In the article on THE SIX HUMAN NEEDS, we went over the six human needs and saw how a person usually has two needs they will prioritise, and how these needs can be used to create three-dimensional characters. We also briefly touched upon how those needs will come with certain beliefs and rules. The beliefs and rules a person (character) has about how their needs should be met is a very important aspect of creating character.

The overall beliefs a person has about different areas of life—relationships, success, family, personal health, love, charity, mankind, work, animals and plants—will direct their behaviour. Someone who believes “all life is precious” will not act the same way when they run over a fox as someone who believes “life is survival of the fittest (fastest/strongest)”. Someone who believes “love begins with oneself” will behave differently when their boyfriend cheats on them, to someone who believes “love hurts”.

Each of your characters will have broad beliefs about what life is, what death means, what family or success or love means etc. It is helpful to define what your character’s beliefs are, to make them part of how your character processes information and therefore acts.

The most powerful kind of beliefs are a person’s GLOBAL METAPHORS. A global metaphor links two ideas together to shape understanding. Global metaphors are not just about the way we communicate something, they sculpt the way we think and act.

Examples of global metaphors:

Conscience is a man’s compass.

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances.

Life is a game.

Death is like moving out of an old house into a newer house.

A near-death experience is like having a layover in the Paris airport and thinking you’ve seen France. You’ve had a near-France experience.

Fake friends are like shadows. They follow you in the sun but leave you in the dark.

Love is a two-way street constantly under construction.

Dreams are like stars, you may never touch them, but if you follow them, they will lead you to your destiny.

 

One example, shows how a metaphor takes a complex idea (death) and distills it into a simple powerful image, (moving into a new house). Someone who thinks “Life is a game” will interpret exactly the same events differently to someone who thinks “Life is a test” or “Life is a battle.” Someone who believes “people are basically good,” will interact with people intimately, socially and culturally in a very different way than someone who thinks “people are out for number one”.

So identifying the global metaphors and beliefs your character has in place, is a great way of developing a rounded, three-dimensional personality.

At the moment I am working on my character Vore for the sequel of Shadow Weaver. Vore is a trained assassin who has joined the Vela-mystery order at the age of six. From working on his hierarchy of needs I know that he has these beliefs and rules :

Strict-discipline of mental and physical focus.

Not growing attached to physical things.

Not growing attached to people/ lifestyle.

Mastering your mental-state.

MY GLOBAL METAPHORS FOR THIS CHARACTER:

The mind is a knife you must constantly scrape to keep sharp.

Oaks grow strong in contrary winds.

Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

Time is like the wind, it lifts the light and leaves the heavy.

Your body is to your mind as a sword to a swordsman.

Minds are like flowers. They only open when the time is right.

How about you? Why not try brainstorming some of the global metaphors your main character has about life, death, friendship, love and see how they help you shape your character’s personality and their story.