How Do Your Characters Deal with Societal Norms? Pt. 1


Before I begin I just want you all to know that this will be a two-part post series.  Part 2 can be found here in a week’s time.

Recently a friend of mine (he wishes to remain anonymous) and I have put our minds together in the vein of coming up with a better way of doing something for video games.  Yours truly here provided the idea, and with the help of my friend’s technological genius, we intend to help fix, what we perceive as, a giant hole in video game development at the moment.

That’s not the important part.  What is important is that true to nature, I started doing some research on the internet.

Now I found an extremely informative channel on YouTube called Extra Credits, which has a great source of basic information and concepts for someone like me, who’s new to the video game industry.

One specific video of theirs about True Female Characters got me thinking about how we writers handle our character of any gender’s relationship to societal norms.

I realized that this was something I honed a sense of naturally, and yet never gave a name to.

But now that it’s been dangled in my face here, I’ve decided to do a two-part post series, for those who may not have realized this quite yet, so without further delay, I believe there’s three distinct ways we can handle this, and for this post I will be starting with two ways NOT to go about it, as they’re so similar.

1. Total Acceptance of the Norm:

No… just… no.  This is the worst way you could portray a character.  Any character.  Whether it be your protagonist or villain all the way down to someone you only meet briefly.

Never.  Ever.  Do.  This.

There’s one important reason.  This person is boring.  That’s right.  No one likes a company man.   This idea is so heinous in my opinion is that in only works in one, and I repeat only ONE very narrow slice of character development.

The Zealot.

Maybe it’s just me, I always found this type of character to be very annoying, for reasons that I will be expanding on by giving the topic its own post, but I’ll save it for there.

For our purposes right now, they’re fanatical.  They’re insane.  Whether their slant be religious, moral, ethical, whatever, it doesn’t matter.  Zealots are typically infuriating because they lose sight of the big picture in favor of the small details.

Sometimes you need to do a little bad to do a little good and vice versa.

The only way this can be a viable character option is when you purposely turn the world upside down and shatter the zealot’s clearly defined image of the world.

In fact, I think that would be very interesting for a protagonist.  Someone whose totally locked into his narrow and self-righteous idea of the world, and as the story progresses this breaks down into a more well-rounded world view.

I’m going to file that away for later, actually.

But in summation, never write a character like this, without making them a zealot because it will simply just not make sense.  No reasonable person ever conforms to ANYTHING this strongly, simply because of the varying odd and interesting ways we all think.

2. Total Rejection of all Societal Norms

To me, this is equally as obnoxious as the form above, and ironically, also is only viable when writing the character of a zealot.

Do you know why?

Because when someone rejects a norm, ONLY because it’s a norm, then they’re simply conforming to the idea of the anti-norm.

It’s odd, but it shakes out to be that the character is trying to do the same exact thing they were attempting to escape.

This will lead to a one-dimensional character and that’s the one thing we want to avoid.

Not to short change this section, but I have no intention of bloating the post by repeating myself so I’ll take this chance to recap.

Total acceptance or total rejection of all societal norms only equals on thing.  ZEALOTRY.

So unless you’re going out of your way to write a zealot, avoid these two reactions to societal norms.  On the other hand, if you were trying to write a zealot, but were having trouble figuring out quite how to approach it, maybe I’ve inspired you.

Either way, I’m going to leave you here.  Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this post which will be alive in about a week’s time.

So what do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Think I’m nuts?  Whatever you do think, leave your thoughts in the comments below.


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Featured image courtesy of izquotes found here.

One response to “How Do Your Characters Deal with Societal Norms? Pt. 1

  1. Pingback: How Do Your Characters Deal with Societal Norms? Pt. 2 | Vincent Alcaras -- Author·

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