I'm repeatedly amazed how very little value facts—hard, cold, scientific truths—have on life and how much more our perceptions of facts (or falsehoods) shapes our realities. Today, while world building and jotting notes on characters, I spent a great deal of time contemplating this question: How would I view life were I to believe that I was inherently evil rather than inherently good?
I'm exploring this theme through my main character, Faye, who has been raised to believe that her magical ability taints her and all like her. She's was judged and convicted before she was born based on the actions of her ancestors and through the warped lens of a victorious nation's collective memory.
That's a very large-concept perception to color an entire life, and one that weaves through Faye's life in tandem with her environment, one supporting the other. It's a concept worthy of book-length exploration (along with a lot of adventure and a little love, of course).
Just as with real life, everything that makes up a character is tainted by their own perceptions, not just the large-picture concepts like the inherent nature of good versus evil. Everything from how a character perceives themselves (Strong or a victim? Good-natured or gypped of all the good things in life?) to how they perceive the world affect the story. Is everyone out to get the main character or is every day a new adventure just waiting to be started? Is a city a place for socialization or a claustrophobic cluster of strangers? Is sex on the first date okay or does it make you a slut? Are elders to be feared, revered, or ostracized? There's so many different ways each character can twist.
It's thoughts like this that pulled me away from writing today and had me opening up my character profile documents. Writing can wait. I want to get to know everyone's world perceptions a little better first.