Some opinions do not require a defense. These opinions concern minor issues; they do not affect one’s world. These opinions influence writing, however.
Complete the “What I Like” worksheet at the end of this guide.
What a writer likes and dislikes as an individual enters into his or her works. Favorite colors, music, foods, locations, et cetera tend to be attributed to favorite characters, regardless a character’s role. A writer’s dislikes become the likes of disfavored characters.
People are attracted to those similar to themselves. Segregation along interest lines occurs naturally in social settings. Likewise, readers and writers are attracted to characters with traits they find acceptable.
Opposites also fascinate people. Readers and writers often like antagonists with no similarities to themselves. Sociopaths, traitors, and forms of pure evil are interesting.
Revealing a favorite color or food is easy; these are not the origins of many debates or wars. Answers to the difficult questions make people interesting. These are the questions of values and beliefs, prejudices and biases.
When we discuss these four aspects of a person, we do so as writers and artists. These are literary terms, not necessarily the definitions used in other fields of study or in common discourse.
Values and Beliefs
Values and beliefs are fluid, changing with situations and throughout your lifetime. We tend to be more aware of our values and beliefs than of our prejudices.
A value is the rank or order of importance you assign to a set of things or concepts.
Dictionary definition: A judgment of the relative importance a person, thing, or concept has in relation to one’s life.
Rightly or not, humans tend to place a higher value on things with which they have a personal bond. As evidence, many people will save pictures and pets from a fire before they remember to wake their neighbors. Situations alter our values.
A belief is an opinion that cannot be supported by facts, a matter of faith or preference.
Dictionary definition: A conviction that something is real or superior with or without certainty; a supposition.
We might like to think that our beliefs are “strongly held,” but in truth they are quite fluid. As extreme examples, some people experience religious conversions, while others drift from their faiths.
Most beliefs are not religious in nature; they are of a less cosmic nature. Political beliefs, for example, change based upon experiences.
Prejudices and Biases
Prejudices and biases are strong, usually reinforcing each other via a “feedback loop.” We tend to read and watch materials supporting our prejudices.
A prejudice is a judgment based upon information, correct or not. To act in a prejudice manner is to pre-judge using past knowledge or experiences.
Dictionary definition: A judgment, usually unfavorable, formed beforehand, due to a fixed idea, especially without complete data.
A prejudice can be reasonable, such as distrusting a former cat burglar who now offers herself as a security expert. Most prejudices are more difficult to defend.
Your bias is what or whom you trust as an accurate source of information; sometimes called an input bias.
Dictionary definition: A strong leaning or propensity against or in favor of someone or something; to distrust or trust.
We surround ourselves with media and people supporting our prejudices. The words and images presented to us reinforce our views, for better or worse.
Basic Likes and Dislikes
What I Like
Musician / Composer:
Song / Composition:
What I Dislike
The Difficult Questions
The following topics encourage you to evaluate your worldview. You might use these topics to begin a journal, or you might answer them annually to examine changes in your views.
Religious and spiritual beliefs
Is there a “soul” or afterlife?
Abortion, the death penalty, and euthanasia, and how they relate
How I relate science and faith
Things I would not do, even for a friend
The most “principled stand” I have taken
Dating and marriage
Sex and relationships
My political affiliation, explained
The last possession I would surrender
What I read and trust
The last lie I told
The laws I break or have broken
What I’d really do if I won $1 million
Several books are available with questions examining your views. We suggest buying one and answering a question or two every week. One popular series is If…