never worked a day in his life? Supply and demand, our level of need dictates the value we place on things. If you have a hundred swords, but only one loaf of bread what do you place a higher value on? The ease in which you acquire your livelihood is also a factor in your value system. A farmer, who toils sixteen hours a day in the fields, sees his purse much differently than an aristocrat living off his father’s wealth. So, think about how your character earns his living. In which socio-economic strata he was raised. What resources were plentiful and which were scarce.

There are many other factors that play into the sociological aspect of your characters background.  Look to your own past, think about the people, organizations, jobs, hobbies, climates that affected your development. What values did these relationships instill?  Where we come from says a lot about who we are, and this is just as true for our characters.

Next up, the psychological.

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